Draymond Green Edging Kawhi Leonard as an All-Star Starter

No one with eyes and a brain doubts the merits of Draymond Green as an All-Star starter. He leads the best team in the NBA in assists. He leads the league in triple doubles. He is the best defender on the Warriors, the cog that makes them go, and oh, by the way, he pours in 14.8 points a night, making 47% of his shots and 41% of his threes. He has a PER of 20.1. The only stain on his game resume is his free throw shooting which is under 70%. Other that it is pretty much perfection for Draymond Green who is having a career year. There isn’t an argument to be made that he should not be an All-Star starter. The question always was would he be.

The starters are voted in by the fans. It is the most popular who get the nod, those players whose fanbases are the most committed. Although it seems unfair to those players without aggressive fanbases, systematically it works. The NBA’s most popular players are its best players; you never get a pretender in the midst.

This year though it is complicated because it’s Kobe Bryant’s last All-Star game after a stellar career and a bunch of All-Star appearances himself. But Bryant hasn’t been in an All-Star game since Feburary 2013. Add to that, Bryant is in the game as a forward and not a guard.

So that left two front court players, not three, to jockey for the starters nod. Kobe was going to be in regardless. He has meant too much to the league over time. He was the first to grow the brand overseas. He was the first high school to the NBA wing player and he ushered in a movement. Not to mention his NBA productivity.

Draymond Green, then, was competing against Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Kawhi Leonard. Kevin Durant was a shoo-in as a starter. He’s a superstar, the face of a franchise and pretty much a beloved player. That left Blake Griffin and Kawhil Leonard.

Blake Griffin is also the face of the franchise but has soft or strong support depending on who is the one doing the talking. On one side of the argument, Blake is an explosive and dynamic superstar who has transformed his game from just a dunker to a respectable mid-range shooter, a good passer, an unselfish player and a strong rebounder. His critics talk about his disappearing act in games, how he defers to Chris Paul, he fakes to get foul calls, and how he hasn’t gotten out of the second round of the playoffs. Griffin will be absent another two weeks because of a tendon tear injury.

Kawhi Leonard is not the face of the franchise (not yet), but like Green he is a NBA champion who also happens to the a Finals MVP, something Steph Curry nor Green can say. He has one more thing in common with Green. He’s on a loaded team. Kawhi isn’t asked to do everthing just what his talent allows which is superb defense and skilled shotmaking. His quiet personality is in direct contrast to Green’s affable, over-the-top, hysterical nature but the NBA has never been about who is more extroverted than whom. It’s about skill and delivering wins for your team.

The Warriors have the best record in the NBA. The Spurs have the second best record. Last year Kawhi Leonard took home Defensive Player of the Year when many thought it should have gone to Green. Green-Leonard is a competition that is going to go on for the next ten years. Who would you rather have: Draymond Green or Kawhi Leonard?

Most Important Person (MIP) Points Rebounds Assists Field Goal % PER
Draymond Green 14.8 9.5 7.4 46.3% 20.1
Kawhi Leonard 20.7 6.9 2.7 51.9% 27.1

As far as the fans go, they are choosing Green. He jumped Leonard and Griffin to take the last spot in the starting All-Star unit. It is less an uprising by Draymond Green and his blossoming popularity as fans across the country really get to witness how special Green is as a player, than it is about Green defining himself (and his game) as a versatile talent that makes an impact.

Still, it is not a done deal. Draymond Green is 1,294 votes ahead of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard can still jump into the starters unit with a big fan showing. The deadline for voting is January 18th, with the starters announced on TNT on January 21st.

photo via llananba