Last season, the term “breakout year” was used to describe at least half the players on the Phoenix Suns’ roster. Goran Dragic emerged as an All-NBA point guard and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Markieff Morris stepped up as a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Eric Bledsoe, despite only playing half the season, was dynamic when he was on the floor. Miles Plumlee looked like a real NBA starting center. The list goes on and on, but one of the biggest surprises was the best season of Gerald Green‘s career.After Larry Bird‘s Indiana Pacers traded Green, Plumlee and a draft pick to the Suns for Luis Scola, Phoenix became Green’s seventh team in as many seasons in the league. Between he and Plumlee’s emergence as viable NBA role players, it wasn’t long before everyone knew Bird had made a mistake with his trade.
Green was instant offense off the bench and when Bledsoe went down with his meniscus tear, G-Air-ald moved into the starting lineup without missing a beat.
In a full 82 games and 48 starts, Green averaged a career high 15.8 points along with 3.4 assists per game. He also shot an impressive 40 percent from 3-point range, a feat even more remarkable considering he was hoisting 6.2 attempts from downtown per game.
Green was top five in the league in made and attempted 3-pointers in 2013-14 and the streaky shooting he provided off the bench was huge given Bledsoe’s absence.
Heading into the 2014-15 season, it seems like fair game to ask: Was last year for real, or was it a one-time fluke due to such lowered expectations? More specifically, can we expect consistent production from Gerald Green next season or have we already seen the best of him? Considering his 2013-14 season was a mix of bad shots that somehow kept going in and high-flying dunks, it’s not wrong to question whether he can keep his NBA Jam-like game going.
Lol gerald green on NBA Jam https://t.co/WS8uCtC5jl
— NBA_Mixes (@NBA_Mixes) August 4, 2014
Under Jeff Hornacek, a team led by Dragic and a bunch of role players put together a top 10 offense. Having Channing Frye as a pick and pop option certainly helped the Super Slash Brothers go about their business, but nearly every player in a Suns uniform in 2013-14 was better than they were a year before. Given that the supporting cast has improved even with Frye’s departure, most are assuming Phoenix will be a playoff competitive team again next season.
Shooters have up and down seasons, but even if Green isn’t able to shoot 40 percent from three-point range on 6.2 attempts per game again next season, he carved out a role for himself that he should be able to replicate again. The only problem is that with such an improved supporting cast, particularly in the backcourt, Green might have to work even harder to preserve his minutes.
The arrival of Isaiah Thomas provides the Suns with insurance for Eric Bledsoe, but since Bledsoe’s restricted free agency is looking more and more like he’ll be back with the Suns – either by taking their qualifying offer worth $3.7 million or accepting Phoenix’s four-year, $48 million contract offer – that gives the Suns three point guards capable of starting for their own NBA teams. Drafting Tyler Ennis provides yet another point guard, though he’s likely bound for the D-League at this point. But the Suns also have the promising 19-year-old Archie Goodwin at the shooting guard spot, further clogging up those potential minutes for Green.
To be clear, Goodwin isn’t quite ready to be gunning for Green’s spot just yet. Goodwin has shown flashes of potential, both during the regular season last year and NBA Summer League a few weeks ago, but he’s not quite confident enough to take a more assertive role. For a team trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2010, Green’s veteran presence is what the Suns need coming off the bench.
Thomas should be the first guy off the bench when Dragic or Bledsoe need a breather, but Green should be right behind him. Markieff Morris will likely move into the starting lineup to replace Frye, which gives the Suns a potential secondary unit of Thomas, Green, Marcus Morris/T.J. Warren, Anthony Tolliver and Alex Len. That group won’t inspire the fear of God in anyone, but it’s good enough to get the job done and at the very least, Thomas will mark a significant upgrade over Ishmael Smith.
Green is in a contract year, which means he’ll be doing his best to either prove to the Suns he’s valuable enough to keep around or to start attracting other suitors who will be willing to pay what Phoenix might not. That could go one of two ways: Green could shoot his way to another career year, or he could feel the pressure of Goodwin on his heels knowing he could be on the way out and have an underwhelming season in diminishing minutes.
The Phoenix Suns should count their blessings that a talented and extremely deep backcourt is one of the problems they’re facing for the 2014-15 season. But as for Gerald Green’s playing time and production, the upcoming year comes with the added pressure of performing for a new contract, a distinguished role off the bench and possibly even minutes. Goodwin’s development could push the matter, but the truth is that for the time being, Gerald Green is in control of his own destiny.