Draymond Green: You Loved, You Hated

Draymond Green, the emotional leader of the Warriors, will be off the court on Monday night because of a suspension. Green’s absence, the consequence of flagrant foul accumulation, couldn’t come at a worse time. The Warriors are trying to wrap up a title. Without Green, it is much harder to eliminate LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But even as moments of impulsivity have dogged Green and given him a negative reputation in the playoffs, no swipe at a LeBron James groin can dent the brilliance of Green in this breakout year.

His teammates love him. Opponents hate him.

His most important teammate, Stephen Curry, had a 2015-2016 regular season that was historic: shooting over 50% from the field, over 45% from three, and over 90% from the line. Curry averaged a shade over 30 points per game, even while sitting out so many fourth quarters. Undoubtedly, Curry deserved to be the first unanimous MVP in league history. But Curry’s spectacular season would not be possible without the contributions of the team’s swiss army knife—Draymond Green.

Green’s intangibles, particularly his leadership and intensity, his defensive prowess, and his tremendous versatility, enable the Warriors to do what they do. Thus, it is Draymond Green, not Stephen Curry, who is the real MVP of the Golden State Warriors.

When considering a player’s true value to his team, it is crucial to not only consider the quantitative stats, but also the player’s qualitative attributes like leadership. Sadly, there are no stats or metrics to measure a player’s leadership, which is why some of Draymond Green’s contributions can be overshadowed by Curry’s gaudy stats.

Draymond Green is a great leader, and he knows just the right time to rip into his team and try to inspire them. On February 27th, the Warriors were playing a Saturday prime time game against the OKC Thunder. In the first half, the Warriors looked flat, and disinterested and as a result were getting obliterated at halftime. That’s when Draymond Green unleashed a profanity-laced tirade directed at his team, lambasting their effort. Green lit a fire under the Warriors, who came back to win the game in overtime on Curry’s 37-foot three.

2016 Playoffs Points Rebounds Assists Blocks PER
Draymond Green 15.0 9.7 5.9 1.9 17.8

In the Western Conference Finals, while the Warriors were getting shelled in game 4, and staring at a 3-1 series deficit, Draymond Green spoke passionately in a timeout huddle, presumably to rally and inspire the squad for the rest of the series. And what did the Warriors do after that game?

They rattled off 3 straight wins, and won the series. These two examples are merely some of the countless times Green has displayed extraordinary leadership. Green is always there to set his team in line, and ultimately he is the one that sets the tone, and inspires others to raise their level of play.

Curry is not the best leader. When times get tough, Curry often mopes on the court and doesn’t play with the swagger or intensity required of a leader. Green, on the other hand, raises his intensity, and is often the guiding force for the Warriors difficult moments, a testament to his value. Even as he sometimes crosses the line, he still is the one Warrior player everyone looks to during adversity.

His defensive ability is unmatched.  As back to back runner up for Defensive Player Of The Year and back to back first team All-Defense, Draymond Green is a true defensive ace. The basic stats, 1.5 steals per game and 1.4 blocks per game, paint Green as a solid defender, but the advanced metrics truly illustrate his exceptional defensive skills.

Green ranked 12th in Defensive Rating at 99.9. Defensive Rating is a measure of how many points a defender gives up per 100 possessions. He was 6th in Defensive Win Shares with 5.1, which estimates how many wins a player contributes based on his defense, and 4th in Defensive Box Plus-Minus at 3.9, which estimates the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league average player. These metrics underscore Green’s value as a defensive player, but his defensive flexibility, particularly in pick and roll coverages, is his greatest attribute.

The pick and roll is the staple of nearly every team’s offense these days. It is paramount to know how to defend it. Having big men who can step out beyond the arc and switch is invaluable to a team’s defensive strategy. Draymond Green can thwart team’s plans by switching onto smaller players and staying with them after the pick and roll. Not only that, but when the Warriors resort to their small lineup, Green can guard centers who are several inches taller than him. Green’s defensive ability is one of the keys to the Warriors small lineup, but it is only a component of his versatility that makes him the most valuable Warrior.

Green’s exquisite defensive skills are crucial, but it is his offensive versatility that makes this team go.

At 6 foot 7 (listed), Green is a point center, capable of making plays for others when he is the primary ball handler. In fact, Green finished in the top 10 in assists this season, at 7.4 per game. His ball-handling and supreme passing ability enable Klay Thompson and Steph Curry to play off the ball and shoot their crazy deep threes when the Warriors bring in the small lineup of death.

Green himself can stretch the defense, and really puts opposing coaches in a bind: should we go big or small?

Up to this point, no coach has solved this conundrum, and the Warriors continue to dictate games with Draymond Green leading the charge. He  continues to shine and demonstrate that he is the most valuable Warrior, even over Steph Curry. Curry might have the pizazz and flashy stats, but Draymond Green’s leadership, defensive prowess, and versatility anchor the Warriors, and have guided them towards another ring, suspension or no suspension.


photo via llananba