Film Study: Gerald Green's Heat Checks

Gerald Green is an interesting player to take a close look at. He's the ultimate hot and cold guy for the Suns. Last season he had 33 games shooting 50% or better and 26 games shooting under 40%. When Green was the highest scorer in the game the Suns were 9-0. He's that type of player. So what do you see when you look at the film? Offensively, you could break his offensive game into a few sections. Green is a very good shooter, a surprisingly efficient penetrator, a negligent playmaker, a bad shot taker, and your traditional bench weapon that can catch fire at any moment. Here we go.

Shooter

The first place we identify with Green is as a shooter. He shot 40% from three on six attempts a game last season. The advanced stats take you in another direction though. Those numbers suggest that Green is a great three point shooter, but he's not on the catch and shoot. Green was 44th in 3P% on the catch and shoot (40%) among players who played at least 65 games and shot at least one and a half of those situations a game. Out of 119 people that suggests Green is good but not great.

Green is much more of an isolation and "go get yours" scorer and that moves you to the pull up jumpers. Under the same sort of filters Green ranked fourth in the league out of 87 players for pull up 3P% at 42.2%. Green takes about one and a half a game and is the most efficient based on quantity and quality in the NBA. For inside of the line, Green ranks 30th out of those 87 players with a percentage of 39.5%. This is where he makes his money.

When you look at the film for the way Green goes about shooting the ball, it's really simple. He's going to shoot whenever he has space or whenever he thinks he's going to make the shot (that's a lot). There's not much secrecy behind how he goes about scoring.

Here is an example of an assortment of shots he had against Dallas late last season.


All of these are fairly good looks, but Green finished this game going 2-9 from the field. Before you clamor down and state the obvious that "this is only one game", I'm just bringing you these to show that even when Green has these very good looks sometimes they still don't go in. Usually the key for Green isn't how much space he has, it's how much in rhythm he is. Remember this for later, because the level of difficulty on these shots sometimes doesn't even matter for him.

It all correlates to how much he makes these though and Green shot around the league average last year on field goals. This is significant given the statistics I just brought forward that show he is much more efficient in the pull up (usually inside the line) than the catch and shoot (usually from deep).

Attacking/Playmaking

Green's reputation as a player is that jumper for a reason, but the thing is that Green was actually crazy efficient when it came to attacking the basket. Green shot 53.2% on drives, 9th among all players who played 65 or more games and took at least two drives a game. That being said, Green was 82nd in total drives out of the 97 eligible for those two filters. The stat is hard to judge because Green could very well be taking those only on very open opportunities and guys like Richard Jefferson and Ray Allen joined him in the top 10. It's still a positive though and perhaps we see more from him next season.

The problem with Green's drives though is that he's rarely looking to pass, if ever. The Suns biggest statistical mess as a team last year was assists (29th in the league). Green did not pull off his share last season.

Comparing his assists to players on West playoff teams that averaged at least 10 PPG off the bench (aka, similar to Green), Marco Belinelli had 2.2, Manu Ginobli had 4.3, Patty Mills had 1.8 (only 19 MPG though), Reggie Jackson had 4.1, Jamal Crawford had 3.2, Jeremy Lin had 4.1, and Vince Carter had 2.6. Green had only 1.5 and only Lin and Jackson played more minutes than him. He's got to improve.

Here are some examples.

Example 1

As you can see, Green is evaluating the floor and sees the massive space in the middle of the floor. Samuel Dalembert is keeping an eye on this under the basket, but Green shouldn't be concerned about him. The veterans of Dallas have been rightfully exposed off of the dribble and this is the same here for our beloved Matrix. By the way, my favorite thing about these Green screenshots is someone else looking for the ball. Goran (rightfully) wants the ball here with 13 seconds on the shot clock but nuh uh.


Goodbye Trix. Dalembert has stepped up and fully committed himself to stopping Green at the rim. At this point, everyone has their eyes on Green and has left enough space for the pass except for Vince Carter at the top of the screen. Green has his head down though and continues to power to the bucket.


As you can see, every Maverick is in the key except for Monta Ellis who is about one step behind. The thing about the lack of Green's playmaking is that he has the athleticism to easily pull it off. More hangtime means more time in the air to turn around and throw it to Bled or Goran here. I'm not suggesting that would be easy, but it's doable, and it's just not in Green's game. Even a drop-off for Miles or hitting Channing on the left is open here. As you can guess this shot did not go in.

Example 2

Later on in the game the Suns ran a pick and pop with Green. I love Bled's body language by the way.

Adios Air Canada. This is a frame or two behind, but Calderon pinches enough for Green to be able to hit Dragic for an open three. He would not. Marion has now established himself under the rim ready to contest.

As you can see, Goran is open. So is Channing and so is Bled. Bled doesn't even have his hands ready for the ball. Sulk life. Poor Bled. The thing that Green has to realize about this drive is that his mission is accomplished in getting Marion to go up for the contest. All he needs to do is hit Plumlee two feet away and it's an easy dunk for Miles. That's not what Green did though.

