On Wednesday night, Javonte Green led all Chicago Bulls scorers with 17 points and 8 rebounds in a 106-88 blowout victory over the Charlotte Hornets. If you had that on your 2022-23 season bingo card, I highly recommend you drop everything and go purchase a Powerball ticket.
While Green isn’t incapable of putting up such a stat line – those 17 points were six away from his career-high – I’m not sure anyone would have expected it in a game where Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic were all on the floor. But I guess it just goes to show how well Green fits into what the Bulls are trying to do. For a team that wants to push the pace in transition and establish a free-flowing half-court offense, Green might as well be the perfect fit.
Green felt like the Garbage Man of the Year last season. Thrown into the starting lineup due to endless injury trouble, Green was the one snatching the sneaky offensive rebound, poking the ball away to ignite the fastbreak, and slamming the occasional highlight dunk in transition. He’s provided a lot of the same dirty work over the team’s first nine games this season, but something felt different on Thursday night.
The 29-year-old looked like so much more than a scrappy ball of energy as he went 7-7 from the field and scooped up three offensive rebounds. Instead, he felt like a bonafide role player. Whereas last year Green was shoved into the frame and told to make it work, this year he’s felt like a more genuine part of the picture. Again, some of that goes back to the team’s tweaked style of play, but I think the other part has to do with Green simply getting better.
Green had two tremendous cuts to the rim last night, the first of which he finished over the nearly seven-foot Miles Plumlee. He’s now started the season shooting 70.3 percent on shots that are within 8ft of the basket, and he’s currently on pace to average a career-high in shots at the rim. Whether it be on putback attempts or well-timed cuts, he’s taking full advantage of his athleticism and finishing strong.
What’s even more enticing, however, is the fact that Green has seemingly improved his 3-point stroke. Now, the sample size is still incredibly small, but it’s at least noteworthy that he’s started the year 5-13 from downtown. This comes one season after he shot a career-high 35.6 percent from behind the arc, which included finishing the final 32 games of the regular season shooting 37.7 percent on nearly 2.0 attempts per game.
Of course, that volume isn’t anything to brag about, but efficiency is key on a team that is naturally going to shoot so few 3-pointers. Not to mention, the catch-and-shoot opportunities are going to come in waves for this Bulls offense, and their role players must prove they can hit them. To Green’s credit – albeit in limited chances – he has done that thus far.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Green’s continuously active presence on the defensive end. While last season he was a breath of fresh air on an otherwise limited defensive team, this season he’s truly playing like one of the NBA’s peskiest defenders.
Green currently ranks 5th in total deflections alongside some of the best defenders in the game, with teammate Alex Caruso, De’Anthony Melton, Dejounte Murray, and Paul George being the only names to sit in front of him, per NBA Stats. Green is also tied with Caruso for having the 2nd-most blocks among players who stand 6-7 or shorter.
Speaking of height, Green happens to sit tied for 4th with PJ Tucker in total offensive rebounds for players 6-7 or shorter, as well. So not only is he really freakin’ good at forcing stops on the one end, but he’s also creating plenty of 2nd-chance opportunities on the other.
I mean, seriously, look at some of the names that Green is currently ranked with. We’re talking about some of the most well-respected defenders and role players in this league. And, sure, Green might not be at the same level as those guys as a whole, but it still speaks to the kind of impact he’s providing in his early-season role.
The point of this post isn’t to say that Green deserves more playing time and/or shot opportunities. All I’m trying to do is give Green the props that I feel he deserves. The guy has turned himself into one heck of a two-way contributor, and the Bulls may not be where they are without him.