One of the Warriors’ most stunning playoff losses in the Kevin Durant three-season era came in the first round in 2019. They faced the eighth-seeded Clippers before hiring Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Warriors had a Game 5 closeout opportunity in Oracle Arena, but failed. Those Clippers, without an All-Star, netted 129 points to drag the series back to Los Angeles for a Game 6.
Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell combined for 57 points off the bench. That pick-and-roll combination forced the Warriors to make some tough rotational choices. Williams and Harrell were in a better position to thrive because Doc Rivers benched his centers in the middle of the series and went with smaller setups spreading the floor around those two.
That’s what made JaMychal Green such a necessary part of the Clippers’ planned attack. Green, a six-foot power-forward who can bounce back decently and guard multiple positions, made 12 of his 23 attempted 3s in that series. In the Game 5 stunner, he made three big and finished with 15 points.
That has become relevant again with the news that fell on Tuesday. As reported first by means of the athletic‘s Shams Charania, the Warriors plan to sign Green once he completes his imminent buyout with the Thunder, a minimum bargain for veterans to bolster the back of their rotation. Green has had fans in the Warriors’ front office, locker room and coaching staff for years. Much of that affection arose during the first round of 2019, when he repeatedly burned a collapsing schedule.
Let’s stick to the three 3s he made in that Game 5 win on the road.
Here’s the first. Look at Kevon Looney at the top of the screen. The Clippers didn’t have Ivica Zubac on the floor, so Looney had to guard Green. Looney tiptoed into the paint and took a step further as Williams drove from the left wing. That was his main concern, but it left Green open for a corner 3, which he hit.
Green’s second 3 came in the third quarter. Steph Curry switched to Green after a screen. He pushed Curry against the post, forcing Andrew Bogut to rush and change the match.
Since it was Bogut and not Curry, Green left the post-up and turned into a pick-and-pop action with Williams, who briefly freed Green for a shot to the left wing. Green showed patience and accuracy while riding a fake pump and side step to avoid the Durant closeout.
Here’s the third 3. This was exactly the point of a tall man next to a dreaded high-usage scorer. Draymond Green was tired of Williams tearing up the Warriors’ defense, so he promised to show Williams an extra body in the paint. Draymond completely disengaged from JaMychal in an attempt to stack Williams’ side of the floor. JaMychal floated to the left wing, Williams found him and he buried another huge shot as a helpless Draymond couldn’t recover in time.
When the Warriors remade their roster last summer, they prioritized additional shooting in the frontcourt. They came to realize that in 2021 – despite the Curry boost – you can’t constantly hold a foul with two non-shooters on the ground. 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 Bjelica gave Steve Kerr a few extra front-court shooters, who varied the setup combinations he could use.
Bjelica had bright moments. Porter was a crucial addition, vital during the playoff run. Against the Grizzlies, who pressed the ball and packed the paint as Steven Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr. strayed from their assignments, Porter broke open the series with his presence on the floor. He made 7 of 11 of 3 in Game 3 and Game 4 wins. The Warriors were a plus-45 with him on the floor in that run, and a minus-41 with him off.
But Porter left Toronto for a bigger payday, and Bjelica has returned to Turkey’s Fenerbahçe fame, a team he previously played for. The Warriors have put on the table a minimum offer for veterans for both, unwilling to pay market value (given their tax crisis), but they still appreciate the forward piece on a traditional center in rethinking their big man rotation.
That led to the pivot to JaMychal Green rather than a chase for some DeMarcus Cousins or Tristan Thompson type. Green was part of a salary deposit by Denver last month. He will have to pay $8.2 million next season. By trading for him, the Thunder grabbed a future first round pick and always intended to buy him out and send him back to the market.
Part of the reason the Nuggets were willing to part with him was because of his off-season from deep. Denver signed him to a $16.4 million two-year deal last summer because the season before, his first with the Nuggets, he earned 39.9 percent of his 3s and fit perfectly alongside Nikola Jokic as an interior presence to guard wings and centers , chipping on the glass and spreading the court in front of him on the attack.
‘I would like to play with him for the rest of my life’ Jokic said of Green that season.
But Green shot 26.6 percent of his 124 attempt at 3s last season and missed four of his five in that first-round loss to the Warriors. Nuggets coach Michael Malone still kept him regular as a 16-minute-a-game rotation as he offers some of the same size, rebound and passing ability as Porter and Bjelica. Porter’s rebound was a revelation for the Warriors last season. Green actually had a nearly identical defensive rebound rate (18.7 percent to 18.9 percent) and has historically been higher.
But his high value as a role player will always be determined by his percentage of 3 points. Just look at his contract numbers.
Green made 39.6 percent of his 3s during his final season with Memphis, cementing his place in the league and giving him the best payday of his career with the Clippers. He shot 38.7 and 39.9 percent from 3 over the next two seasons, delivering deals that were higher than the average taxpayer. But he took a steep dip last season and has fallen back to the veteran minimum as a result, with the Warriors hoping they’ve unearthed another season-long steal in Porter’s form.
When he officially signs, Green will be the 12th player under contract. Ryan Rollins, the second-rounder, is still expected to sign a multi-year deal later in the summer, taking him to 13th place. It’s likely that the Warriors will only guarantee 14 places going to training camp, leaving the 15th free for a match or longer vacancy, saving them tax dollars. Andre Iguodala, if he chooses to return rather than retire, could fill the 14th. The Warriors’ summer activities are almost done.
(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)