Harnessing Gerald Green’s unlimited potential


There’s really no question that Gerald Green is the best leaper in the NBA. A few weeks ago he put his neck on the rim during a Suns practice. In the 2008 NBA Dunk Contest, he blew out a candle on a cupcake on the rim. The man has serious hops. But in the eight years since he was drafted out of high school, Gerald Green has played for seven different NBA teams. He disappeared from the NBA for two seasons before catching on with the Nets after the NBA lockout. He played well enough in New Jersey’s final season to earn himself a multi-year contract from the Pacers, but things didn’t really work out in Indianapolis last year, and now the Gerald Green saga continues in the valley of the sun.

Why Green has failed to find himself as a player is a difficult questions to answer. Teams see his unlimited athleticism and rightly believe he could be a huge asset. But no team or coach has really been able to harness his incredible athletic ability and put it to consistent use. Whether his limitation has been physical or mental is anyone’s guess. Seeing as how he was out of the league for two years in his early twenties, the answer is probably a bit of both. The truth is that Green has rarely produced at a high level. Despite his incredible leaping ability, he isn’t a great shot blocker or defender. He’s never averaged more than a single assist per game, and his rebound rate is poor even among shooting guards. During his comeback year in New Jersey, Green was actually a very efficient shooter. According to HoopData, he shot 70% at the rim and 60% from 3-9 feet. His overall FG% of 48% was the highest of his career as was his 39% from downtown. But that efficiency went out the window last season. In Indiana, he shot only 36.6% from the field, and his 3-point accuracy dropped to just 31%. Though the Pacers had an incredibly successful season, Green, it seems, was no longer a vital part of their future.

In his short tenure in the Phoenix Suns’ front office, Ryan McDonough has pulled off a series of incredibly savvy moves. He brought in Eric Bledsoe. He cut ties with Michael Beasley. And he traded Luis Scola to the Pacers. At first glance, the jewel of that trade is the Pacers 2014 pick, with Mason Plumlee and Gerald Green thrown in as after thoughts. But after five preseason games, Plumlee looks like the Suns’ second best center behind Marcin Gortat, but ahead of rookie Alex Len. Ryan McDonough clearly saw great potential in Plumlee. Could it be that he saw equal or greater potential in Gerald Green?

Green was drafted by the Celtics in 2005, right in the middle McDonough’s tenure in Boston. Now we don’t know what role McDonough played in picking Green, but the fact that he brought him to Phoenix nearly eight years later must mean something. Maybe the Suns know something about Green that the league doesn’t.

Green showed what he could do with opportunity last week against the Spurs. Green started the game at small forward and scored 19 points in only 20 minutes on the floor. He went 8-of-15 from the field and 2-of-6 from downtown. Though it was just a preseason game, the performance was proof that Green could be a serious asset for the Suns this year.

But what kind of role could he actually play if given the opportunity? On the defensive side, I could see Green being a great backside help defender, especially if the other team has an offensively weak player the Suns can hide Green on. Though he’s never been a shot blocker per se, having Green’s leaping ability in the paint could certainly be an asset to the Suns interior defense. Offensively, it’s pretty clear the Suns want to run. I for one am giddy over the prospect of Green filling a lane on the break and finishing highlight-quality dunks. In the half court, his quickness and ability to finish at the rim will cause defenders to play a step off of him. If he can find his shooting stroke from two years ago, there’s a chance he could earn minutes as a floor spacer, something the Suns are in desperate need of after their poor performance from downtown last year.

It seems like Gerald Green is a player who thrives when teams commit to him. Last season, the Pacers went with Lance Stephenson and Green’s minutes fell by the wayside. There’s no guarantee this year with the Suns will be any different. He may play sparingly behind Marcus Morris and P.J. Tucker at the three, or he may not play at all. But no one should be surprised if Green is playing 20-25 minutes a night by Christmas and showing his worth as an NBA player once again. The Suns aren’t trying to win a ton of games this year; they’re just trying to see how good their assets really are. It’s probably time that we found out how good Gerald Green can be once and for all.

Tags: Gerald Green Phoenix Suns Phoenix Suns Analysis

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops (SDH)

    Green can be a very good player. In fact he can be a sleeper if he were on the right team. I feel that Phoenix will provide him the perfect opportunity to unleash his full force. He might even be a candidate for Most Improved Paler come season’s end.

