Heat Should Pursue Danny Green

With Mike Miller injured, recently waived Danny Green could be the perfect fit.

Mike Miller is injured.

Miller sustained what appears to be a serious thumb injury to his right hand – his shooting hand – during Wednesday’s practice. He was injured when he got his thumb snagged in a teammate’s jersey.

The Miami Heat have not yet announced the findings from an evaluation by a hand specialist yesterday, but the team is bracing itself to be without its best shooter for an extended period.

Although LeBron James has said that he is confident that Miller will play a majority of the regular season, this is no doubt a huge blow to the Heat. Having signed a five-year, $29 million contract with the Heat this past off-season, Miller was supposed to provide critical floor spacing for a trio of superstars – in James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – who work best in space.

Heat president Pat Riley has met with head coach Erik Spoelstra and other team officials about options on dealing with the injury. They appear destined to turn to Jerry Stackhouse for temporary relief. It is the wrong move.

Stackhouse won’t rock the boat, won’t bring drama, and will bring a high caliber of veteran leadership. But let’s be clear — this team does not need more veteran leadership. James, Wade and Bosh provide plenty of that. This team needs to identify a player with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost, preferably packaged in the body of a man who can provide solid backcourt defense.

Stackhouse is not that. He is old. He is working on wonky knees. He is a glaring defensive liability on a team that puts a premium on it. He is a man no longer capable of providing any of the offensive value he once did. And he never had the ability to stroke the long ball anyway; he is a career 30.7% shooter from beyond the three-point line. He provides nothing this team needs.

There is simply no way Stackhouse will be a contributing member of the Miami Heat organization come playoff time, neither this season nor any other in the future. So why sign him now?

But the Heat does have a glaring need. It doesn’t have a single true backup shooting guard on the entire roster.

Even when healthy, the slow-footed 6-foot, 8-inch Miller is more of a small forward than he is a shooting guard capable of defending the perimeter.

A possible solution comes from the unlikeliest of places: the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dan Gilbert’s team has just done the Heat a huge favor. It has waived second year guard Danny Green. 

Who is Danny Green? He is a low-level second round draft pick from 2009 (46th overall) who did almost nothing in almost no playing time in his first NBA season, and whose future in the league is now tenuous at best.

But that’s not the whole story.

Green is a 6-foot, 6-inch, 210-pound shooting guard out of the University of North Carolina, where he played in more games (145) and had more wins (123) than any Tar Heel before him. He is the only player in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 250 assists, 150 three-pointers, 150 blocks and 150 steals. He spent four years excelling in his job as a role player in one of the best offenses in the country. Which is precisely what he could be with the Heat.

Green has strong spot-up three-point shooting accuracy on his mechanically perfect jump shot; that’s his true gift. But he also brings several other attributes to the table on the offensive end that the Heat value. He’s a high basketball IQ player who understands the concept of floor spacing. He does an exceptional job of moving without the ball and consistently getting open for spot-up opportunities, a critical skill for a player with such a pure stroke, particularly if it were utilized on a team that employs two of the game’s best at breaking down a defense and creating open shots for teammates. And he understands his role quite well. He is not particularly gifted at creating his own offense, and he does not try to. His passion lies in hunting three-point shots and, with his deadly precision, striking fear into the heart of his opponents in a way that creates space for his teammates.

Could there be a more perfect replacement for, and a skill-set that more closely mimics that of, Mike Miller?

But even that’s not the whole story.

Defensively, Green was one of the best perimeter defenders the NCAA had to offer, showing superb fundamentals and instincts, making great use of his size and length to consistently body up on the perimeter. Laterally, Green doesn’t particularly stand out, but his quickness is more than adequate when coupled with everything else he brings to the table, particularly his 6-10 wingspan. And, for his size, he’s always been an excellent rebounder.

He’s not perfect. There’s a reason why his basketball future is in doubt. He’s young and inconsistent, and he is certainly not the game’s greatest athlete. The Long Island native isn’t going to blow you away with explosive leaping ability or a great first step. But the Heat doesn’t need him to. The Heat needs him to be exactly who he is – a lock-down backcourt defender with deep range on his jump shot and a knack for finding the open space on the floor with which to release it.

He’s played well enough in his chances at every level to make you believe he can succeed in the right system. In his senior season at UNC, he averaged 13.1 points (on 47% shooting, 42% from three, and 85% from the line), 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks. In his only significant playing time thereafter — two D-League appearances for the Erie BayHawks last season — he averaged 25.5 points (including 50% shooting from three), 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 2.5 assists, 1.0 blocks in his 35 minutes of per game action.

Having played four seasons at an elite college program, Green’s NBA pedigree couldn’t be better.

If Riley were so inclined, he could surely grab the 23-year-old on a two-year, fully non-guaranteed minimum salary contract and give him a shot. He should do just that.

By doing so, if Green were to fail to meet expectations, he could be cut any time at no further cost.

But if he were to live up to his potential, he could quite easily become an unexpected and meaningful contributor alongside a healthy Mike Miller come playoff time — as flooring spacing, big-time shot-making, and defense all become much more vital to team success. The Heat will have found a potentially perfect role player for the next two years at a bare minimum of cost, after which he would become a restricted free agent subject to Heat control, whereupon the Heat could leverage his Early Bird rights to match or offer a contract of up to four years, with a starting figure as high as the estimated average salary (which, for this year, was $5.8 million), thus likely ensuring his stay for at least the next six years.

Isn’t that better than a few weeks of 35-year-old Jerry Stackhouse?

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