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OPINION: The mystery of Devonte Green and his pursuit of the NBA



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IU senior Devonte Green pulls up for a 3-pointer against University of Michigan sophomore David DeJulius on Feb. 16 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Alexis Oser

To try to understand Devonte Green is frustratingly complex. The pinnacle of his inconsistent performances is when he can fire in 3-pointers as soon as he crosses half-court. It’s where he earned the nickname “Green Light.” That swagger is in full form when he dishes out chef’s kisses, or when he pounded his chest after sealing a win over No. 11 Ohio State on Jan. 11.

His alter-ego, dubbed “bad Devonte,” doesn’t have a shortage of flaws. It’s when he slings unnecessary no-look passes or looks disinterested on the bench like during IU’s near loss to Northwestern on Jan. 8.

Green’s erratic play left fans hoping for “Green Light” and bracing for “bad Devonte.”

After the Hoosiers 89-77 win over No. 21 Iowa on Feb. 13, a game where Green dropped 27 points, a reporter attempted to make sense of Green’s unpredictability.

“When you don’t have games like this, where do you go?” the reporter asked. “What happens to you?”

Sitting in the press room beneath the Assembly Hall seats, Green pursed his lips and furrowed his brow.

“What do you mean what happens to me?” Green responded. “Can you elaborate?”

The reporter clarified for Green.

“Where do you go?" the reported said. "You’re an NBA offensive talent, but there’s games when you score zero and two and three. You're too good for that. Why does that happen so often?”

Green scratched his nose and stumbled over his words.

“Um, inconsistency,” Green said. “I mean, I just. I don’t really know how to answer that. It’s just I get inconsistent if things are inconsistent. That’s it.”

That’s the unreliability of Green. What differentiates him from other players is that there seems to be no formula for his wayward performances. Even he can’t pinpoint the logic.

In an Instagram post last week, Green announced that he would be signing with Roc Nation Sports, the same organization that represents his brother Danny, a guard on the Los Angeles Lakers. The company, which is headed by rapper Jay-Z, also partners with Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving.  

Green, who graduated this spring, declared his intentions to enter the NBA draft and pursue a professional career.

The plausibility of him being selected in the draft seems unlikely considering that analysts have evaluated Green’s skillset in the same way that fans have. Green’s name can’t be found in the top-100 draft prospects lists from ESPN, The Athletic or CBS Sports.

Green’s 6-foot-3-inch stature doesn’t project as an NBA shooting guard, which is where he spent most of his time last season. His height is more aligned with a point guard, but his inability to consistently handle the ball coupled with his questionable decision-making skills negates that option.

In some aspects, Green has exactly what NBA scouts are scouring for. His potential for high-volume scoring and quick release could make him a valuable piece off of the bench.

Green carried IU to a victory over No. 17 Florida State University in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 3, 2019, with 30 points, including five 3-pointers. He accounted for 19 in the upset of Ohio State. In the game against Iowa, he tallied seven 3-pointers.

The Hoosiers won all three of those games, and much of the team’s success last season was forced to rely on Green’s unreliability. 

“When he’s hot, he doesn’t miss,” junior Justin Smith said after the game against Florida State. “He’s a microwave.”

Then there’s the other side to Green. In a three-game stretch in January, he averaged under two points per game. In IU’s 57-49 loss at Purdue on Feb. 27, Green committed four turnovers while shooting three for 15. One game later, when IU fell one point short to Illinois, Green went three for 11.

Green finished the season averaging just less than 11 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. What’s more troubling is that he shot 36% from the field, and 70% from the free-throw line. Those numbers don’t cut it when you're labeled as a scorer.

In comparison, 6-foot-3-inch Kentucky freshman and consensus projected first-round pick Tyrese Maxey shot 42% from the field and 83% on free throws.

Taking all of the factors into account, Green seems destined for a short G-League stint or career playing overseas rather than a lengthy run in the NBA.

As he progresses in his pursuit to play professionally, nobody knows which Green will appear in the gym. Not even him.

But, there’s always a chance that it could be “Green Light.”

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