Coach Jason Kidd sent reporters scurrying to their research materials recently with a nugget of information that bordered on the unbelievable.
He casually mentioned that Josh Green has the best plus/minus on the Mavericks’ roster.
Seemed unlikely on a team with guys like Luka Dončić, Jalen Brunson, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.
But sure enough, Green is listed at the top of the Mavericks’ plus/minus at plus-76, followed by Frank Ntilikina at plus-73 and Brunson at plus-63. All of those numbers were before Friday’s visit to Houston. After that game, he slipped behind both Brunson and Ntilikina, but considering he had a career-best 17 points against the Rockets and the fact that the game was a blowout victory, slipping out of the plus-minus lead was a small price to pay.
What Green’s number indicates is that, in spite of frigid 3-point shooting (28.6 percent), the second-year swingman from Australia is earning more playing time these days because of his positive impact on the games lately. That’s in part because he is shooting 60.8 percent inside the 3-point arc.
In the last seven games, he has averaged 6.6 points and played about 20 minutes per game. But the most impressive stat is that the Mavericks are 6-1 since he returned from his bout with COVID-19. The Mavericks are plus-28 in Green’s minutes on the court during their hot streak.
Considering he had played only 125 minutes in his first 17 appearances this season, his latest uptick in playing time is significant. So what has Green learned lately?
“Being able to see minutes and develop and learn from my mistakes and to navigate around my mistakes,” he said. “I don’t need to score to impact the team. I just play as hard as I can and get the ball moving.”
Another Maverick who has stepped up lately, Jalen Brunson, said: “He’s done amazing things. He works hard, he believes in himself and he belongs. I’m not really shocked at all.”
Kidd said Green’s playing time – even as players trickle back from COVID-19 absences – is not dependent on him making the long ball.
“Josh has worked extremely hard,” Kidd said. “He’s been patient and he’s shown that he deserves some minutes. I don’t think those minutes are going to go down. I think we got to figure out how to get him some more minutes out there.
“He’s been great for us. His plus/minus is the best on the team. So we got to figure out how he can be on the floor more to have that positive impact.”
Green has said he’s tried to be a sponge as much as possible during the times when he has not been in the playing rotation. And one of the things he learned was not to force the 3-pointer and to use his athleticism as a weapon.
“Being able to watch a lot of games and seeing it from the side, I think sometimes we try to rely on our 3 a little too much,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed cutting and creating space for others. Not only others, but it helps yourself as well. Knowing when and when not to cut is a big part of it.”
And, of course, playing time helps.
The more experienced you get, the more comfortable you get,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for an opportunity and try to make the most of it and do whatever I can to help the team.
Green has made a living of working on the baseline, cutting to the rim, making a pass or getting free so that his teammates can find him.
“The league is all about shooting now,” Kidd said. “But there are other things you can do to affect the game. In Sacramento, He finishes those layups and he’s kept it really simple and he’s learning. He’s a young player that’s had a positive impact for us and we need to continue to find ways to have him on the floor.”
Tim Hardaway Jr. got a chance to watch Green’s work while Hardaway was back in Dallas for most of the recent five-game trip on which the Mavericks went 3-2.
He said he was impressed with what he saw, particularly when Green had 10 assists in the win at Portland.
“Just watching the games, especially in Portland, seeing how the ball was moving (was great),” Hardaway said. “Josh Green coming down looking like Magic (Johnson) out there, throwing crazy passes and just running and gunning. Playing unselfish – and you could see it translating to the defense.”
And it all adds up to the best plus/minus on the team.
Not that that’s the most important thing for a player. But Kidd said it reflects what the 6-6 Green has learned during his second season.
“Numbers, you can make them look good if you want or you can make them look bad,” Kidd said of the plus/minus stat. “But the eye test, Josh is doing everything we’ve asked him.
“He’s going to make mistakes and we’ve talked about that. How do you come back from that mistake? How do you minimize that mistake the next time and how fast do you move on to the next play. Young players have a hard time with that sometimes. But I think Josh has definitely shown us that he can move forward and after making a mistake, move on to the next play.”
It’s the primary reason he’s made his way into the Mavericks’ rotation.