The Lakers moved swiftly on Danny Green after their pursuit of Kawhi Leonard came up short, signing him to a two-year, $30 million contract in free agency.
As a high-end 3-point shooter who can capitalize on the extra attention that having two superstars draw from opposing defenses, Green is a natural fit alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the offensive end of the floor, but his defensive contributions will be just as important.
Green’s been one of the more reliable wing defenders in the league over the last decade, boasting two NBA titles and consistently playing deep into the playoffs with the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors.
And after one title-winning year in Canada, Green returns to a Western Conference that’s stacked with guards and wings who can score. Stephen Curry, D’Angelo Russell, Kawhi Leonard (who Green has never played against since they’ve been teammates for all but 20 games of Green’s career), Paul George, Lou Williams, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker, and Buddy Hield all averaged 20 points per game or more during the 2018-19 season.
Green will now be tasked with trying to slow a number of them down for the Lakers. How will he fare? Let’s take a closer look:
Green’s man defense is a bit surprising for a player who’s touted as a defensive specialist. He struggles to keep players with a quick first step in front of him due to his size and meager lateral quickness. But he’s considerably more effective as a pick-and-roll defender, fighting over screens and bothering ball-handlers with back pressure. His ability to do that pairs perfectly with the rim protection of Davis and JaVale McGee.
He’s significantly better as a team defender, sporting exceptional spatial awareness and using his length to help protect the rim and contest jumpers. He can be guilty of losing his man at times in these situations, and also sometimes gives up open threes as a result of over-helping, but his help defense does much more good than harm.
These attributes manifest themselves in different ways against the various scorers in the Western Conference. Green’s length helps to limit the number of step-back jumpers that Harden takes, and forces Harden into floaters as rim protectors lurk in the paint. Donovan Mitchell, Lou Williams, and Luka Doncic are all favorable match-ups for Green as well. Players who can neutralize Green’s length tend to have more success against him. Some do that with size and craft (DeRozan, Russell), while others do it with speed and quickness (Curry, McCollum).
Green is an excellent defender, but my mind can’t help but wonder what this team’s defense would look like with Andre Iguodala on the team. Iguodala is a better point of attack defender than Green is, so his presence would push Green into more the help/team defense situations that he thrives in. We’ll see if the Lakers can eventually pair them, but for now, Green will at least help a defense that needs all the positives it can get.