Los Angeles Lakers: Can Danny Green find his shot?

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Danny Green has been shooting poorly since the Los Angeles Lakers returned to action.

The return to play has been a mixed bag for the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James had a slow start shooting the ball, but Anthony Davis has been excellent. Kyle Kuzma has been solid off the bench and even hit the game-winner against the Nuggets, but other bench guys have struggled. The biggest problem of all, however, has been the Lakers’ X factor: Danny Green.

As many Lakers fans already know, Green is struggling. I’m far from the only one who has noticed this. Many of my peers have suggested that he be removed from the starting lineup or even added to the trading block next season.

For the season, Green is shooting 41.6 percent from the field and a respectable 36.7 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, his shooting in the bubble has been a different story.

In eight seeding games, the Lakers are just 3-5. Many are wondering if they’re in serious danger since arriving in Orlando. One of the reasons is that Danny Green has connected on just seven threes in as many games.

To put that in perspective, Green has hit a respectable 1.8 threes per game for the season. In the bubble, he’s been only half as effective in the makes per game department.

Although the difference is less than three points a game, there’s more to his slump than the three-pointers made column of the stat sheet.

Danny Green’s shoddy three-point shooting:

Despite shooting almost 37 percent on the year and 40 percent for his career, Green is shooting an abysmal 7-28 in the bubble. As if 25 percent shooting isn’t concerning enough, Danny has gone four of his seven games in the bubble without connecting from the arc at all.

Fortunately, Green seems well aware of his shooting slump and has adjusted. His shooting percentage from the field in the bubble is almost identical to what he’s shooting for the entirety of the season.

He proved he could still contribute without the three-pointer against both Houston and Utah. He scored a combined 18 points in those games on a very respectable 9/14 shooting with only one attempt from behind the line.

So what’s the issue? If Green is learning to produce without the three-ball at a similar rate to his regular-season numbers, shouldn’t that be a good sign for the Los Angeles Lakers?

Not exactly. Like most LeBron James-led teams, the Lakers’ offense relies heavily on spacing the floor. With JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard unable to do that and Anthony Davis preferring to play power forward, spacing opportunities are already an issue.

Although one made three-pointer per game doesn’t seem like much, it’s the opportunities that the threat of Green’s shot creates for his teammates that make him an X factor. With Green struggling to shoot and Howard or McGee likely on the floor at all times, will teams begin to sag off of Green and load up on the interior to protect against LeBron and Davis?

As the Lakers prepare for the red hot Portland Trail Blazers, offensive production will be a huge point of emphasis. Over the course of their last four games, the Blazers are averaging an astounding 127 points per game. The last thing the Lakers want is to get into a shootout with the Blazers. But, despite their excellent defense, they will need to keep up the scoring pace to win this series.

It’s no secret that the Blazers are one of the worst defenses in the league and exploiting that will definitely be a major part of the gameplan on Tuesday. Despite the incredible offensive capabilities of their star backcourt, both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are notoriously poor on the defensive end of the floor.

With Green in the lineup, Lillard and McCollum will likely both see time guarding him. In past years, the Blazers’ greatest weakness is a reliance on these two offensively down the stretch of close games. With a struggling player like Green on the floor, the last thing the Lakers want is to see Lillard and McCollum expending little to no energy on defense.

Despite the many concerns, there are two positives for Green that will keep him in the rotation:

First off, it’s no secret that Green is one of the best defenders on the Los Angeles Lakers. Even in a shooting slump, Green’s defensive abilities and championship experience will keep him on the floor early and often against a blistering offensive powerhouse and arguably the best backcourt in this year’s playoffs.

Secondly, this shooting slump could be a blessing in disguise. When most effective, Danny Green is a stationary spot-up shooter that isn’t very difficult to guard. In his current shooting slump, Green has shown an ability to put the ball on the floor and score in the paint. His floater game has looked good since the season resumed and, if he can keep the Blazers backcourt moving on the defensive end, it could help tire them out when crunch time rolls around.

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If the Los Angeles Lakers hope to make a deep run, Danny Green will need to be a factor on both ends. Fortunately, there will be plenty of shot opportunities on Tuesday. This first-round series could be just what Green and the Lakers need to jumpstart their title run.