Season reviews presented in alphabetical order. Previously: Jason Collins and Erick Dampier.
The fact that Willie Green was an offseason afterthought, signed-and-traded to the Clippers in what amounted to a housekeeping transaction for the Hawks, shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Green probably ranks second to Ivan Johnson among the team’s unexpected surprises in 2011-12.
The Hawks were keen on Green as soon as the free agency period opened but figured he’d be out of their price range. Green thought the same. But then the post-lockout market was harsh for an undersized, 30-year old shooting guard who had put up middling numbers for his career.
“It was a crazy free agency,” Green said at the time of his signing. “There was a lot of scenarios with players going different places and no one knew where they were going to go. It’s a blessing to be here. I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Green made the most of it by turning in a career year with the Hawks. For the first time, Green was a low-usage, high-efficiency scorer. His 1.04 points scored per possession (on 395 possessions used) ranked 24th in the league, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
That was in large part because Green shot 3-pointers at career-high rate and made them a career-high percentage (excluding 2005-06, when he played just 10 games for the Sixers). Green still didn’t draw many fouls but he had a great year at the free-throw line, too, missing just eight of 56 attempts.
Green proved to be a good fit playing off the ball and spotting up for shots in the half court and in transition, or catching and shooting off screens. That role also allowed him to continue to cut his turnover rate and percentage.
Defensively, Green was too slow-footed to handle particularly athletic opponents and too small to fend off stronger players. That’s reflected in his individual numbers: .91 points per possession allowed (276th in the league, according to Synergy) and 15.9 opponent PER at shooting guard. However, Green proved to be a decent team defender when properly deployed as reflected by the efficiency of the top four lineups in which he played.
Green couldn’t carry over his play into the postseason, which made him like pretty much every Hawks reserve. He struggled to create shots, didn’t attempt a free throw in 63 minutes and was a defensive liability.
Overall, Atlanta’s acquisition of Green turned out to be a good, cost-efficient move. In what may be a sign of the new NBA world of fiscal restraint when it comes to role players, Green’s good year apparently didn’t translate into the kind of lucrative contract regularly offered to scorers. According to Hoopsworld’s Eric Pincus Green’s first-year salary with the Clippers is $1.375 million, just a bit more than the league minimum, and the final two years are not guaranteed.
Michael Cunningham, Hawks beat
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