Last season featured several happy surprises as the Suns won about twice the number of games forecast for them at the beginning of the year. One of the best was Gerald Green, a career journeyman gifted to the Suns from the Pacers in the Luis Scola trade (along with Miles Plumlee and the draft pick used for Bogdan Bogdanovic).
Green proved to be a revelation in 2013-14: an electrifying athlete, explosive scorer and occasional superstar. Indeed, Green played like a superstar at times, scoring over 20 points in 25 games, peaking with a 41 point, "I'm the best player on the court in a game that also includes Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook" performance as the Suns defeated the Thunder last March.
But even last season, the Suns were a worse team when Green played than when he didn't due to his porous defense and frequently atrocious shot selection. When a team commits to playing Green, they commit to the long leash to let him do all the things he does. He giveth, and he taketh away. It's a roll of the dice. Unfortunately, snake eyes show up far too often, as was the case this season.
The ugly results from Green this season include 42% overall shooting and 35% from 3, compared to 45% and 40% last season. He hoisted 4 more shots per 36 minutes than last season in the process. Green's 19.4 FGAs/36 minutes easily exceeded Isaiah Thomas' 15.6 among regular Suns players this season, and IT was much more efficient in converting his. Even Shannon Brown would blush at such shot chucking.
Green is 29 years old, and the Suns are his seventh NBA franchise, between stints in the D-League, Russia and China. What's most discouraging about his results from this last season is how they're in line with his NBA career averages. The Gerald Green of last year is the bench dynamite teams crave, but that Green seems to be an outlier.
He's not actually such a great 3-point shooter that he can be depended upon to finish 4th in the league in made 3-pointers at 40% as he did last year. His .354 from behind the arc this season is close to his career .368. Green can shoot the 3, but isn't elite at it. The problem is that the 3 point shot might be his best skill.
Sure, he's a great dunker, but also an iffy ball handler and poor defender, usually slow to switch even though his length and athleticism suggest he should be capable of defending. When the final numbers are tallied (.065 win shares/48 for Green this season when .100 is the average), Green tends to be a liability. This season, he showed us why he's not been able to stick with an NBA team, and why the Pacers didn't mind dealing him.
To make matters worse, Green complained about his benching. Hornacek explained it reasonably, then Green's agent fired back. A bad look for all, but I think it should mean the end of Green's Suns tenure given the rest of his faults. Said Hornacek:
"The next guy is going, 'I needed help here and the guy wasn't here.' We're trying to develop something for the future, not just being out here for everybody to play in the game. We want to get to a top-notch winning level and you've got to do it on both sides."
Even at his best, Green wasn't getting it done on both sides. With his contract now expired, it's difficult to imagine him being back in Phoenix next season, assuming Brandon Knight returns and the Suns find a true backup PG. There just won't be minutes available for him because Archie Goodwin appears ready to join the regular rotation.
Last season, Green was a wonderful golden nugget dropped in our laps. But he has always been a bridge player, a placeholder. We could marvel at his amazing athleticism while waiting for the real McDonough choices to develop. Now, it is Goodwin's time.
I give Green a C- for this season. He shouldn't have been expected to replicate last season, and he didn't, but he went full on "here is why the Pacers dumped me" this season.
He's probably gone this summer, but we'll always have memories of highlights like this: