One of the Warriors’ most stunning playoff losses in Kevin Durant’s three-season era came in the first round of 2019. They faced the eighth-seeded Clippers before hiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Warriors had an opportunity to close Game 5 at Oracle Arena, but they fell short. The non-All-Star Clippers scored 129 points and brought the series back to Los Angeles for Game 6.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell combined for 57 points off the bench. This pick-and-roll combination forced the Warriors to make some difficult rotational picks. Williams and Harrell were able to do better because halfway through the series, Doc Rivers left his centers on the bench and went with smaller lineups that spread the floor around the two.
That’s what made Jamichal Green such a necessary component of the Clippers’ planned attack. Green, a 6-foot-8 power forward who can rebound and defend decently from multiple positions, made 12 of his 23 three-point attempts in the series. In a stunning Game 5, he made three big shots to finish with 15 points.
It became relevant again thanks to the news that appeared on Tuesday. As first reported on AthleticShamsa Charania, the Warriors intend to sign Green as soon as he completes his upcoming buyout with the Thunder, a deal at the lowest price for veterans to support the back end of their rotation. Green has had fans in the Warriors headquarters, locker room and coaching staff for years. Much of that affection came during the 2019 first-round series, when he repeatedly burned the collapsing scheme.
Let’s focus on the three triples he made in away Game 5.
Here is the first. Keep an eye on Kevon Looney at the top of the screen. The Clippers didn’t have Ivica Zubac on the court, so Looney was forced to guard Green. Looney tiptoed into the paint and stopped a step further as Williams drove from the left flank. This was his biggest problem, but it left Green open for a corner 3, which he hit.
Green’s second three came in the third quarter. Steph Curry switched to Green after the screen. He drove Curry into the post and forced Andrew Bogut to hurry up and change the course of the match.
Since it was Bogut and not Curry, Green abandoned the post-up and moved on to a game with Williams, which briefly freed Green to hit the left flank. Green showed patience and accuracy on the go, feigning a pump and dodging to avoid Durant’s shutdown.
Here is the third trio. It was just the right amount for a big big man next to a fearful high usage scorer. Draymond Green was fed up with Williams tearing up the Warriors defense, so he decided to show Williams an extra body in paint. Draymond pulled away completely from JaMichal, trying to fold part of Williams’ pad. JaMychal moved to the left flank, Williams found him and scored another powerful shot as the helpless Draymond couldn’t recover in time.
When the Warriors revamped their roster last summer, they prioritized extra shots in the frontcourt. They concluded that in 2021 – despite Curry’s buff – you won’t be able to stubbornly handcuff when there are two non-shooters on the floor at all times. They have and will continue to test those limits with Draymond and Looney in the starting lineup. But the addition of Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Belitsa gave Steve Kerr a couple of extra frontcourt shooters, changing the set-up combinations he could use.
Belica had bright moments. Porter was an important addition, vital during the playoffs. Against the Grizzlies, who were pushing the ball and stuffing paint while Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. roamed their assignments, Porter opened the series with his presence. He scored 7 of 11 of 3 wins in Game 3 and Game 4. The Warriors were plus-45 with him on the floor that series and minus-41 without him.
But Porter left for Toronto for a bigger fee, and Bielica returned to familiarize himself with the Turkish side Fenerbahce, the team he used to play for. The Warriors put veteran minimum offers on the table for both players, unwilling to pay market value (given their tax crisis) but still appreciating the advantage over a traditional center when rethinking their big-man rotation.
This led to a turn towards Jamichal Green instead of chasing DeMarcus Cousins or Tristan Thompson. Green was part of Denver’s pay cut initiative last month. He is owed $8.2 million next season. By trading him, the Thunder captured a future first round pick and always intended to buy him back by sending him back to the market.
One of the reasons the Nuggets were willing to part ways with him was because he was off the deep end of the season. The Denver signed him to a two-year, $16.4 million contract last summer because the previous season, his first with the Nuggets, he earned 39.9% of his triples and was a perfect fit alongside Nikola Jokic as an inside presence for defending flanks and centers, chips in on the glass and laying out the court behind him for offense.
“I would love to play with him for the rest of my life.” Jokic said green that season.
But Green shot 26.6% of his 124 3-pointers last season and missed four-of-five in that first-round loss to the Warriors. Nuggets coach Michael Malone still kept him as a regular with a 16-minute rotation per game because he has the same size, rebounding and passing skills as Porter and Bielica. Porter’s rebounding was a revelation for the Warriors last season. In fact, green had almost the same defensive rebound rate (18.7% vs. 18.9%) and has historically been higher.
But his high value as a role player will always be determined by his 3-point percentage. Just look at his contract numbers.
Green made 39.6% three-pointers in his final season with Memphis, solidifying his place in the league and earning him the best pay of his career with the Clippers. In the next two seasons, he dropped 38.7% and 39.9% out of 3, earning him deals above the taxpayer average. But last season, he hit a steep slump and because of that, returned to the minimum range for veterans, where the Warriors hope they unearthed another steal in a single season in Porter’s uniform.
When he officially signs the contract, Green will become the 12th player under the contract. Ryan Rollins, the second round player, is expected to sign a multi-year contract later in the summer, giving him 13th place. It’s likely that the Warriors will only guarantee 14 spots ahead of training camp, leaving the 15th free to compete or expand the vacancy, which will save them money in taxes. Andre Iguodala, if he decides to come back rather than retire, could take 14th. The Warriors’ summer business is almost done.
(Photo: Ron Chenoy/USA Today)
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