Danny Green’s return to the team that drafted him has been a slow burn.
His rehab wasn’t as far along as the Cleveland Cavaliers likely hoped it would be when they signed him in February; it seems like this kept him from working his way into the rotation. J.B. Bickerstaff talked about giving him some run late in the season, but getting COVID a few weeks back never allowed those plans to get off the ground.
Green had a vintage performance during Thursday night’s win. He looked like the player who’s been apart of three championship teams and numerous deep playoff runs. He finished 5-9 on three-pointers en route to 19 points. Green also showed flashes of the transition and on-ball defense that has been a staple of his game for nearly a decade.
He followed that up with 13 points in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday afternoon.
What makes Green so valuable, and particularly for this team, is his ability to generate corner threes. He has the ability to relocate to the corner just as defenses seem to lose him. We saw this on full display against the Orlando Magic as four of his nine three-point attempts came from the corner.
Green also showed that he can still adeptly navigate screens.
The movement shooting that the Cavs desperately need is also still present. This is a shot he’s been able to provide for numerous contending teams this past decade.
The problem is Green hasn’t played more than 18 minutes with any member of the starting lineup this entire season. That matters. Game reps isn’t something that can be replicated. While you’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of active players who have been in as many high-pressured situations as him, that doesn’t inherently outweigh inexperience with this group.
Green believes that he has a grasp of the system, but from the outside it’s difficult to make that determination.
“I think that I’ve proved that I’m comfortable and know the system enough,” Green told reporters Monday after practice. “They know what I’m capable of giving and what we might need. But there’s not a lot of minutes on the basketball court. There’s a lot of guys here who have earned those minutes.”
There’s also a reason why Green wasn’t in the rotation this past month. While his last two outings showed that he may be turning a corner, it’s dangerous to put too much stock into games 81 and 82 of any season. Let alone in a situation where Green is mostly playing alongside guys who’ve spent most of their time in the G League this season and against teams that haven’t been playing relevant basketball for months.
The margins are so tight in the playoffs. A few costly turnovers or defensive miscommunications can turn the momentum of a game. This isn’t a team that can afford growing pains.
On the other side of the coin, the bench rotations remain unsettled aside from Caris LeVert. Ricky Rubio, Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens and Cedi Osman all have different flaws that make them difficult to play in the playoffs depending on the matchup.
In an ideal world, the Cavs aren’t giving minutes to a 35-year-old who hasn’t bounced back well from tearing his ACL and LCL less than a year ago and doesn’t have experience with this group. But in an ideal world the Cavs have a more stable bench. If there was a team where Green could work his way into minutes after having none in the regular season, it’s this one.