Photo by Austin Krell/The Painted Lines

“When I’m out the lineup and things shake up, it changes the whole chemistry of rotations. Some guys are going to play minutes they did not expect to. Some guys have unlimited minutes to show what they can do. And then when you’re down 3-2 or you’re down a game, the superstars and starters are going to play more minutes. So, it’s less minutes for those guys, less room for error, which makes it tough.

Whether it’s a superstar, a role player, or a bench player, you miss that person, it changes the whole dynamic, the whole chemistry of the rotation and the system. So, it’s hard.

A lot of guys were playing different rotation minutes. Chemistry was off a bit. Not saying I would’ve scored a bunch of points. But defensively, I think I definitely would’ve helped. No matter who is missing, any piece that’s missing changes the whole dynamic of a team.” — Danny Green, Inside The Green Room

Perhaps you believe that Danny Green’s absence mortally wounded the Sixers in the second round of the playoffs. Perhaps you reject the notion that a role player could hold that much value. Whether you accept such a supposition or not, his reasoning is correct. Ask the Suns if losing a role player like Dario Šarić changed their product in the Finals. They would say yes.

Green was not the center of attention when it came to marketing the Sixers. But, he was a staple of the starting unit for the Eastern Conference’s 1-seed. Even if you were irritated by Green’s comments about Philadelphia fans after the season, it’s very difficult to dispute his value to the 2020-21 Sixers. Green, under the pressure of it being a contract year, earned himself a hefty payday this summer. Green’s Early Bird rights make it easy for the Sixers to re-sign him. However, there are real reasons that it is not a lock that he returns. So, let’s examine the situation from both parties’ perspectives.

Why The Sixers Should Want Green Back

That the prospect of re-signing Green has been discarded as something of a no-brainer for the Sixers tells you all you need to know. According to Cleaning The Glass, he connected on 44-percent of his three-point attempts from the corners and 38-percent of his attempts everywhere else beyond the arc. Green also finished third on the Sixers in deflections per game. He provides the shooting needed to maximize Joel Embiid’s spacing on offense. He gets stops by making hustle plays on defense, and those stops generate run-outs for his team’s offense. 

While Green isn’t going to be able to match up with everyone on the defensive end, he’s extremely capable of neutralizing tertiary offensive options and lower. Kevin Huerter’s performance against the Sixers in these playoffs proved just how important it is to have that extra perimeter defender.

Returning Green would offer continuity, which would aid in maintaining chemistry. Bringing Green back also returns a respected voice to the locker room, thus eliminating the need to rebuild the respect and cachet that are needed for veteran leadership to be effective.

Veteran Leadership

Off the court, Green’s teammates raved about his leadership and willingness to mentor them this season. In an interview on Inside The Green Room, a podcast co-hosted by Green, Daryl Morey mentioned that Doc Rivers told him of a number of occasions in which Green stepped up during in-game huddles to add to or re-enforce coaching details. On a later episode of the podcast, Green mentioned that he aided in coaching from the sidelines during the second round series against the Hawks.

That wasn’t the only instance in which Morey was complementary of the veteran wing. On the same episode of the podcast, Morey said, “For me, you remind me a lot–not in necessarily your game, but just in your approach and attitude–to Shane Battier. Someone who just figures out what the team needs, and then brings it.”

A short while later, Morey added, “We’ve got three studs. We got Tobias, we got Ben and Joel. And when you’re looking for those guys to fit in, guys like Danny and George are just invaluable. Ones who can play both ends, ones who give the team what they want. They’re just focused on one thing, which is winning.”

In terms of satisfying the responsibilities of his role, Green was, by all accounts, sensational. The Sixers have every reason to want to bring him back. According to Green, himself, the Sixers have made it clear that they would like to extend his stay in Philadelphia, too:

Financial Factors

The Sixers, like most contenders, are severely limited in their financial resources this offseason. The tools at their disposal include veteran minimum contracts, the exception from the Horford trade, some version of the Mid-Level Exception, and (potentially) the Bi-Annual Exception.

They have Green’s Early Bird rights. That caveat essentially affords the Sixers the ability to re-sign Green despite being over the salary cap. So not only do they have a path to easily re-signing him, but it’s in the Sixers’ best interest to do so. Such is especially the case given the value he would present as salary-filler in a potential trade in the future. As pointed out to me by Forbes’ Bryan Toporek (who is an excellent NBA salary cap consultant and a must-follow on Twitter), the Sixers will have the Taxpayer version of the Mid-Level Exception if they re-sign Green.