Clang.

Those are two options of Green making the right decision in attacking, but not recognizing the passing options while also missing the attempt. Those are just specific examples, as Green can still finish. We go to New Orleans for this one.

Example 3

As you can see, Goran has already gotten near the key and has attracted the attention of the defense. Green in the corner is pretty fun usually and he has the most space so that's where the third team All-NBA guard will go.

Green has enough space here to dictate what he wants to do. He can rise for the jumper if he wants and get a solid amount of space, but it's not a wide open look. Unless he has a good defender on him he's going to be able to get by him on the closeout.

Go Pelicans! Here comes Green to the rim. We saw the Spurs run this kind of action last time and Goran's responsibility here is to rotate to the corner and P.J. to move to the wing for the sake of spacing, but Goran wants good seats for the show. You know what happens next.

Green comes up with two hands right at Jeff Withey, but since he's a high flyer he has the ability to double-clutch as a basketball move as opposed to doing it for just style points. He swoops under the Withey block attempt and slams this home because that's what Green does. As you can see, Channing is open and Babbitt cut in as soon as Green beat his man. I'm not trying to overdo a point, I'm just trying to show where Green can improve those assist numbers and how much of a regularity it is.

Example 4

Lastly, here's another great example of Green reading the defense early and using his athleticism to create a bucket. Jeremy Lamb is being Jeremy Lamb here and not guarding Green. Russell Westbrook is trying to get Lamb on his man, but Markieff Morris is doing that "I'm trying to move down the floor and you're in my way so time for you to come along for the ride weeeeee" thing so Lamb is indisposed. Green sees this and.....

This approach Green takes to the three-point line here indicates that he is thinking pull up. This forces Westbrook to at least take an extra step to Green, but Green is always thinking getting to the rim here. That little hesitation Green does allows him to get the extra step on someone who is actually a better athlete than him, which is a rarity.

Here we go. Once again, Lamb is along for the ride and Derek Fisher was too busy having nightmares about the Knicks job to step in and cut off the lane. In reality though, Green is just extremely fast and gets to the rim in two dribbles.

Green rises and does that thing where he ducks his head to avoid contact and a foul (ugh) in order to finish. It's a good example of when he can drive positively.

Bad Shots

Now we get into the ugly. Green has a tendency to take some really bad shots and there are some contributing factors to this. The rise that Green gets on his jumper allow him the perception of being able to get off a good look just about anywhere. It's quite amusing to hear away announcers talk about him "rushing it" or "forcing it" when that's just Green thinking he has an open look. This extends to his athleticism slashing to the rim as well, as he believes that he can really adjust his body when he needs to. This is me getting all psychological on you based on what I've seen from him last year. Basically, Green likes to shoot a lot. Here are a few examples.

Example 1

Green receives the pass here from Bled off of the set. Dion Waiters is right up on Green because Dion thinks he's the best player on this planet and Green disrupts that.


Green has now turned the corner and is going to be stopped pretty soon by Waiters moving well. This is the time when Green should just accept defeat and give it back to someone else who is better at basketball like Bledsoe at the top of the key.

Nope. Green counters the solid defense with a stepback. He isn't going to shoot that right?


Oh. As you can see, the incredible athleticism allows him to get off a great look based on how high his release is and where Waiters is. It's just an elbow fadeaway with 16 seconds left on the shot clock though. Moving on...

Example 2

The Suns set up a post play for Green earlier in the half in which Green got a uncontested dunk because the Pelicans are not a good basketball team. Here is the play once again, except this time it doesn't work out.

Green faces up and does about 76 head fakes and jab steps in 1.7 seconds. It's impressive. Anyway, the defender doesn't really believe in all the moves.

Green decides it's time to go baseline like he did on the previous successful post move. The Suns are in that weird trap again where they have two guys stuck under the basket instead of rotating and this time it comes back to bite them. There's a contest waiting at the rim. Green can either make the somewhat difficult pass to Goran in the corner or just hit Frye at the top of the key and let him take the shot as the shot clock runs down. This is because Green is definitely not getting a good look at this point. So what does Green do?

In between the legs stepback of course! Hey! Technically there is space over there!

The defender does a solid job of reading the situation and knows this is the only play Green has so there is the good contest. Green misses.

Example 3

This example more touches on the lack of playmaking Green has in a situation that slightly demands for it. The Suns have a 3 on 1 fast break. This is good news. Green has the ball and can figure this out right?

The spacing is dictated and Green needs to just stay on the left side of the court and the pass to the inside will be wide open.


Oh. Green wants to hop-step into that space instead. Okay.

Oh. Now Green wants to just lay it in himself. Well. He's an athlete so this should be fine right?

Nope. Green gets an awkward layup to not fall. He could have passed the ball at basically any time but refused to do that. The worst part is that he failed to react to his own situation falling apart. If he wants to try to shoot on a 3 on 1 then sure go right ahead. But if it clearly is not available (when he decided to hop-step) he needs to be able to pass to someone wide open but either he didn't want to, didn't recognize it, or couldn't pull it off. Either way, something is going on.

