The Toronto Raptors have the second seed in the Eastern Conference pretty much locked up, but they’re still figuring out who they can rely on come playoff time. While Danny Green has always been a part of the team’s plans, the 31-year-old wing showed on Monday that he’s not just a complimentary piece; he can swing games all on his own.
Green started hot against the Magic on Monday, scoring 16 points in the first quarter on 4-of-5 shooting from three, keeping a sluggish Raptors squad in the game (Orlando was up seven after one quarter, but it could have been much worse). That was enough once the rest of his team woke up, with Green knocking down three more long range shots the rest of the way to Toronto’s 121-109 victory.
In all, Green finished with 29 points and seven three-pointers on just ten attempts, continuing what has been a season-long hot streak from downtown. Since coming over in the Kawhi Leonard trade last summer, the sharpshooter has redefined what he can do from behind the arc: Despite averaging a career-high 5.5 three-point attempts per game, Green’s efficiency from deep has skyrocketed this year, from last season’s 36.3 percent to a whopping 45.7 percent, putting him in second place league-wide (behind only Brooklyn’s Joe Harris’s ludicrous 47.6 percent).
Green’s first three-pointer on Monday showed not just his newfound elite accuracy, but also how his understanding of spacing allows him to free himself for easy threes. After sending the outlet to Lowry, Green rushes up the court to fill in the space left open by Evan Fournier’s focus on the Raptors point guard. From there, it’s an easy dish for Lowry and a wide-open three for Green:
Green’s impact in Toronto hasn’t just been on his individual box score, though. Yes, the Raptors are soaring most famously because of Leonard’s dominance, Kyle Lowry’s all-around goodness, and Pascal Siakam’s rise, but Green has been the guy holding it all together. His on-off plus-minus is a team-high +18.4 (another career high, by miles; his previous high was +6.5), which is almost five full points higher than Siakam in second place. The eye test checks out here, too; though his steals are down from his defensive heydays in San Antonio, Green is still a dogged wing defender, all arms and constant motion on that side of the ball.
With LeBron James out west and out of the playoffs, this could finally be the year Toronto breaks through and makes the NBA Finals, and if that happens, a big part of the reason will be that they pulled the trigger on Leonard at just the right time. Yet, in all the hubbub about their star wing (and the soon-to-be pressing question of whether he re-signs this summer), Toronto should be thankful that they were able to pry Green away from the Spurs in the same deal. Not only does he have championship experience, but he’s elevated his game by making the jump from “good shooter” to “elite assassin” in the north. With the razor-thin margins of the playoffs just around the corner, Green catching fire could finally push Toronto to their ultimate goal.
CORRECTION (11:30 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Pascal Siakam was rested on Monday. This has been corrected.