  • EBJM

    Rumor has the Lakers shopping Pau Gasol for a young scoring PG. Some of you have posted that Dragic & Bledsoe won’t be a long term pairing and Gortat has already packed his bags. Well it just so happens if you toss in Frye along with Dragic and Gortat a trade for Pau’s expiring $19 million works. Suns then can keep Nunnally and Malcom Lee. Then Marshall gets another year to prove himself and the Suns are virtually guaranteed the most ping pong balls while shedding about a third of their salary this summer!

    This is going to be fun! Can’t wait for Mario and his jelly donut and subscription to “Big-Uns”!

  • EBJM

    The result of this trade was interesting; Gortat and Frye to the Pelicans for Eric Gordon & Jason Smith. It says the Suns would win one more game while the Pelicans would lose five more. You ask why would the Pelicans do it? Well they need a true center so they can move Davis back to PF
    and now have Evans and Rivers while also saving about $2.5 million.

  • Smovas

    Looking at the history of winning the draft lottery, the 3rd worse team gets the nod for most wins. Following is 5th worse and then tied is the worse team and the 2nd worse team.

  • Andrew

    EBJM – That Pelicans-Suns trade is interesting.. Can that actually happen given the fact that the Hornets matched the Suns offer for Gordon?

  • Scott

    I’d say Green’s problem is IQ, and it’s not going to go away.

  • EBJM

    @ Andrews, sure, it is alright according to the rules. The only issue is whether Dell Demps is upset that the Suns forced him to ever-pay for Gordon. But remember Gordon was upset that they drafted Austin Rivers and wantedbto come to Phoenix. Demps responded by sending back-up PG Jarrett Jack to the Warriors. But then they signed Brian Roberts who excelled as the back-up PG leaving Rivers @ SG.

    Well then they obtained Jrue Holliday to start at the point and sent Vasquez and starting center Robin Lopez out West and took Tyreke Evans in return. At 6′-6″ he is best suited as a SG. Davis is a natural PF who really played well next to a true center.

    Gorat, Davis & Aminu up front gives the Pelicans a tall and athletic frontline to compete with literally every West team. Then add in a backcout of Holliday and Evans and they look fairly formidable. They would have a bench of Ryan Anderson, Frye, Roberts, & Rivers. If Frye & Anderson are redundant, they also have Stiemsma and the rookie Withey. Blazer fans were upset that they gave up Withey to obtain Lopez. He is suppose to be a great shot-blocker.

    So from my point of view it really gives the Pelicans a bigger team that could give any team some trouble.

  • SHAZAM

    eric gordan doesnt come off the books next year..the trade has cap space issues for the suns

  • foreveris2long

    EBJM, my man. I have never been a Gordon fan so I would be opposed to taking his contract. He is just too injury prone.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    We exchange: Brown + Gortat + (Frye?) + (Lee) for a draft pick!

    We keep Kravtsov as a man for the bench!

    As a power forward and center so we have: Mk.Morris, (Frye), Plumlee and Len!

    …. and look even better and more towards the future!

  • EBJM

    Forever you forgot to leave the trail of breadcrumbs!

    My trade scenarios are mostly for fun since everyone believes Gortat will be gone soon. Like David pointed out there doesn’t seem to be a huge demand and I’m just exploring trades that could actually work and are somewhat plausible.

    While Gordon does have a huge contract, that is the fault of Babby. But there still doesn’t seem to be any big-name free agents that the Suns could lure out to the desert. It would probally be best if they just sit on their cap space for another year and avoid bad contracts in case they need to pay their own studs they hopefully draft in the next two drafts.

    It is strange seeing the Suns with so many 1st rd picks. Their own this year and next. The pacers this year, the Wolves protected pick and the Lakers protected pick in 2015. Their last bad contract, Frye’s comes off the books in 2015 I believe. I just hope the Lakers don’t get Lebron and Carmelo next year, I want them to get a pick between 6-14 so they can convey it to the Suns.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Gerald Green was a late bloomer in Hi-School & by skipping college & going straight to the pros was denied learning the fundamentals he so desperately needed.

    Also, as Scott pointed out, he is not the sharpest object in the tool shed.
    His IQ & FT % are roughly the same.

    Why trade Gortat at all?
    Len is in no way, shape or form ready to play major minutes at the NBA level .
    Kravtsov & Plumlee could not make the D-League All-Star team.
    Hire The Godfather to make Gortat “an offer he can’t refuse”.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    ps….Congratulations to the Arizona St. football team for kicking the crap out of the Washington Huskies.
    If the Sun Devils were in the SEC conference they would be ranked in the top 15, as it is they will be in the “others receiving votes” category.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled Phoenix Suns conversation…..Thank You.