Why The Sixers Should Not Want To Bring Green Back

If Green were to depart, one of the non-taxpayer or taxpayer Mid-Level exception would be in play. The semantics (non-taxpayer versus taxpayer) would largely depend upon whether the Sixers guarantee George Hill’s contract. If the Sixers are deemed eligible for the non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, they will also be eligible for the Bi-Annual Exception ($3.7 million this year).

Conversely, if they re-sign Green, they’ll limit their resources to the taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (which has a lower dollar value than the non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception), alone. So, re-signing Green takes away two exception types that the Sixers would potentially have at their disposal. Further, given the lower dollar values of those exceptions, the Sixers would be spending less money by allowing Green to depart than they would if they just brought him back. The implication is, of course, that the players upon whom they would expense those resources would ostensibly be downgrades from Green. 

Beyond the financial implications of not returning Green, the Sixers could simply look to go in different directions. They might feel compelled to get younger on the wings. They might look for more shot-creating and complementary ball-handling. Perhaps they look to get bigger on the wings to maximize their defensive versatility. However, I should add that such candidates for filling those needs are likely priced outside of Philadelphia’s price range, anyway.

Now, let’s take a look at the situation from Green’s point of view.

Why Green Should Want To Re-Sign

It’s not necessarily a coincidence that Green bounced back from an up-and-down season with the Lakers. The presences of Seth Curry and Tobias Harris on the perimeter and the attention Joel Embiid garnered in the paint were conducive to maximizing Green’s shooting space. The passing prowess of Ben Simmons–who led the Sixers in assists to Green–undoubtedly contributed to an excellent year shooting the ball. The strong play helped shape an excellent experience with the Sixers. “I had a great time here. Unbelievable group, organization–from front office to the team, other players. It was amazing. I had a great experience, even though we came up short,” Green said on a recent episode of Inside The Green Room.

Show Me The Money

At the end of the day, money always talks. The reality is that very few contenders have cap space. The Miami Heat are one of the few such teams to have space. That space, compounded by the absence of state income tax in Florida, could make the Heat a potential destination. Such is especially the case if Duncan Robinson receives a significant offer from another team. But beyond Miami, there is a shortage of sensible destinations for Green if he’s unwilling to accept some version of the Mid-Level Exception. 

Many top contenders–such as the Nets, Bucks, and Clippers–have exhausted their resources to the point where they could only offer their taxpayer Mid-Level Exceptions to potential free agents, anyway. The Suns could pose a threat to the Sixers as it pertains to signing Green. But, Philadelphia can offer Green a starting job. The Suns, who have every reason to try to keep their starting unit together, do not have to offer Green such a perk. They also have Cameron Johnson, who is younger and more versatile. It doesn’t make sense to commit significant money to Green when they have a more sensible investment to make in the next few years.

Green Is Not Uncomfortable With Walking

If Green is going to put pen to paper on what may be the last few good years of his career, the money likely needs to be reflective of Green’s self-value. A veteran in this business, Green is well-aware that the Sixers have his Early Bird rights. He could require them to offer him more than any other team can.

By the way, his argument is a compelling one. He played 69 of the Sixers’ 72 games during the regular season. As many in his position do, he served as a player-coach and mentored his younger teammates behind closed doors. Green and his camp may argue that, since the Sixers are over the cap anyway, there isn’t much of a financial difference between paying him what he feels he’s worth and losing him. Understandably, the Sixers’ brass might retort that such is easy to say when it’s not Green whose pockets are being lit on fire.

The implication of all of that is that Green shouldn’t feel compelled to take any discounts. Despite some commentary around the idea that he could accept the taxpayer Mid-Level Exception or a lesser deal for the sake of winning another title, some in Green’s camp insist that such conceptions are wishful at best. Such a sentiment is reasonable, too.

While some with knowledge of the situation believe that Green would like to return, they doubt that he has a preferred outcome. When you ponder Green’s journeyman career, it makes sense that he’s conditioned himself to not have preferences. Having moved so often in just a few years, Green is comfortable regardless of whether he stays or goes.

