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The purpose of Danny Green

A weird situation for a team in a weird (but good) spot.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Media Day Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t been paying attention, this is my first column in a bit. The main reason for that is that youth pastor life during the summer time is pretty crazy, and I’m just now starting to get my feet under me again. But a smaller reason is that I’ve found it weirdly difficult to articulate my thoughts and mixed feelings on one of the stranger and more off-putting Grizzlies offseasons I can remember.

And the Danny Green situation is one that epitomizes the weird tension that I’ve been feeling.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Media Day Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

First, let me get the necessary qualifiers out of the way: Overall, I am extremely positive about the current trajectory of the team. The Grizzlies were both the second best and youngest team in the NBA last year, and they figure to benefit from more internal improvement. Desmond Bane can take another leap to become a bonafide all-star, Ziaire Williams figures to be a key contributor in Year 2, and Ja Morant can conceivably be the league’s scoring champion — especially with Jaren Jackson Jr. missing some time at the beginning of the season.

Yet with all this in mind, the Memphis Grizzlies still seem to be caught between two worlds, and I feel like it’s bound to catch up with them sooner rather than later. They want to embrace the status of a contender while also rallying behind a youth movement, which has now put them in a situation where they will likely have to play a combination of 4 first and second-year players (Ziaire Williams, Santi Aldama, David Roddy, and Jake LaRavia) in their regular rotation.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Media Day Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

I can think of very few contenders in recent years that have been as reliant on youth as the Grizzlies will have to be this coming season, and even fewer who seem to have as much of a reluctance for aggressive moves and transactions as they do. You run the risk of being left behind when you refuse to do anything that could be remotely considered as “going all in”.

But who cares, right? The Grizzlies have their process, they’re sticking to it, and the results have generally spoken for themselves.

So what is Danny Green doing here then?

Another round of qualifiers: I love Danny Green’s game. I so badly longed for him to be on on the Grizzlies during the Grit ‘N’ Grind era and for good reason: He’s been one of the league’s most consistently solid 3-and-D wings over the last decade, and where he goes —whether it’s San Antonio, Toronto, or Los Angeles — championships seem to follow.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies-Media Day Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

I just don’t really know what his role us supposed to be on the Grizzlies. If it’s because of “veteran leadership”, well, the Grizzlies haven’t exactly valued it in recent years. When the Grizzlies were the youngest team in the league, they traded Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill at the 2020 deadline. They showed little to no interest in trying to make it work with Patrick Beverley before the start of this past season, choosing a flier on Jarret Culver instead. They also allowed Kyle Anderson to walk in free agency. And the main reason they did all of these things is because they have generally always prioritized the development of younger players over the immediate impact of veterans.

Of course, you could make the argument that the Grizzlies are getting the best of both worlds with Danny Green. Because he’s likely out until April due to recovery from his ACL injury, he will be able to provide leadership in the locker room while also not taking minutes away from the team’s prospect. Site Manager Parker Fleming made this point on Twitter a few days ago.

However, there’s one problem with this. The Grizzlies aren’t keeping Danny Green around to be a glorified coach; they’ve made it clear that’s he’s going to play, which I guess isn’t surprising considering that he’s still a member of the team. If it was communicated to him that he wasn’t going to have an active role this season, then a player of his pedigree would almost definitely receive a buyout.

I just have my doubts about whether he should play, to put it bluntly. Anyone who follows me knows that I think the Grizzlies should care far more about winning at all costs than they do development at this point, but I doubt how much a 35-year-old Danny Green — who is coming off both one of the worst statistical seasons of his career as well as a major lower body injury — can still contribute to winning at a high level.

Also, whose minutes is he going to take? Desmond Bane will be playing around 30 minutes a night as the Grizzlies’ staring shooting guard. The Grizzlies have a huge stake in Ziaire Williams’ development, and he figures to play a huge role. They also didn’t just give John Konchar a $19 million contract to bury him at the end of the bench of important games.

Add in the fact that Tyus Jones will still be playing around 20 minutes per night, and I have no idea where Danny Green minutes will fit. He’s also played over 90% of his career minutes at the two, so it’s unlikely the Grizzlies find a place for him in the front-court. All of this isn’t even to mention that it may be unwise to try to acclimate an additional rotation player in April when the playoffs are about to start.

All of that being said, this is probably much ado about nothing, since Danny Green will likely not prove to be consequential one way or the other for the Memphis Grizzlies this season. But his championship DNA will hopefully rub off on them as the season goes along, even as uncomfortable amount of uncertainty permeates the back end of the team’s rotation.

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