  • EBJM

    Hawki, the issue with Gortat is that he will demand more money than what the Suns will be willing to pay. The general consensus is Alex Len is the future at center. Gortat will probablly be offered starters pay from a centerless team close to contending but there aren’t many of those. Like mentioned here by David and Forever, Gortat should have been traded at his peak value last summer, At all of the poular sites Gortat is considered in the 15-20 ranking amongst centers. Players such as Pekovic and Vucevic had better seasons and are still showing incredible upside. Larry Sanders is considered better based on his defnsive prowness despite having similiar statistics.

    I seriously doubt Gortat’s pride will allow him to remain at a substantial pay-cut and as a backup. I also doubt that Ryan wants to take back the necessary salary in a trade unless a team is offering a starting calber SF. With the Suns potntially having five 1sr rd picks in the next two drafts they will look to add another young center to compete as Len’s back-up.

    What does sll this mean to us? We must aknowledge the attorney, uh, I mean Foreveris2long’ incredible foresight with his previous campaign to move Gortat two seasons ago. I stand humbled in his basketball team rebuilding excellence!

  • foreveris2long

    EBJM, man I am all for building the Sun’s credibility for another season or so before attempting to lure a big time free agent. We will just take our lumps and use those 1st round picks next summer. As for Gortat I still think OKC should have some interest if they are serious about winning it all. It will never happen with Perkins starting at center. I just do not know if the Suns want Perkins contract. Does Perk’s contract expire at the end of this season? EBJM would you do the deal if OKC included J. Lamb in the trade with Perkins? I think I would.

  • foreveris2long

    Hawk I said about a week or 2 ago I would withhold comments about Len but you are right he is not close to being ready to be the backup center. I think or am hoping by late November he will start showing some promise.

  • Ty-Sun

    Perkins current contract runs for 2 more seasons and OKC is counting on Lamb to take Martin’s place this season (although I’ve heard that Lamb has been a little disappointing in preseason games so far). I’m sure OKC would love to exchange Perkins for Gortat but the Suns certainly don’t need Perkins and his contract for two seasons and I doubt they would include Lamb in the trade. But if I was OKC’s GM I would be doing my best to put together a three team trade that would ship out Perkins and bring in Gortat.

  • EBJM

    Actually Forever, trading with OKC could be very interesting. They are in a win now mode and could be motivated. Perkins does have one more year than Gortat @ $9 million but like you said Phoenix won’t be ready to for marque free-agents until the summer of ’15 anyway. This would allow the Thunder to shed his last year and rent Gortat for this season while seeing if he is enough of an upgrade over Perkins. Of course they would have to throw in Jeremy Lamb for Ryan to pull the trigger.

    But here comes the sweetner, as Ty-Sun pointed out Lamb is suppose to be replacing, Harden/Martin @ that 6th man slot but isn’t ready or prime time. So the Thunder would still need a player to fill that spot. An experienced veteran who has won two rings as Kobe’s back-up would be ideal.
    It just so happens the Thunder can use their trade exception from dealing Kevin Martin to absorb Browns $3.5 million which like Gortat’s is also expiring this summer.

    So the Thunder can drop the $10 million in salary this summer if it doesn’t work out PLUS lose $9 million from 2015. The Suns get that young SG to grow with the rest of the kids that will basically cost them about the same as if Gortat was signed until 2015.

    Forever you are still the man! I’ll see what I can do about putting you on Ryan’s staff.

  • DBreezy

    Gortat can only receive 107.5% of his current 7.7M salary in the first year of any extension and 7.5% rasises each year after. Extensions can only be for 4 years total including the remaining years on the contract. So the rough math is that right now Gortat can sign for a deal worth a maximum of 34.5M (7.7, 8.3, 8.9, 9.6 per)

    In a world where Pek got 60M, McGee got 44M, Hibbert got 5 58M, Favors got 49M and so on, there is no way that Marcin is going to sign an extension. This is very different than the Amar’e extension negotiations because of Marcin’s current salary number and he’s becoming an unrestricted free agent no matter where he plays this season. That has to weigh heavily on the mind of any team looking at giving up the kinds of assets the Suns are looking for(picks, young players AND cap friendly contracts)

  • DBreezy

    EBJM,

    Looking back at the Gortat debates of two seasons ago is interesting, as a lot of us were ‘right’. From a pure basketball standpoint, Foreveris was right about Lopez being younger and a better fit for a rebuilding team and having more upside. Lopez had a better PER than Gortat last season indicating that he could be on the upswing, although it’s not hard to see Gortat’s rising a gain in the right situation.

