Warriors rookie forward Draymond Green averages 3.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game.  He shoots 29.5% from the field, 20.7% from three-point range, and has registered 23 assists compared to 19 turnovers in 416 minutes of playing time.  He’s too slow to play on the wing, too small to play in the post, and lacks talents of nature and nurture on either end of the floor to otherwise make up for it.  And his 7.98 PER is 19th-worst in the NBA, barely better than half the league average of 15.00.

If you look for basic evidence as to why Mark Jackson and the Golden State staff are married to the idea of playing Green – the 35th pick in the 2012 draft – such substantial minutes, you’re hard-pressed to find them.  He shoots horribly from everywhere but the free throw line yet almost never gets there, hasn’t flashed the unique playmaking skills he did at Michigan State, is out-classed athletically at both forward spots, and doesn’t possess the youth or inexperience that suggests major development with extra floor-time.

Green was a four-year player in college, and while certainly a valuable, productive, and rare one for the Spartans, he was a middling draft prospect at best for a reason – he had no position and was an average athlete.  Essentially, the same questions you ask while watching him suit up for Golden State now are the same ones NBA scouts had his entire amateur career.  But he’s a fixture in the Warriors rotation ahead of veteran Richard Jefferson on the wing anyway, and has more recently supplanted fellow rookie Festus Ezeli in the post, too.  Green’s playing more, his role is bigger, his responsibilities more varied, and all of it’s unlikely to change.

But why? Injuries certainly play a part in Green’s rise up Jackson’s ranks.  Brandon Rush and Andrew Bogut are out for the year and indefinitely, respectively, and Green’s ability to play both forward spots helps make up for their absence.  Simple deficiencies in the games of other Warriors do, too.  Jefferson was extremely ineffective early in the season and Ezeli lacks any semblance of comfort and nuance offensively.

But there’s a bigger reason Green is such an important player for Golden State, and it’s one that will likely surprise you: the Warriors, simply, are better when he’s on the floor.  Check the bullets.

  • Golden State Offensive Rating
    • Green On-Court: 106.4
    • Green Off-Court: 104.1
  • Golden State Defensive Rating
    • Green On-Court: 98.1
    • Green Off-Court: 103.6
  • Golden State Net Rating
    • Green On-Court: 8.3
    • Green Off-Court: .5
  • Golden State Plus/Minus 
    • Green On-Court: +3.3
    • Green Off-Court: +.8

The ironic part gleaned from Green’s overwhelmingly positive impact on the Warriors is obvious.  The same major “weakness” or “deficiency” that made him a second-round pick and make him such a confounding pro are the same ones that make him so valuable to Golden State – he’s position-less, and thus allows Jackson lineup versatility otherwise unavailable to him that’s so crucial in today’s NBA.

Go over Green’s game-logs and it starts to make more sense.  The four times which he’s played at least 25 minutes this season – at Oklahoma City, at Dallas, at Brooklyn, and at Miami – have come against teams that utilize small lineups more often than most, with a nominal small forward sliding down a spot in the lineup.  The unique abilities of Kevin Durant, Shawn Marion, Gerald Wallace, and LeBron James make things easier for their teams and harder on the opposition, especially when the latter doesn’t have a player of those specific traits to match up with them.

Green is that guy for the Warriors even if he’s not near the caliber of that esteemed quartet, and it makes him an integral cog for them in a league that’s trending small.  That would be the case, too, even if advanced metrics didn’t paint his influence in such a positive light.  That they do is just another feather in his suddenly-colorful cap, and surely a sign he’ll remain a fixture in Golden State for years to come.

*Statistical support provided by NBA.com

Follow Jack Winter on Twitter @armstrongwinter


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