With the Clippers’ 2020 season over, we will start our annual exit interview series for each and every Clippers’ player, starting with JaMychal Green.
Position: Power forward/Center
Age: 30 (birthday on June 21)
Years in NBA: 6
Key Stats: 6.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 0.5 steals in 20.7 minutes per game across 63 games played on 42.9/38.7/75 shooting splits.
Playoff Stats: 6.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 0.5 assists, and 0.2 steals in 17.1 minutes per game across 13 games played on 56.4/43.5/77.8 shooting splits.
Contract Status: Player option for $4.9M in the 2020-2021 season.
In my check-in on JaMychal Green just over three months ago well before the bubble restart, I wrote that Green would hopefully play a major role in the Clippers’ postseason push. I opined that he had been underplayed and underutilized all season considering his effectiveness and versatility, and that he should receive more minutes in the playoffs, especially as a small-ball center. I expected that the 2020 Clippers would make a fairly deep playoff run, and that JaMychal Green would be a somewhat major part of that.
Unfortunately, I was wrong on just about all counts. The Clippers did not make a deep playoff run, and Green actually played three and a half fewer minutes per game in the postseason. He rarely got opportunities to play backup center to stretch out opposing defenses, instead serving as a true replacement for Marcus Morris (who played 29.8 minutes per game). There were only a few occasions where he was out there at center, either alongside Morris or with a really small lineup with Kawhi Leonard at power forward. Instead, almost all of Green’s minutes came at power forward next to Ivica Zubac or Montrezl Harrell.
When Green was on the court, he was highly effective. Unlike so many other Clippers (really every other Clipper outside of Marcus Morris), his shot did not fail him, and he was probably the most consistent shooting Clipper at 43.5% from deep (albeit on low volume). As usual, he very rarely created his own shot, but he took advantage of his handful of mismatches on smaller players on the block, and made some extremely strong finishes in traffic (especially against the Nuggets). In short, for his role, he was a useful and valuable role player on offense. As we saw in the regular season, the Clippers’ offense really opened up in the rare occasions when Green was at center, his shooting and pick-and-pop abilities helping to draw defenders out of the paint and clear driving lanes for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
However, defensively was where Green really stood out. Unlike every other Clippers’ bench player, he was not a liability on that end, instead providing mostly stout play both on the perimeter and in the paint. Like the rest of the Clippers’ big men, he was regularly toasted by Nikola Jokic – but he at least played him with some physicality and was a much better deterrent than Montrezl Harrell. Despite low block numbers, he also offered more consistent rim protection than Trez, and was a better rebounder on a per-minute basis. Out on the perimeter, he proved much more capable than Ivica Zubac (expected), and Montrezl Harrell (somewhat less so), switching out much more effectively onto smaller players. He even played decent defense on Luka Doncic on a handful of occasions in the first round.
All in all, Green was probably the 5th best player for the Clippers in the postseason (behind Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Ivica Zubac, and Marcus Morris), and was the only Clipper outside Zubac who outplayed his expectations. Fans consistently called for him to receive more minutes in place of the struggling Harrell, and apparently, players on the team might have felt similarly. Green continued to be underutilized in the postseason, and while playing him more minutes over Trez would not have solved the Clippers’ issues, it would have helped a lot. Alas, Green’s role remained small, and the Clippers were eliminated early.
Future with Clippers
JaMychal Green has a player option this summer, and it will be fascinating to see what he does with it. It’s hard to predict right now, because we don’t know what the salary cap will be next year, and if it does tumble as many people think (due to the shortened season), it’s possible Green picks up the option, because he wouldn’t get an average salary that high.
However, considering that he’s 30 years old and has never had a big deal, Green could want to opt out and try to get a slightly longer deal that could provide more security. He’s played well enough over the past couple years that he should be able to secure a 3-year deal on around the same dollar value (if not a little higher) from a contending team.
The Clippers will reportedly make re-signing Green a priority, and for good reason. JaMychal Green was one of the only players who truly brought the “lunchpail” mentality of the 2019 Clippers to the 2020 iteration, and was effective at both big man positions alongside other key personnel. He’s a personality fit, an on-court fit, and his game should age fine into his early 30s. It would be a true shame if JaMyke was not brought back.