The Philadelphia 76ers could really use Danny Green right now

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

After one of the strangest individual offseasons in NBA history, the Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in a rather unique spot roughly 40 percent of the way through the season.

On one hand, the team just whipped off two wins in a row despite being down to one regular rotation point guard. Despite having a reshuffled rotation seemingly every single week, the Sixers are playing good team basketball around Joel Embiid, who is off to another MVP-worthy campaign, and the team chemistry is slowly but surely getting there.

But then again, how sustainable is any of it? The wins, the chemistry, even EMVPiid is just a positive test away from everything being thrown out of wack yet again, with Doc Rivers’ squad effectively jettisoned back to square one for a few weeks.

Now granted, because of the association’s current COVID crisis, the Sixers have experimented with a few new looks that might just stick long-term. Seth Curry at point guard has been a revelation in limited action, and Georges Niang has looked like an ideal spot-up shooter build for an Embiid-focused frontcourt.

But do you know what my biggest takeaway from the past two games has been? Danny Green is essential to the Philadelphia 76ers reaching their full potential this season.

Danny Green is one of the Philadelphia 76ers’ most important players.

The end of the Philadelphia 76ers’ win over the Toronto Raptors was a shootout.

After watching their double-digit lead get chipped away by a career evening by Chris Boucher, the Sixers traded leads with Nick Nurse’s squad for seemingly the entire back half of the fourth quarter, with Toronto securing the lead twice in the final two minutes.

Doc Rivers’ solution to squelch the Raptors’ run? Insert a smoking hot Georges Niang into the game… in place of Tyrese Maxey.

Now usually, this wouldn’t be too weird. While Maxey should be on the court for the Sixers in crunch time, as his rapidly evolving game with Joel Embiid is one of the true highlights of the season thus far, Rivers has turned to similar looks a few times this season, including in the team’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks, and it has worked reasonably well. What was unusual, however, was that Niang entered the game, and Matisse Thybulle remained in the game, too, despite his limited abilities as a floor spacer.

Even if the Sixers ultimately eked out a win, things were a bit closer than they needed to be.

So why did this happen? I get that Maxey doesn’t get a ton of respect from opposing defenders as a shooter, but neither does Thybulle, as he’s been used as an interior scorer far more often over the past few weeks to admittedly encouraging results.

Easy: Danny Green wasn’t available.

That’s right, in a cruel twist of fate, the Sixers couldn’t surround Embiid with four shooters during those final minutes of the game, let alone two-way 3-and-D performers, mostly because they didn’t have four available, as both Green and Shake Milton were just in COVID protocol, and Isaiah Joe didn’t log a single minute of action up to that point. That segment of the game specifically highlighted what Green brings to the table and why he’s been such a vital glue guy for the Sixers this season.

Despite being the Sixers’ oldest player, DG has the 18th-highest defensive RAPTOR rating according to FiveThirtyEight, and his current 3 point shooting efficiency, 37.4 percent, ranks fourth on the team behind only Embiid, Seth Curry, and Georges Niang. Factor in 1.5 steals, and .9 blocks per game, a mark that only three qualifying players, Lonzo Ball, LeBron James, and his teammate, Matisse Thybulle, can boast league-wide, and the Sixers have looked darn good for locking up one of the better utility 3-and-D guys on a very team-friendly two-year, $20 million deal.

Now if Niang, Green, and Embiid can all get healthy at the same time, a situation that has only happened in seven games so far this season, Daryl Morey’s three biggest signings of the offseason might truly get a chance to shine in a very complementary frontcourt look.

When Green returns, he’ll slot back in as the team’s second-best perimeter defender after Thybulle and their third-best pure outside shooter. His ability to play either the two or the three provides optionally for Rivers and company to craft a variety of on-the-fly lineups, and most importantly of all, Green should return to his spot as a fixture of clutch time lineups, which his talents are tailor-made for.

Plus, Green’s a vet who has a noted track record of keeping his guys together when the times get tough. In a season that’s even more volatile than the one before, getting Green back into the locker room will be a massive boon for team morale.

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Until the Philadelphia 76ers are made whole, it’s tough to make heads or tails of their current on-court product. Sure, watching Tyler Johnson hit 3s has been fun, and both Charles Bassey and Paul Reed have put good play to tape as backup options at the five, but when you consider none of those players will be in the playoff rotation, it’s hard to weigh their performances the same way. Who will be in the team’s playoff rotation, barring a trade, is Danny Green, and that’s a very good thing, as he’s a perfect on-field fit alongside Joel Embiid.