Philadelphia 76ers: Danny Green has been worth Al Horford plus a first

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

For a time, Al Horford‘s contract with the Philadelphia 76ers was considered one of the worst in the NBA by a pretty decent margin.

Initially signed away from the Boston Celtics on a four-year deal worth a much as $109 million, Horford was viewed by Elton Brand as an ideal frontcourt mate for Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris and the sort of player who could split his time between the starting five and at the backup five.

That obviously didn’t happen, but hey, that was the idea at the time.

While Horford played alright as a backup five, where his floor spacing from the center spot helped to space the field for Ben Simmons, the decision to air up Embiid and Harris with a power forward-sized center turned out worse than many could have imagined, with the 33-year-old chocolate milk enthusiast turning in arguably the worst season of his professional career, and the worst stat line since his rookie season back in 2007-08.

Theoretically, just getting off of Horford’s contract would be a classic case of addition by subtraction, as removing that albatross from the books was considered a near-impossible feat, but to actually get back valuable assets in the process? Even if it costs a future draft pick to get the deal done? That seemed a bit too good to be true.

Enter Daryl Morey, who, in the span of a single day, single-handedly fixed many of his predecessor’s mistakes without trading away any of the team’s core players.

Here’s how he did it.

Danny Green’s addition has been perfect for the Philadelphia 76ers.

More from Section 215

After winning his second-straight title in as many years as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Danny Green’s status was up in the air heading into 2020’s interaction of NBA free agency.

While Green had played very well as the Lakers’ starting shooting guard in 2019-20, he notoriously missed a game-winner in the finals that soured many a fan of the “greatest show on court” and had the sort of contract tailor-made to facilitate a trade for pretty much any player in the league regardless of their status. Factor in the presence of Clutch Sports client Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, another 6-foot-5 shooting guard with 3-and-D ability, and suddenly, it wasn’t so much a question of if Green would be traded out of El Segundo but where he’d end up and who he’d be playing for.

On November 18th, 2020, we collectively got an answer to the first part of that question, as Green was shipped to the OKC Thunder alongside Jaden McDaniels for 2019 Sixth Man of the Year candidate Dennis Schroder.

Now for Green, this must have been one of his tougher days in the NBA. After winning ringers in each of his last three stops around the Association – Los Angeles, Toronto, and San Antonio, for those out of the know – the 33-year-old vet was being exiled to the Siberia of the NBA, where winning was guaranteed to take a backseat to player development.

Fortunately, Daryl Morey swooped in just before the draft and secured for Green yet another opportunity to play for a contender. The price? Al Horford a 2021 second-round pick (used on Théo Maledon), a 2025 top-6 protected first-round pick, and the draft rights to Vasilije Micić.

Now granted, is surrendering that sort of treasure trove for a guard who has averaged double-digit points only twice over his NBA career a lot? Sure. Fantasy basketball GMs surely looked at that deal like pre-glasses Peter Parker, but on the court, Green’s style of play has been just what the doctor ordered to get the Philadelphia 76ers where they want to be in 2020-21 while simultaneously providing much of the contractual firepower to help secure George Hill via another trade with the Thunder a few months later.

In Green – and to a lesser extent, Hill (which you can read more about here) – the Sixers landed a veteran locker room with an incredibly dynamic personality who knows how to win and how to keep his guys engaged. Green’s presence has helped the Sixers through a few rough patches, including the infamous “Seven Sixers” game, and made the good games all the more enjoyable, considering his ability to near-instantly put a smile on his teammates’ faces, either on the court or on the bench.

Oh yeah, and did I mention Green’s on-court contributions have been just as vital to the Sixers’ newfound status as the cream of the East’s crop?

Green’s 9.5 points per game currently ranks sixth on the Sixers behind the usual suspects plus Shake Milton and Seth Curry, and his 3 point shooting percentage (40.8) ranks third behind only his fellow winger starter with a famous brother and two-way contract player Mason Jones, who was just waived out of the blue. As improbable as it may sound – though not if you watch local Sixers broadcasts with regularity – Green currently ranks first overall in corner 3s made per game, which feels made up but is very much a real stat that people track.

And on the defensive end? Well, Green hasn’t lost a step from his days in a gold and purple jersey.

While he may no longer be a true lockdown man defender like his days in San Antonio, Green is still a plus-coverage specialty on the wings, where he can switch off from the one-three without much issue. Green’s defensive plus-minus ranks third in the NBA among 97 qualifying small forwards, and when he’s on the court with another elite defender – either Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, or a combination of the two – he can help to clamp down on even the most imposing scorers, no matter how opposing teams try to attack the hoop.

Throw that all together in a protein shake, and you find yourself with a player who has not only earned his keep in 2020-21 but is a viable candidate to be extended on another medium-length contract, considering the Sixers can offer him a deal using his Early Bird Rights, which could be worth up to $26.25 million per season depending on how things shake out.

George Hill has been just what the Doc ordered. dark. Next

While only time will tell what the future holds for Danny Green in South Philly, whether he is extended past the 2020-21 season, allowed to walk in free agency (improbable), or used to acquire other assets in a sign-and-trade, it’s clear Daryl Morey got himself one heck of a player for a contract many considered borderline untradeable, which may not thrust him to the top of the GM of the Year race, but darn well should. Even if a trip to the Hall ultimately eludes Green, his case for being one of the NBA’s premier sidemen has very much been cemented over the past few seasons and will only grow stronger if he wins a third-straight ring with the Philadelphia 76ers this summer.