The fact that Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant rank first and second in offensive rating this season isn't much of a surprise.
The fact that Danny Green ranks third, however, is.
To be clear, offensive rating isn't an all-encompassing stat that speaks to how dominant a particular player is. It's simply an estimate of how many points a team averages per 100 possessions when a player is on the court.
Considering Green almost never creates his own offence, forcing him to rely heavily on the four players who surround him, that number holds less weight than it does for Curry or Durant, both of whom are offences unto themselves.
And yet, Green ranking as high as he does sheds some light on how important he has been to a Toronto Raptors team that has hopes of competing for a title this season. According to NBA.com, Toronto's offensive rating with him on the court is 116.8. With him on the bench, it craters to 102.6.
Not only does that represent the largest differential on the team, it represents one of the largest in the entire league. As of March 29, Green was competing with four MVP candidates in Damian Lillard, Paul George, Curry and Durant for the best net rating on offence this season.
Tight race between Danny Green & Paul George for the 2018-19 On-Off Championship. pic.twitter.com/ftovr6dHhL- John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) March 29, 2019
The reason for the dropoff is rather simple: Green is the most reliable 3-point shooter on a team that relies rather heavily on 3-point shooting.
The Raptors acquired Green this summer hoping he'd be just that, but how well he'd be able to space the floor for them was up in the air. While he established himself as an elite shooter early in his tenure with the Spurs, he combined to shoot 35.7 percent from the perimeter in his last three seasons - a solid rate for most, but not so much for a specialist like Green.
This season, Green is back to being one of the best shooters in the league. He has been good for 2.5 triples per game in a Raptors uniform, marking a new career-high. He's been making those looks at a 45.5 percent clip, which is both a career-high and the second-best mark among players who have attempted at least 100 3-pointers on the season.
The only player ahead of him? Joe Harris (47.4 percent) of the Brooklyn Nets.
"As of late, we've been doing a great job of moving the ball and getting uncontested shots," Green told NBA.com when asked about the key to his success this season. "Everybody shoots better when they are uncontested."
"My teammates have done a great job of finding me."
Green doesn't do much outside of shooting 3s when he's on offence - he has one of the highest 3-point attempt rates in the league this season - but the Raptors don't need him to. With the amount of attention Lowry, Leonard and Siakam draw when they have the ball in their hands, he can focus on making himself available for catch-and-shoot 3s whenever his defender helps off of him.
Sometimes that means camping out in the corner or wing while one of them makes a move towards the basket:
Other times it means relocating to an open space to open up a passing lane:
Green also generates more than a quarter of his offence in transition, where he's been as efficient as Buddy Hield and Klay Thompson, making him an ideal fit in Nick Nurse's "attacking" system.
With multiple ball handlers surrounding him at all times, Green can take off in a full sprint following a missed shot or turnover. He's often the forgotten man in those situations, as teams naturally gravitate towards Lowry, Leonard and Siakam first, leaving him wide open.
"I'm more of a transition shooter," Green said. "It's probably a better system for me to be active in and get some open looks."
"[Lowry, Leonard and Siakam] do a great job of drawing double teams," he continued. "They put pressure on the defence, pushing the gaps and making them collapse, and I'm able to run and find space. Offensively and defensively, I think I probably do a lot better in guarding people in transition and shooting the ball in transition."
The Raptors have had knockdown shooters before, just not one quite at Green's level. The only player to have made more 3-pointers in a single season is Lowry and the only player to have made a higher percentage of their 3-point attempts is Jason Kapono (although he attempted 1.5 3-pointers per game compared to 5.5 for Green).
Green further separates himself from the Kaponos of the world with his defense. According to ESPN's Real Plus-Minus - a metric that estimates a player's "on-court impact on team defensive performance" - he's been the most impactful defender at the shooting guard position this season.
The on-off stats paint a similar picture: Toronto has been been holding opponents to 3.1 points per 100 possessions less with Green in the lineup. The only players still on the Raptors with a better net rating are Marc Gasol (4.0) and Pascal Siakam (3.7).
Whether or not the combination of his offence and defence makes him the league's most valuable role player this season is up for debate, but some of the advanced statistics sure do favour Green.
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