That’s why Willie Green was inserted into the starting lineup once the Los Angeles Clippers learned that J.J. Redick will miss 6 to 8 weeks due to a fractured wrist on his shooting hand.
To be fair to Green one player on the Clippers can replicate what Redick brings to this team, offensively and defensively. The curls, cuts, coming off of screens, attacking space of curls and forcing defenders to pay him attention, that’s Redick’s niche and he’s one of the best in the NBA at it. And on defense, like Doc Rivers said prior to the Indiana Pacers game, J.J. just knows where to be when the opposition has the ball.
And now Willie Green is asked to step into the same role played last season when Chauncey Billups missed time due to a belated return from the achilles injury suffered the previous season. Green did well in his role averaging 6.8 points while shooting 41 percent from behind the arc in 60 games started.
But due to the current construct of this team, Willie Green shouldn’t be starting.
“Willie’s a pro.”
Those are the words Doc Rivers used to describe the 10 year veteran. To translate that to terms recognizable by fans, Willie Green is a below average player who doesn’t complain about role, but doesn’t mind stepping in when really needed. This doesn’t equate to quality on the floor, but for coaches it presents one less problem they have to worry about. My main gripe comes on the defensive end for WG. He lacks the foot speed to slow down quicker guards and his defensive technique has been the reason for plenty breakdowns in the scheme due to allowing defenders to get to the middle of the floor. Making an already-average defensive team worst isn’t a smart strategy when the high-powered offense can’t rely on outscoring everyone since J.J. is gone.
I personally think Reggie Bullock should be starting. As I mentioned earlier, neither player will be able to replicate Redick’s style of play until he returns, but putting the better player within the starting lineup, a defensive presence at that, will help tremendously. Outside of perimeter shooting, Bullock is a better player than Green. Even then, Bullock’s biggest niche coming out of the University of North Carolina was his three-point shooting. He’s shown flashes this season on his shooting, but it’s something that hasn’t completely come along.
But defensively? Well he’d be the Clippers best wing defender on the floor, including Jared Dudley. Dudley’s defensive play has been hampered by the knee injure he’s dealt with propelling Bullock to the top of that list (sans Matt Barnes due to missing majority games this season). And the numbers support this sentiment. Per Synergy Sports, players guarded by Bullock are shooting 13-for-38 (38%) from the field. To emphasize on more important plays, opponents are shooting 3-of-10 (30%) in isolation, 2-for-7 (28.6%) as the pick-and-roll ball handler and 2-for-8 (25%) posting up.
Since Barnes injury prior to the Orlando Magic game on at the beginning of November, Bullock has been asked to guard some of the more notable stars in the league and he’s done an exception job. Look at the shooting numbers of the top players when guarded by the late first round pick:
Kevin Durant: 1-for-4
Luol Deng: 1-for-3
Carmelo Anthony: 2-for-4
Paul George: 2-for-5
For any player in the league these would be considered excellent defense. Bullock shows poise on the defensive end that you won’t see from player until they are entering the third or fourth league. Tentative he isn’t and, like Redick, he knows where to be and when/when not to help.
The advanced statistics also back the need to start Bullock. Per NBA Stats, the Los Angeles Clippers defensive rating when Bullock is on the floor is 106.4, one of the worst in the league, and a net rating of 1.3. But when he’s on the floor? That defensive rating drops to 83.3 with the net rating jumping to 24.5. The problem with some stats such as defensive rating is the numbers don’t paint the entire picture. Instead it gives us a hint to what trends are here to stick while some trends fall through due to the lack of significant sample size. Bullock’s defense falls under both categories, but I think the first, trends being here to stick, fits more.
It’s not often you see late round rookies thrusted into starting lineups on teams that are already proven, but with the injuries I think Bullock has a case. At least a case over Willie Green. With DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin behind him, Bullock would be allowed to aggressively defend, something Green can’t do. Due to his age, he can play extended minutes Rivers feels he should work with the second unit also. The only problem has been his shooting, but once the game slows down on offense and the nerves escape him, the shot that he’s shown here and there will begin to drop.
We’ll see if Rivers make the move as the Clippers embark on a six-game road trip.