Philadelphia 76ers: Danny Green deserves more appreciation

The Philadelphia 76ers have received ample contributions from Danny Green.

The Philadelphia 76ers are 17-7 and 13-0 when the starting five is healthy. Firmly in first place and with a MVP contender in Joel Embiid, there hasn’t been too much to complain about. Even so, sports being sports, and Philly being Philly, some players have been on the receiving end of criticism — few more so than Danny Green.

The mere fact that Danny Green came over in the trade that sent out Al Horford gave him some room for error with the fanbase. Despite that room for error, Green can at times look frustrating, especially when he’s asked to play a role beyond his skill set. The Sixers have been mostly good about utilizing Green as a spot-up shooter, but his occasional live-dribble forays — brought on by Philadelphia’s lack of perimeter creation — are easy to nitpick.

That said, overall, Green has been a remarkably consistent presence for Philadelphia. His percentages aren’t great, but he’s shooting 36.9 percent on a career-high 6.2 attempts per game from 3-point range. That volume, along with the strong possibility his percentages increase over time, make it hard to denounce Green’s offensive production. He’s averaging 9.0 points as the fifth option in the starting five, and doing so as a smart off-ball player who attempts a high volume of 3s. There’s not much more you can ask for next to Embiid.

Defense, however, is (wrongly) where the bulk of criticism is lobbed at Green. He’s getting old by NBA standards, and the consequences are readily apparent to anyone who watches. He has lost a step since his prime, and he’s no longer the razor-sharp on-ball defender he once was.

Green has not, however, been a poor defender. He has been put in difficult positions — such as guarding James Harden in the first half against Brooklyn, an assignment very few will ever win — but he has not been a negative asset. In fact, his off-ball defense impresses on a regular basis. He has remarkably quick hands and instincts that rival even Philadelphia’s elite perimeter defenders. He can create turnovers, and knows where to be when he needs to be there. Even if he’s not shutting down James Harden one-on-one.

Long viewed as the quintessential 3-and-D wing, Green has done nothing to cast doubt upon that label in Philadelphia. He’s a reliable halfcourt defender, a comfortable and confident 3-point shooter, and perhaps even more importantly, an experienced winner. He has won three rings, including two in the last two years. Green knows how to contribute to a winning franchise and has done so consistently throughout his career. There’s little reason to lambast his performance thus far in 2021.

Of course, the Sixers’ starting five still feels incomplete. Until a reliable perimeter creator joins the group, it’s difficult to proclaim Philadelphia as a true contender — even with Embiid in MVP shape. The Sixers may move on from Green at the deadline, or a trade may remove him from the starting five. If that does happen, it should not cast a dark shadow over what has been a mostly solid campaign from the 33-year-old. He has done his job well.