In a week that's all about value, don't overlook Green's worth to Sixers

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In the days leading up to the NBA trade deadline, “value” is a popular word around the league.

How much is a player making? Is he worth keeping? Should a team buy or sell?

It’s how NBA executives have to think, though the constant scrutiny of those questions can be a bit tiresome for those who most enjoy the games themselves. 

We say all that as a preface to the opinion that Danny Green, the 33-year-old Sixers wing who’s seeking an NBA championship for a third consecutive season, is valuable. Watching Monday night’s Sixers overtime win over the Knicks or listening to Green’s head coach and teammates speak about him afterwards was strong evidence. 

“Danny saved the game for us,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said. “He was the only one, in my opinion, that kept his composure. We made mistakes … the game never should’ve gone to overtime, let me just put it that way.

“You could feel our energy. It wasn’t a good energy. Guys were down, they were mad, they thought they had blown the game. I kept telling them, ‘We’re going into overtime. That means the game is tied.’ And Danny was the only one in the huddle saying, ‘Guys, we’re going to win the game.’ He just kept saying it. He went out and did it.”

Green didn’t score until there was 5:50 left in the fourth quarter, but he made a jumper to put the Sixers up three points with 19.1 seconds to go in regulation and hit two critical three-pointers in overtime. He finished with 11 points, five steals, three blocks and three rebounds.

After a frustrating series of Sixers blunders down the stretch, including two missed free throws by Tobias Harris that could’ve essentially sealed the game and a botched inbounds play, what exactly was Green's message in the huddle? 

“… We pretty much did everything to give them the game, and the guys were not in a great place,” he said. “I just tried to encourage them the best I could. There was a lot of game left, a lot of time left. Forget what just happened, we’ve got a lot of basketball to play. We can still win this game — we haven’t lost yet. There’s a lot more to happen. Stay positive, pick it up, get it back. It’ll come back to you. You’ll get an opportunity to get a defensive stop, to get a bucket, to make some free throws. 

“That was the biggest thing, and I think we all fed off the energy. Once a couple shots went in for us, I think guys started to change the momentum and their attitude. The atmosphere started changing for us and we started to look at the game in a different light, in a more positive light.”

If all Green provided was timely pep talks, the notion of him being an important piece for the Sixers would hold less weight. He’s not just a veteran leader, though. Green has made 39.0 percent of his threes this season, 40.7 percent since Jan. 12. The fact that he’s taking a career-high 6.1 long-range shots per game is also key for a team that’s 28th in the NBA in three-point frequency, per Cleaning the Glass.

On the other side of the ball, Green gives the Sixers a third above-average perimeter defender who’s good at forcing turnovers. He’s not as athletic, intimidating or impactful as Ben Simmons or Matisse Thybulle, but Green is savvy and helps the Sixers earn transition possessions. In every single season of his NBA career, he’s been above league average among wings in both steal percentage and block percentage, and this year is no different. According to Cleaning the Glass, Green has a 2.1 steal percentage and 1.5 block percentage. 

His teammates won’t cite those numbers, but they know Green’s more than just a $15.4 million expiring contract. 

“I would say after All-Star break he’s really catching his stride shooting-wise,” Harris said. “He’s such a great shooter on the floor — quick release — and what he brings defensively is key for us. Leadership is a big thing. You can just tell in games like this and other games, he’s been there. He’s had long seasons with really good teams and knows what it takes. He brings that type of leadership, and that enhances our culture as a team. We look at Danny as a stable individual that comes to play night after night and gives us a great effort. And, as you saw tonight, he made some plays. That’s a domino effect, for other guys to see on the team.”

The cold reality, however, is that it’s possible Green is playing for another team next week. Multiple reports indicate the Sixers are pursuing Raptors star Kyle Lowry. More news will trickle out before Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, and Green might be part of a deal that alters the complexion of the league. 

He said that’s not something on his mind. 

“It’s out of my control, no,” he said. “Some guys may (have it on their radar) but our focus, our control is winning games, playing basketball. Whatever happens, happens. We don’t even think about that. Trade deadline, trades — I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older to only worry about the things I can control. I can’t control that so I’m just going to keep playing basketball, do my job. If things change, if things happen, then they happen. I’ll live with it and go from there. But right now, try to get this ball club healthy and keep winning games.”

Green’s part of why the Sixers are 30-13, and he’s been part of why the Lakers and Raptors were NBA champions the last two seasons. 

That's not to suggest he'd be impossible to replace. But, in a week that’s all about value, it’s worth considering the ways in which he’s helped the Sixers be the Eastern Conference’s best team. 

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