Name: Willie Green
2012-2013 Key Stats: 6.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg,
Years in the NBA: 10
Years with the Clippers: 1
2012-2013 Salary: $1,400,000
Contract Status: Signed for next two years (non-guaranteed)
In a Nutshell
Willie Green came to the LA Clippers last summer when the Clips sent the rights to Sofoklis Schortsanitis to the Atlanta Hawks and received Green in return. Green is a Chris Paul favorite and its fairly obvious Paul was a heavy influence behind the deal. Paul and Green were teammates in New Orleans in 2010 where Green had his best season, playing in 70 games, averaging over twenty minutes and almost nine points. Before that, Green spent most of his ten-year career in Philadelphia and was more or less unknown to us here in the far west.
Most fans expected Green to be no more than a backup to Chauncey Billups, probably a guy who could shoot a bit, play a little defense, and eat minutes in the backcourt. He was (and is) cheap, experienced, a solid vet.
But we got a more than we expected. Green started 60 games for the Clips and the team went 48-24 in games he appeared in. He started
every game fourteen of the Clips seventeen-game win streak in late 2012. For the season, he shot a superior .428 from beyond the three point line, hitting 77 of 161, the ninth best percentage in the league. He did everything the Clippers asked of him... when Billups was healthy Green sat on the end of the bench and collected 10 DNP's, when Billups was not available, Green was the starter. In games he started he was often just a place-marker for Jamal Crawford, most of his minutes came in the first and third quarters.
In fairness, it wasn't just Billups that kept Green in limited minutes, the Clippers had a surfeit of guards who needed time. If Paul and Billups were the starters and Jamal Crawford the designated sixth man (averaging 29 minutes a game), the coaching staff also needed to find minutes for third year point guard phenom, Eric Bledsoe.
I'll say it again, .Willie Green averaged .428 from 3 point line. The question isn't why didn't Green perform better, it's why didn't he play more? More specifically, why didn't he shoot more? Green took only an average of 3- three point attempts per game, roughly one every seven minutes he was on the floor. In contrast, Jamal Crawford (who averaged .376 from beyond the arc) took one three pointer every five minutes of playing time.
It's also important to look at Green's calm, veteran demeanor. He was a model citizen despite the fact that he was turned into a human yo-yo by the Clips coaching staff. But Green never complained, never squawked even when he had plenty of reason to squawk: He was infinitely better on both ends of the court than the guy he played behind. To put it simply, during the season and during the playoffs, the Clippers were a better team with Willie Green on the floor rather than Chauncey Billups.
It gets worse... despite Green's superior shooting, Coach Vinny Del Negro never found a way to put Green in the game when that shooting would have meant something. Green was almost always the forgotten man late in games.
Defense. Rebounding. Assists. An inability to get to the line. He's not terrible at any of them, but he's ordinary at all of them.
Future with the Clippers
He's signed for two more years with the Clips at around $1.4 per... but neither year is guaranteed. He's cheap, he can shoot, he doesn't complain, and oh yeah, he can shoot.
The Clips were desperate for shooters in the regular season and in the playoffs, and still Green's number rarely got called. Hard to understand. It doesn't hurt Green that he's Chris Paul's buddy.
I look forward to seeing Willie Green in Clipper colors next year. With Bledsoe likely gone and Billups (hopefully) headed for the backup point guard status, Green will be used more creatively and more consistently.
Did I mention he can shoot?