Heat Should Pursue Danny Green
Mike Miller is injured.
The severity of the Heat shooting guard’s thumb injury isn’t public, and early indications are not promising. The Heat did not announce the findings from an MRI that Miller received on his right hand, 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. Signing a $29 million, 5-year contract with Miami this past off-season, Miller was supposed to be the fourth-best player on the Heat, providing a three-point touch as a complimentary element to a powerful starting lineup.
Instead, the Heat is left without a single backup shooting guard on the roster — none!
Pat Riley has met with 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 depth. It needs players who can play. It needs to identify a player with the type of floor-spacing shooting stroke that it has just lost, 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; he’s a career 30.7% shooter from beyond the arc. He provides nothing this team needs.
There is simply no way Stackhouse will be a member of the Miami Heat come playoff time. So why sign him now?
But the Heat does have a glaring need. 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 Miami 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.
Green has incredible spot up three-point shooting accuracy on his mechanically perfect jump shot. That’s his true gift.
Aside from that, however, he brings several other things to the table on the offensive end that the Heat value. He’s a player with a high basketball IQ 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 the two of the game’s best at breaking down a defense and creating open shots for teammates.
He can also read and take advantage of cutting lanes fairly well, doing a great job of slashing to the rim without the ball for the catch-and-finish. He sees the floor well and makes excellent decisions with the ball in the half court. And, for his size, he’s always been an excellent rebounder. All areas of need for the Heat.
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.
He’s not perfect. There’s a reason why Green’s 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, 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 grab the 23-year-old on a multi-year, fully-unguranteed minimum salary contract and give him a shot. He should do just that.
If Green were to live up to his potential, he could certainly 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. Isn’t that better than a few weeks of 35-year-old Jerry Stackhouse?
The Miami Heat is in a position where it can take such a chance. With such a talented and top-heavy rotation, the Heat has the luxury to view the back half of its roster as a sort of open-ended, in-season, revolving tryout – trying to find complementary pieces that both fill a need and fit the culture.
Backup shooting guard is an area of need. And there’s no better place to start than with Danny Green.