Comparing Green To Similar Player Archetypes

The bottom line is that the Sixers must present an offer that reflects a financial commitment to the veteran wing. Green is aware of what similar players are making. Joe Harris’ average salary is $18.75 million. Trevor Ariza made $12.8 million this past season. Robert Covington is scheduled for nearly $13 million next season. The deal that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed last offseason pays him roughly $13 million per year over the life of the contract. Given his performance this season and his pedigree as a championship-level role player, Green should view himself within that realm of monetary value.

It’s not as if teams haven’t been keeping track of him, either. Green is arguably the best two-way non-star shooting guard available this offseason. He was a free agent just two years ago, and teams have a reasonable calculation of what his value is. Some close to Green agree with John Hollinger’s recent assessment of that value. That price tag was $19.3 million–more than three times the value of the taxpayer Mid-Level Exception. Those franchises with dreams of championships or hopes of improving organizational culture will be in contact with Green. The part that is difficult to pinpoint is the number of years Green will get on his contract. The Early Bird rights require the new deal to run for at least two years and at most four years. My guess would be that Green’s next contract runs two years.

Mind And Body

Green’s health is another factor that warrants significant consideration. He opened up on that factor on a recent episode of Inside The Green Room (ITGR). “I want to say at least two to three [more years] for sure. But I think the way that I’ve had a good group around me, body-wise, people-wise. A medical staff that’ll keep me fresh, I think I get a good, solid four more in,” Green said. “I’m not saying I’ll be Vince and play 22 years, but four for me is about sixteen years in. And then who knows from there. But, I think I got a good solid couple more years of health in this bottle.”

Those with knowledge of Green’s relationship with the Sixers suggest that he was very pleased with the way the team’s medical staff managed his body after occasional bouts of hip discomfort during his time with the Lakers.

Green’s Factors Favor The Sixers

On a recent episode of ITGR, host Harrison Sanford asked Green to touch upon what he looks for in free agency. Green responded with a comprehensive peek into his wish list:

“When it comes to free agency, I think everybody kind of looks for the same thing. I may be wrong. But, as I’m older I only have so many good years left. I think you want to get all of the things you want in one if you can. You want to maximize on the best city you can be in with the best team that’s a contender, and maximizing the dollars, as well,” Green said.

“That was my goal last free agency, and the same this free agency. So, I want to be able to play for a contender, a team that’s in position to win. Obviously, being in a nice city is secondary. I want it to be something where I can fit the system. I think we look at tax purposes. That’s another thing that’s, you know, third-ary [tertiary]. But, you want to be able to have fun and enjoy the last good years that you have of playing in an organization or system to where you can thrive and also be effective. But, help a team win that has a chance to win.”

That they have his Early Bird rights makes the Sixers the one team that checks every one of those boxes. 

Why Green Should Not Want To Re-Sign

It might not make sense for Green to re-sign with Philly if Simmons’ status with the team is uncertain. If they do end up trading Simmons, it is in Green’s best interest to know who Philly is receiving in a trade before making a long-term commitment to stay with the Sixers. If the Sixers are redeeming Simmons for a point guard with playmaking skills, it would make sense for Green to sign off on an extended stay. Should Philly exchange for the likes of Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal, the point guard situation could become a detractor. Additionally, such a trade could relegate Green to a bench role. That uncertainty on the court is something that Green needs to consider.

Realistically, Green is looking at a window of two or three years as a respectable-level role player. It understandably may not be attractive for him to commit at least one of those years to the Sixers without clarity regarding who else will be on the roster. No, Green is not at the same level as players who have the leverage to influence roster decisions or be entitled to star treatment. But as a role player whose effectiveness is often contingent upon the play of his teammates, it’s in the best interest of his performance–and, therefore, the team’s–for him to be in a situation where his game fits perfectly.

It remains to be seen how Ben Simmons’ immediate future in Philadelphia plays out. But with the Sixers lacking an abundance of financial resources to entice free agents, Philly could struggle to bring in the pieces they want if those newcomers are unsure of the personnel structure behind Joel Embiid. “I felt like we had a golden opportunity to do something special. Had I been healthier, this conversation [on the end of the Sixers’ season] might be happening differently,” Green said to co-host Harrison Sanford on a recent episode of their podcast. Perhaps he will have an opportunity to change that conversation. It seems that Green is leaving it up to the Sixers to write a check that he feels is appropriate.