The 2005 NBA draft was the last to allow players straight out of high school. Drafting a high school prospect was hardly, if ever, about polish. Usually teams would choose an elite athletic prospect that they could mold into the next superstar (Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James etc.). So naturally in the league’s last year where they would allow it, it would make sense to grab the best athlete you could find. The Boston Celtics hadn’t yet gotten Ray Allen, or Kevin Garnett and were searching for a player to slot in next to Paul Pierce, enter Gerald Green. Long, bouncy, and more than competent from downtown, Morey and co. drafted him with grandiose ideas of his potential.
13 years later, and he’s still Morey’s guy. Mind you, it took him awhile to find his way back. In retrospect, it makes sense why Morey wanted him drafted. When you look at how he’s built around James Harden in Houston – especially with D’antoni’s system – long, bouncy shooters are the perfect supplement to Harden’s brand of creative pick and roll scoring, and passing. When Milwaukee released Green this year, he thought that it spelled doom for his NBA career. The only basketball he was playing, was in his driveway with his dog.
In a league that is far from starved for talent, elite athletes are finding less spots are reserved for them on the end of benches. After making his living for years as the patented “high potential, never hit it” player, he was starved for an opportunity in the league. Lucky for him, a friend with some significant pull (Harden) gave him the vote of confidence, and Morey listened. Gerald Green joined the Rockets, and is living out a bit of a dream, he gets to play for his hometown team.
Green found early success in the D’antoni offense. It’s free-flowing, abundant in spacing, extremely rewarding, and forgiving to high volume 3-point shooters. Playing in a bench unit that already heavily features Eric Gordon, the likes of Nene, and PJ Tucker, it seemed like Green would have to win the little plays to find playing time. What actually happened, was Green brought a jerry can to every arena, poured it everywhere, and then lit everything on fire.
The Rockets have one of the NBA’s elite benches (Mbah a Moute, Nene, Gordon, Tucker, Black) and they often stagger their lineups with their superstars (Harden, Chris Paul). In one of the league’s deepest teams, Green signed a midseason minimum contract and immediately carved out 25 minutes per game. He walked onto this team, and flawlessly worked into the offense. He’s taking more 3-point attempts per-36 than Steph Curry (11.0-10.9) and hitting a robust 45% from beyond the arc.
This video highlights exactly why Green has been uber-efficient and a perfect wing player on the Rockets. The first 4 shots he takes are three pointers, and more importantly he didn’t require a dribble to get any of them off. 3 of the 4 shots came from the right corner when Paul sprayed the ball to the corner – Green’s defender continually tags the roll-man to eliminate the lob threat – and Green repeatedly makes the defense pay for leaving him open. The perfect player on the Rockets is the one who needs no dribbles, finds open space, and works off their superstars, Green has been every version of ideal.
Green won’t fool anyone into thinking he’s an elite defender, and credit the Rockets for recognizing that and playing Green in tandem with Tucker (130 out of 240 total minutes). Letting Tucker take dominant wing matchups let’s the Rockets hide Green on the weakside which gives him a headstart in transition, often leaving the Rockets playmakers an easy cross-court pass to one of the league’s hottest shooters in rhythm.
The rest of the season will be a proving ground for Green. There’s no doubt that the Rockets rotation will shorten come playoff time, and Green needs to maintain his shooting and energy to even get a sniff of playoff minutes. The Rockets very well may be the deepest team in the league, and Green is staring down a daunting task trying to take minutes from Mbah a moute, or Tucker come playoff time. Both are respectable from downtown, and they defend significantly better than Green. Strategy is fluent, but Green very well may be the piece on the Rockets that dictates whether they’ll try to outlast Golden State, or outscore them. If Paul, Harden, Gordon, and Green have it cooking, chances are Houston is gonna try to outscore the NBA’s greatest offence ever. Whether or not they can, and whether or not Green gets the opportunity, he’s just grateful to be here.
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Have a blessed day y’all.