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Post-trade deadline everyone is attentively and anxiously waiting with bated breath to see how each player looks on their respective new team. In a few weeks’ time, I’m sure the whole basketball world will turn their attention to Kevin Durant in his new threads in Phoenix (once he returns from injury of course). The aftershock, and perhaps a more compelling angle than the usual conversations after the deadline, is how the surrounding pieces look with respect to their new teammates. Possibly the most interesting of which, at least so far, has been how Kyrie Irving’s presence has helped springboard the ever-developing and unique talents of Josh Green. 

The 3rd year Aussie who was the 18th pick in the 2020 draft out of Arizona hadn’t really found his footing until late last season when he began to emerge as another wing defender and athlete that the Mavericks could throw out there in their highly switchable, funky defensive lineups alongside Dorian Finney-Smith and Maxi Kleber. At 6-5, Green isn’t the biggest guy on the court, but his broad shoulders and stout frame, coupled with his burst and quickness make him a legitimate defender. Green’s defensive prowess is something that he’s carried with him since his days in a Wildcats uniform, but as with all defensive-related things in the NBA, it takes time to get adjusted. 

Green’s athleticism makes him a hawk in passing lanes, hiding behind a weak-side defender before jumping out last second to nab a cross-court pass. He prowls as a weak-side rim protector who can leap with the best of them, making him an ancillary part of the Mavericks’ overall defensive scheme. 

He only becomes more important on that end with the presence of Irving, who despite his best efforts, is a small undersized guard who can get picked on at times on defense. And maybe more importantly, Green has become pivotal to how this Mavericks’ defense operates in the absence of Finney-Smith, their former 3-n-D wing. It used to be DFS patrolling the perimeter, guarding the opposing team’s wing star, and trying to be enough of a deterrent on defense, to allow Luka Doncic and crew to do their thing offensively. That task is now Green’s – who despite being a few inches shorter than DFS – can provide much of the same defensively. 

In this play, he handles the switch onto Jimmy Butler, forces Jimmy to baseline, stays with him using his lateral quickness, and forces Butler to lose the ball out of bounds. Just stout as an on-ball defender.

— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) February 13, 2023

Off the ball, he can do as much, if not more damage. On this possession, watch how Green mucks up the Clippers’ alley-oop play as the weak-side low man and then takes it himself in transition for the finish.

— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) February 13, 2023

That’s the other aspect of Green’s game that pops off the page – and something that he has honed in on more and more as his career has progressed – using his athleticism to create advantages for himself and others on offense. 

He’s an excellent transition player, is a willing and able passer, which makes him the wonderful connective glue for this Mavericks offense, and most notably – attacks closeouts with decisiveness. 

He uses his strength against smaller defenders, bullying them into deep positions on a closeout, or just blowing by them if they’re slightly late on a rotation.

— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) February 13, 2023

They can run him off staggered pin-downs to get him curling to the basket like on this possession here. Give Green a long enough runway and he’s tough to stop.

— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) February 13, 2023

His playmaking prowess is clear, he had 7 assists in Irving’s second game as a Maverick, purely off of connective passes, making the extra swing pass, being a willing playmaker in transition, and setting the table through the advantages he creates off of secondary actions in the Mavericks offense. 

And with Irving in the fold, it just makes his life 10 times easier. Like on this play, Irving sees the extra attention, passes it to Green, who fakes the pass to the corner to shift the defense and then sends a bullet to McGee’s way for the layup.

— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) February 13, 2023

With Luka and Irving both receiving the bulk of the attention, it’ll be crucial for the Mavs’ secondary players to take advantage of the advantages those two superstar creators make. Green seems poised to be the player to do that, already, as a utility knife, jack-of-all-trades type player who can punch gaps on offense, make plays off the bounce, is completely capable of being the connective tissue for Dallas, and is a resoundingly good defender. 

All that’s left is for Green to develop that all-important 3-point shot, but the signs of improvement are already there. On the season, he’s shooting 43% on just under 2 attempts a game, and I imagine with Irving coming into the fold now, the attempts will go up and the percentage will go down but that’s a necessary step in him eventually becoming a high volume shooter. Reps. 

Since January 1st, his attempts are already up to just under 4 per night and he’s still knocking down just under 42% of them. Just in February, Green is averaging over 18 points, 4 rebounds and nearly 3 assists in 35 minutes a night and had a massive breakout performance against the Jazz (before Irving’s arrival) dropping 29 points to lead Dallas to a win alongside another young and exciting Mavs prospect Jaden Hardy. 

But it’s Green that moves the needle this season for the Mavs. They know what Doncic brings. They know what Irving can do (when he’s on the court). Even with Christian Wood, the Mavs’ offensive dynamite of a big man, it is fundamentally clear what he can and can’t bring onto the court. 

With Green, it’s a mixed bag, which is bound to happen with a 22-year-old who’s still trying to figure out his way in the NBA, but who said loot bags couldn’t be good? In the playoffs, you need players who can provide you with a little bit of everything, who can work off your respective stars, and who can add their own flair of dynamism to the team instead of just being a conduit to the next action. 

What I mean by that is that Green isn’t some passive player who is just trying to carve out a role for himself, he is an active participant. And that’s what the Mavericks lacked desperately at the start of the season. Luka would create an advantage, and it resulted in one of two things either 1) a missed jumper or 2) a made jumper. Green provides more. If Luka can create an advantage, Green can attack a slow defender, make the extra swing pass, or do a well-timed cut from the weak side. 

With Irving now, it only heightens that aspect of his game, making him the ultimate x-factor for this final stretch of the season in Dallas. 

Josh Green is turning the corner, both literally and figuratively in his career. And Kyrie’s presence might just give him the boost needed… to take that next big step.