There’s no question that the Phoenix Suns have been one of the NBA’s greatest stories, as they’re 26-18 and currently second in the Pacific Division. Certainly Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Miles Plumlee deserve a lot of the credit, but it’s been Gerald Green‘s resurgence that has fueled the Suns and their surprising start.
Green came into the league without having played any college ball as an athletic and long guard who figured to thrive in transition. As the No. 18 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics figured they’d have a solid professional for years to come. Unfortunately, things don’t always turn out that way.
Although Green showed flashes of brilliance, he was very inconsistent and very uninterested in playing defense. He showed a decent 3-point touch, shooting 36.8 percent in 2006-07, but it wasn’t enough to keep him with the Celtics, as they traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the Kevin Garnett deal.
After just 20 games (and a very fun dunk contest appearance), Green was traded again, this time to the Houston Rockets for Kirk Snyder and a second-round pick. After appearing in just one game, the Rockets waived Green and it looked like his time as an NBA player could be done.
The Dallas Mavericks signed him in the summer of 2008 and while Green appeared in 38 games for them, he was very underwhleming and looked to be officially on his way out of the league. The NBA is a league that demands a player who can play on both ends or has to have an elite skill. Green’s athleticism was elite, but it just wasn’t translating into production.
Green played in Russia for two seasons before the New Jersey Nets stuck their neck out with a 10-day contract. They proceeded to give him a second one, then signed him for the rest of the season. Green averaged 12.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and .9 steals while shooting 39.1 percent from the 3-point line that season. Some players take a while to blossom and it appeared as if that was the case.
Then, the bottom fell out again, as Green signed as a free agent with the Indiana Pacers for the 2012-13 season. He had one of his worst shooting seasons as a pro, hitting just 36.6 percent of his field goals and just 40 percent of his 2-point attempts. He was buried on the bench and stuck behind some quality talent in Indiana.
Luckily for Green, the call came that he’d been traded to the Suns alongside Plumlee and a 1st round pick for Luis Scola. To say it’s worked out well for Green would be an understatement.
Green has found a place where he can be himself again and is embracing his role. He doesn’t want to be thought of as “just a dunker” anymore and although he’ll never be confused with Gary Payton defensively, he’s ratcheted up his desire and effort on the defensive end, leading to some tremendous transition dunks off of steals.
Offensively, Green has the greenest of green lights, thanks to coach Jeff Hornacek. All he’s done is average career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes per game. The Suns are happy to have him as well, especially considering the fact he’s a bargain at $3.5 million this year. Let’s hope he sticks around for a lot longer.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief for the Sports Illustrated/Fansided NBA site HoopsHabit.com and the Arizona Sports site HeatWaved.com. He also covers high school sports for The Arizona Republic. Follow me on Twitter @DunlapNBA.