Example 4

Lastly, the true masterpiece that possibly cost the Suns a playoff spot. Note the score and clock here. Down 1 late the Suns get a kinda sorta break here with a 2 on 3. Bledsoe passes the ball to Green and he either has to get to the rim or just reset. This is the absolute worst time in the world for a bad shot. Bledsoe should always make this pass. It's up to the recipient to judge it from there.

Okay. So Green decided not to go right to the basket and instead does this weird pump fake stop on a dime thing. This is actually okay since the Suns can reset now and either call a timeout or give it right back to Goran (left wing). With 20 seconds left on the shot clock what does Green do?


Gets that high rise on his jumper and lets it fly. I'm all about the 2 for 1 life but in a situation like this you need to get a good look. This didn't even qualify for that situation anyway with about 28 seconds left when Green gets the shot off. Green missed and the Suns went on to lose.

After looking through those examples it's clear that Green either wants to keep taking these shots or just doesn't understand how to be a playmaker. Either way, it's a flaw.

Fire

The thing about Green's game that gets him so much praise and why you heard him in some Most Improved buzz is his electric scoring off of the bench. We've covered a lot of the bases so far, most of them negative. There's a point to this, as there's not much changing about the shot choice or the space that Green has on these jumpers. There's some nights like the Dallas package you saw that shows even when he's open they just won't fall sometimes and there's some nights like the last section where he's just taking horrible shots. Then, there are some nights where those two sections combine and it doesn't matter because Green has caught fire.

Some of you probably aren't going to remember the Atlanta game, especially for Green, and that's because he only had 13 points in the game. However, the Hawks were starting to come back as the Suns went cold, and Green hit two very big shots that got them going again and led to the win.

Example 1

Here you see the Hawks are within five in the mid 4th quarter. Green is going to run to the ball on the wing and catch it while moving at a pretty high speed. The part of Green's game that is so unique is that ability to shoot at just about any angle or speed because of the rise on his jumper. This makes defenses (usually the better ones, like Atlanta) tighten up on Green and he understands how to use the space.


This isn't that bad of a shot technically for Green as we've shown through the course of the screenshots. There honestly isn't such a thing as a bad shot for Green because of those factors we have discussed in this section, but there's such a thing as a better shot. Green pump fakes here and tries to get one.

With the defense overstepping, Green attacks the basket. Once again, two defenders on him and his head down, but that's not really the point here.

Rightfully so, Lou Williams has drifted back to a range where he can deny a pass to Eric Bledsoe. Green is well covered and hasn't really succeeded in creating more space. Until.....


He does this. The shot is very well contested, but the fadeaway and rise factor allow Green all the space he needs. This is not a quality look, but Green buries it anyway. This is what I allured to earlier.

Example 2

The Hawks are still in it here and Green is looking for the ball on the left wing.

A little "I'm going to the corner haha not really here comes a pick bye" cut here from Green allows Marcus Morris to set the pick and the designed play is going to probably get the desired effect.

A combination of an illegal screen and Mook being moved by Williams here allow Green enough space to get off that weird angled three. He's not facing the basket one step before, but he just takes one step in a fluid motion to turn towards the basket to rise and fire. This is a part of Green's game that I think is going to get better next season. He's never really been a guy before to have off-the-ball actions run for him and these sorts of plays that combine his athleticism and shooting ability are very unique to his skill set. More reps on these strange angles and shots will add more consistency.

Example 3

The most infamous Gerald Green fire incident was coincidentally the Suns biggest win of the year. The Oklahoma City Thunder were visiting Phoenix and the Suns had a chance on national TV to prove that they were for real. Green had 41 points and the Suns would get this monster win. We already saw one of those drives earlier and now here are all eight threes Green hit.

As you can see, there is a combination of all the elements we have discussed. High shot clock, open teammates, good to great contests, fadeaways, etc. Green made all of these and him catching fire was the main reason the Suns won this game.

Conclusion

Looking specifically at that last sentence, how much do Green's heat checks matter? As long as they keep going in, how much do we really care about how bad these shots are? Well, as you can tell by my tone in certain screenshots, I do. I'm not a fan of the bad shots Green takes even if they go in. I think that he can be a much more selective and effective offensive player next year. Even if Green takes these sorts of shots, as long as he adds a little bit more playmaking to his game then that makes him a better player as well.

With Isaiah Thomas and rookie T.J. Warren now in the Suns second unit, Green won't need to command the second unit scoring like Example 4 under Attacking/Playmaking when Ish Smith and Shavlik Randoplh were on the floor with him. Even more so, these bad shots are going to be much worse now that he is surrounded by multiple offensive weapons on the bench. I'm not really looking for a delicate balance here because that's clearly not Green's game. I would just like to see a little less of the bad shots and a little more of the better ones with some assists. Something of that sort would dramatically change Gerald Green's game and turn him into a much better player. This is something one might want to consider in a contract year. Taking all of this aside, the Suns still had a very good bench weapon last year and there's no reason to think that would change for next season.

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