When the Golden State Warriors lost two of their best role players in recent history, it wasn’t surprising to hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed soon after.
Role players — especially when they play their hearts out and produce — occupy a special place within Warriors fans’ hearts. But those role players have often used the Warriors as a springboard for redemption and value renewal; once such a goal is accomplished, other teams swoop in with more enticing offers to scoop them up and take them away, in an attempt to make themselves sturdier and a rival just a tad bit weaker.
Gary Payton II, a journeyman who has developed a reputation as one of the league’s premier perimeter defenders, will be sorely missed. In his place is Donte DiVincenzo, who may not be on the same level as a stopper, but will surely aim to replicate what Payton II was able to accomplish, with the added benefit of being a decent outside shooting threat.
When looking at JaMychal Green — the Warriors’ recent 6’8” veteran signing — it’s hard not to draw parallels to the now former Warrior, Otto Porter Jr.
Both of them are what I like to call “power wings” — enough size to make an impact as pseudo-bigs, whether as switchable assets who can moonlight as defenders up the positional spectrum, or having the requisite size and physicality to crash the boards.
They are also nimble enough to take advantage of their matchups, whether it be on offense as stretch forwards, or as lengthy stoppers who possess the requisite knowhow to be effective team defenders.
While both of them profile as floor spacers, Porter Jr. — a career 40% long-range shooter on 3.3 attempts — has a considerable advantage in terms of raw numbers. Green is a *slight* downgrade: 36.6% on 2.2 attempts from beyond the arc over his eight-year career.
Green’s most recent stint with the Denver Nuggets didn’t provide the most optimistic shooting outlook of his career. He drilled a mere 26.6% of his threes on only 1.9 attempts last season; not counting his first season in the league (only 24 games played), both marks are career lows.
It’s reasonable to conclude that Green’s shooting woes last season were an anomalous occurrence, even if it is as equally reasonable to look at such woes as a reason for concern. But barring setbacks of any kind — injury related, age related, etc. — it’s also hard not to imagine the kind of peak that he may reach with a top-heavy roster.
His 2018-2019 season was arguably his best shooting season of his career: 40.3% on nearly 3 attempts per game from beyond the arc, split between stints with the Memphis Grizzlies (41 games, 39.6% on 2.3 attempts) and the Los Angeles Clippers (24 games, 41.3% on 3.3 attempts).
The one infamous memory of Green among Warriors fans is most probably his shot-drilling exploits during the first round of the 2019 playoffs, where the Clippers took the Warriors to 6 games. Green shot 12-of-23 on threes — a blistering 52.2%.
Green isn’t the most versatile long-range shooter. Most of his attempts from beyond the arc during that 2019 series — 20 of his 23 total attempts — were of the catch-and-shoot variety, and were considered either “open” (closest defender 4-6 feet away) or “wide open” (closest defender more than 6 feet away).
No metric is more representative of his catch-and-shoot nature than the percentage of his career three-point makes that were assisted: 98.7%. Over the last three seasons, all of his threes were assisted, per Basketball Reference.
The lack of variety may be apparent, but on a team that features plenty of creators who can generate advantages through a multitude of ways, Green’s hyper-specialized role on offense may be more than enough. Most of the defensive attention won’t be geared toward him; he’s shown a penchant for punishing such inattention in the past.
On a team that generated plenty of threes last season — the Warriors were 10th in corner-three frequency and 2nd in above-the-break-three frequency last season — Green profiles as an additional weapon in their arsenal of snipers, one that drilled 43.4% of his corner shots and 39.3% of his above-the-break attempts during the 2018-19 season.
He replicated those numbers during his 2020-21 stint with the Nuggets: 42.1% on corner shots, and 39.0% on above-the-break attempts. His 1.26 points per possession (PPP) on catch-and-shoot looks was 22nd among 117 players (minimum 150 attempts), per Synergy.
His attempts with the Nuggets may better approximate how he would look within the Warriors’ pass-heavy motion offense. Nikola Jokić is the rare combination of a play connector and play finisher, with plenty of self-creation chops. Such a threat generates plenty of advantages on offense, and Green feasted on opportunities that were produced by his MVP teammate.
Stephen Curry is a different breed of advantage creator. He may not be a low-post threat sucking in doubles from blind spots, but his otherworldly gravity off the ball and as a dribble penetrator on paint touches is similar enough where Green can park himself within valuable real estate and have the time and space to skyrocket its value.
Sprinkle in additional advantage-generating threats in Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole (especially within 2nd-unit lineups where Green will most likely see most of his minutes in) — and a potent high/low-post passer and “Delay” initiator in Draymond Green — and Green will project to eat more than he did last season, where despite the presence of Jokić, the absence of additional offensive threats (i.e, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.) allowed defenses to zero in on him, translating to a subpar shooting season by his standards.
While it may not feature as much as his outside shooting, Green is adept as an occasional cutter. Having Jokić as a teammate makes it near-mandatory that you have to be at least decent as a cutter, and Green has proven himself to be an available and capable play finisher on such possessions (1.327 PPP in 2020-21, 57th percentile) — especially when screening for his gravity-generating teammates and slipping thereafter.
(Notice how most of his possessions as a “cutter” consisted of dunker-spot finishes — not too dissimilar to a Kevon-Looney type of role in situations where Draymond Green has previously sliced defenses up in the short roll after Curry draws two bodies around a ball screen.)
Defensively, Green doesn’t grade out as particularly remarkable. But he competes in terms of switchability and as a passable help-side defender.
Like Porter Jr., individual on-ball defense isn’t his strongest suit, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world whenever he’s tasked to defend a shifty and quick wing or guard. In a pinch, Green can provide just enough stopping power to prolong possessions, allow teammates behind him to shore up, and stagnate a half-court set long enough to breed inefficient attempts.
Also like Porter Jr., Green’s strongest suit on defense may be as a team defender. He’s generally aware and alert, keeping his head on a swivel and keeping tabs on both his man and the on-ball action.
In particular, as the weak-side low man tasked to be the first line of help defense, Green is more than capable. While he may not profile as an outstanding shot blocker (0.4 blocks and 1.9% block rate for his career), he can alter shots by making the correct reads and being timely and fundamentally sound with his rotations.
The one aspect where Green and Porter Jr. are eerily similar are their rebounding metrics. Porter Jr. averaged 9.5 rebounds per 75 possessions last season, including 2.3 offensive rebounds per 75 possessions; Green also hauled in 9.5 rebounds per 75 possessions last season, including 2.8 offensive rebounds per 75 possessions.
The rebounding rates are also similar: 14.2% on total rebounds for Porter Jr, compared to 14.5% for Green, who had a slight advantage in offensive rebounding rate (8.6%) over his predecessor (6.9%).
With a free-agent market quickly drying up and options becoming progressively limited, Green isn’t particularly a home run. But home runs aren’t necessary with plenty of heavy hitters already on the roster; Green approximates more of a contact hitter, one who can help the Warriors as an auxiliary piece.
Low-cost, potentially high-reward moves have been the hallmark of the Warriors’ modus operandi during recent seasons. It massively paid off with the likes of Porter Jr. and Payton II. Green — along with DiVincenzo — are the continuation of that ethos.
With the amount of equity the front office has accumulated — culminating in a recent championship — such a philosophy deserves another chance to achieve further success.