    Lopez remains the better shotblocker and Gortat is still a better rebounder by a significant margin. Offensively they’re kind of a wash imo although they score best in different manners. That’s all still on court stuff though, and the elephant in the room remains somewhat the same for both. They’re both good, but not great players who weren’t brought in by the management teams in charge when it was time for them to get new contracts.

    Lopez’s never proved enough to Blanks relative to his guy Gortat for Lance to recommend trading Marcin and keeping R.Lo. Looking at Lance’s comments in general about the team, my bet is that R.Lo’s defensive rebounding numbers are what stuck in his craw the most. Turnabout being fair play, Marcin is now in a situation where a more experienced Babby has a better gauge of his value to the team relative to his likely contract demands and a new GM in McD who has brought in a few guys of his own. I would guess that McD falls in line with Foreveris on Gortat’s age relative to the rebuild and that he also isn’t impressed with Marcin’s overall affect on team D coming from a team that thrived with KG and a younger Perk in the middle.

    Speaking of Perk, I’m still skeptical that OKC would like to swap Marcin for Perk even if the Suns were interested in taking on Kendrick’s contract. I think they’ll want to get a better idea of who’s likely to be in the WCF and ECF finals before they make a move like that. If a team like the Rockets gels quickly into a contender for example, Kendrick is a much better defensive matchup vs. Howard in the playoffs than Marcin. I would also take Perk over Marcin defensively against Hibbert, Gasol, Lopez or Duncan in a playoff series. If we’re talking teams that either don’t feature a true 5 or one with a back to the basket game like MIA, LAC, CHI, GS, NYK as the likely matchups than I’d rather have the faster Gortat who wouldn’t get run off the court like Perk does so often.

    OKC is really only worried about getting to the postseason with good health with the most favorable matchups for getting to the finals. They can afford to wait before making a decision on Perk. This season is really a referendum on the Big 3 concept imo. There’s little question that it works in winning a title as MIA, SA, and BOS have all proved but there is a pressing question of how to keep these kinds of teams together under the new cba. MIA has in no way indicated that it is willing to go the deep luxury tax route that Brooklyn is going to keep a Big 3 around so what will they do beyond this season?

    OKC’s Presti had a different take on his San Antonio experience. San Antonio has always seemed to feel that it’s easiest to find a new frontcourt partner(s) for Duncan than it would be to try and replace Manu. Presti decided that it would be harder to replace Ibaka than Harden which is weird on a number of levels but that’s the route he’s going. They’re putting a lot of work into Lamb, Jackson, and PJ3 and I suspect they’ll let it play out. Randy Hill from FSNAZ talks a lot about how their staff works with their young guys and I’m sure McD and a lot of GM’s are watching to see if they can pull it off as approaches get refined under the new cba. If you don’t catch nearly immediate lightning in a bottle like the Thunder, but get it more gradually like LAC, IND, or MEM there are a lot of moving financial parts for a GM these days.

  • EBJM

    Even though Presti is trying to get over the hump with the relatively inexpense Jeremy Lamb instead of Kevin Martin to replace Harden, he has kept his options open. He paid the Wolves to accept a sign and trade for Martin, getting a $7 million trade exception in the deal to add to the $2.9 trade exception he received in the Eric Maynor salary dump.

    Speaking of salary dumps and the if the Houston Rockets “gel quickly”, a bit ironic that in the process of clearing salary they gave away Patrick Paterson, Thomas Robinson, Marcus Morris and even Jordan Hill the previous season. Where are the Rockets weakest?

  • azbballfan

    How about this trade

    Kendall Marshall, Shannon Brown, Marcin Gortat and the Lakers 1st rounder to Detroit for Charlie V and Greg Monroe

    salaries match up, monroe in an excellent big that can play along side len

    and Charlie V contract is expiring

    if i was McDonough and Detroit offered anything close to this too me i would jump at it, quality bigmen that can play both the 4 and 5 dont come along every day

  • EBJM

    I seriously doubt they give up Monroe, especially for Gortat. Drummond is their center and Monroe their PF.

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