When the Chicago Bulls just beat the March 2021 trade deadline to expand the trade to a three-team deal, Javonte Green likely represented the least known of the new acquisitions.
Daniel Theis had carved out a reputation as a physical defensive presence with stretch shooting ability during his three-and-a-half seasons with the Celtics. Even Troy Brown Jr. was a former first-round pick who had showed flashes in Washington and seemed like a player who needed a fresh start.
Instead, Green has been the most valuable piece from that deal.
The undrafted bundle of athleticism and energy has served as Billy Donovan’s stopgap starter for the injured Patrick Williams, averaging career-bests in scoring at 7.6 points per game, rebounds at 4.3 per game and minutes at 24.5 per game.
Even better for the Bulls, Green has, like Coby White, showed the ability to move from starter to reserve and back again without it impacting his energy or impact.
“I know what I’m on the team for and what I bring to the team. I’m going to continue to do that whether that’s coming off the bench or starting,” Green said. “I’m just here to do my job, be here for my teammates. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it regardless if I’m starting or coming off the bench. It’s not like I’m mad about it or anything.”
Green was referring to Donovan experimenting with a double-big starting lineup in last Friday’s loss to the Bucks. In a nod to the matchup nightmare that is Giannis Antetokounmpo, Donovan started Tristan Thompson over Green alongside Nikola Vučević.
When Vučević missed Monday’s loss to the 76ers with hamstring tightness, Green moved back into the lineup for his 36th start in 48 games.
“Great team guy,” Donovan said. “Him and Coby, I give them both a lot of credit because they’ll do whatever is asked of them. And they’ll give you great effort. They’re not the kind of guys who sulk and pout and are upset about not starting.
“It really had nothing to do with him — just the matchup. I appreciate those guys putting our staff in a situation, and myself, to try to make the best decisions for the group.”
Indeed, Green is mindful that his role could change again should Alex Caruso and Williams return this month. But it doesn’t affect his approach.
And as someone who moved from guarding Antetokounmpo one game to James Harden the next, Green’s versatility likely will keep him in the rotation in some form.
“From the beginning, from my first game in the NBA, I knew I could play at this level,” Green said. “I’m just getting a great opportunity, and I’m taking advantage of it.”
That has included improved 3-point shooting for a player who is signed on a value contract through next season. Green shot a career-best 37.5 percent in his 16 games with the Bulls following the trade last season, but on very low volume.
In his exit meeting with Donovan, the coach conveyed to Green his desire for him to work on shooting from that range, particularly from the corner. With the scoring and passing ability of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Vučević, the Bulls envisioned open looks for a player who is more adept at dunking in transition and crashing the offensive boards for putbacks.
Green is shooting 35.5 percent on a career-high 1.6 attempts this season. That includes 43 percent shooting on corner 3-pointers.
“I saw a lot of corner 3s go in this summer. The hard work is paying off,” Green said. “It was a major thing that me and Billy had a conversation about it after the season last year. We talked about what I need to improve on, and I took that as a challenge this summer.”
Just like Green has taken on the challenge of proving he belongs throughout his career.