What Jeff Green adds to the Denver Nuggets

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

The Denver Nuggets have added an uncle to the family.

Shortly after the 2021 free agency period began Monday night, it was reported that Denver struck a deal with “Uncle” Jeff Green to join the Mile High squad.

The Nuggets will be the 11th team Green has played for throughout his 14-year career. The 34-year-old has reinvented himself in recent years as a small-ball center capable of spacing the floor and switching on the defensive end.

As a member of the Brooklyn Nets last season, Green averaged 11 points per game on a 62.4 true shooting percentage in 27 minutes per contest. The 62.4 percent marks the highest true shooting percentage Green has posted in a full season in his career.

Green capably filled a key role in Brooklyn’s rotation as a power forward that often slid up a position to play as a center. Green started 38 games last season as a result of a variety of injuries in Brooklyn’s rotation.

What exactly will the second J. Green bring to Denver’s rotation this season? Let’s take a look at what the Nuggets are getting in their marquee free agency acquisition.

Valuable floor spacing and 3-point shooting

Green has a versatile skill set on the offensive end, capable of operating as a roll man or pick-and-pop option in the pick-and-roll.

As his career evolved, Green adapted to the changing game, focusing on stepping behind the arc to space the floor more for teammates. This has especially been valuable for Green and his teams as he has shifted to playing the power forward and center positions, thus creating advantages on the offensive end when he is guarded by traditional big men.

Green is coming off the best 3-point shooting season of his career, hitting 41.2 percent on 3.7 attempts per game (250 total attempts). The 2020-21 campaign was the first season since 2012-13 in which the former 5th overall pick shot over 37 percent from beyond the arc.

When digging deeper into Green’s 3-point shooting, two things stand out. First, the vast majority of the 6-foot-8 forward’s attempts were catch-and-shoot situations. Green connected on 44.1 percent of his 227 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts last season, an elite number that should fit in perfectly in Denver’s offense.

Second, Green is a very proficient corner 3-point shooter. Last season, the Cheverly, MD native shot 43.8 percent in the corners, which accounted for 42 percent of his overall 3-point attempts. Over the course of his 976 game career, Green is a 39.1 percent shooter from the corners.

Denver’s offense ranked right around league average last season in terms of the frequency of corner 3-point attempts but connected on 43 percent of those attempts, which tied for third in the league, according to Cleaning the Glass.

Adding another elite corner 3-point shooter should help increase the volume of attempts from the corners while not sacrificing in the efficiency category.

Above-the-rim athleticism

Don’t let Green’s age and experience fool you. Uncle Jeff can still get up and play above the rim.

When looking at the numbers and tape, Green appears to be winning the battle with father time over the past couple of seasons. The veteran forward has maintained his volume of attempts coming within three feet of the rim while improving his field-goal percentage from that area of the floor over the past four years.

Since the 2016-17 season, Green has shot at least 70 percent from within three feet of the basket every year, which included 72.5 percent last season with the Nets.

Pull up any highlight video of Green from the past two seasons and another aspect that will jump out is his ability to still get up for dunks, even when a defender is between him and the rim.

Last season, Green had 39 dunks, which accounted for 7.7 percent of his total field-goal attempts, an increase from his career rate of 6.4 percent. In his 18 game stint with the Rockets during the 2019-20 season, 12.8 percent of his shot attempts were dunks.

As seen in the video below, Green will make highlight reels regularly, especially playing off of Nikola Jokić.

Defensive versatility

Green is best known for his contributions on the offensive end of the floor due to his unique combination of 3-point shooting, athleticism, and ball-handling from the four and five positions.

When projecting Green’s role on the defensive end for this Nuggets squad, it should be similar to what Nuggets fans saw from Paul Millsap for stretches of last season as Jeff pairs with JaMychal Green in the backup frontcourt.

Millsap and JaMychal Green shared the frontcourt fairly often following the 2021 trade deadline, which gave Denver a switchable frontcourt that improved the team’s versatility on that end of the floor.

Jeff Green should slide in for Millsap and although they aren’t the same level of defenders or build (Millsap is listed as 20 pounds heavier than Green), Denver will continue to have a versatile pairing on the second unit.

Both Greens are capable of guarding opposing power forwards and small-ball centers, with the potential to do some damage on the other end of the floor as two floor-spacing big men. From time to time, both Greens should also be able to switch onto guards and wing players (especially those on opposing second units), which should help Denver mix in different defensive coverages throughout the season.

At various times throughout the 2020-21 campaign, Green was often tasked with slowing down the opponent’s best wing, especially in the playoffs. The combination of Jeff Green and Aaron Gordon gives Denver a formidable and versatile pairing to guard opposing frontcourts.

In the end, Denver struck early in free agency to add a key piece to the frontcourt. Green’s versatile offensive game built on 3-point shooting and elite finishing around the rim should be an ideal complement in the second unit and alongside Jokić, Michael Porter Jr., and eventually Jamal Murray. Green’s ability to join forces with JaMychal Green continues to allow Denver to deploy versatile frontcourt pairings on the defensive end of the floor.

Uncle Jeff should seamlessly fill a spot in the Nuggets’ family for the upcoming campaign as Denver continues to navigate a revamped and challenging Western Conference.

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