“I don’t see many players come into the league with his skill level. He can play the four, he can play the three, he can pass, he can guard. He’s a coach’s dream, honestly. He’s got confidence on the floor, he makes teammates better, he can rebound the ball. I see him fighting for minutes. He’s going to be tough.”
These are the words of assistant coach Pete Myers, who was directing his praise towards rookie Draymond Green before he played one game as a member of the Golden State Warriors. Quotes from coaches about their draft choices are like interviewing actors during their promotional run for a movie: nothing but high acclaim and positive reinforcement. In other words, take these words with a grain of salt until you see the product.
Draymond Green has played in 52 regular season games now, and the strong words from assistant coach Pete Myers have turned out to be true. Give credit to Myers, who never said “shoot” or any variation of the word during his ode to Green, and why would he? Green is not a shooter, that’s not what the Warriors drafted him for, and up to this point has shown some hesitancy, even when wide open, to shoot the dreaded jumper or the three pointer.
What the Warriors did draft Green for was rebounding, defense, toughness and his high basketball IQ. For the 35th pick in the draft , Green has already proven worthy of the selection, and with an added jumper he can really prove to be a threat coming off the bench. Like his rookie counterpart Festus Ezeli, the Warriors aren’t looking at him for points. Instead, install his presence on the defense end in hopes of creating better opportunities on the offensive end.
In terms of rebounding, Green has delivered. He ranks seventh amongst small forwards in rebounding rate (13.7), higher than LeBron James (12.9), Paul George (11.4) and Kevin Durant (11.1). The leader in that category is Kenneth Faried (18.4), but he also plays nearly twice as many minutes as Green. His defensive rebound rate is good for ninth amongst SF’s (20.5), ahead of Kawhi Leonard (17.2), Thaddeus Young (17.1) and Nicolas Batum (13.8).
Not bad for the second youngest player on the team (22).
What may be more important than the numbers is the effort. Green shows a willingness to grab rebounds whereas many of his teammates stand and wait for the outlet pass on the perimeter. The Curry-Jack-Thompson-Green-Lee lineup is the Warriors seventh most used lineup (72.2 total minutes), yet they rebound 56.5% of their chances (the best on the team). Until Andrew Bogut can play significant minutes, the Green-Lee frontcourt is undoubtedly the best rebounding combination this team has.
The defense has been there as well from Green. The 6-foot-7, 230-pound forward is often seen manning up the opposing teams best player, a trait that has impressed the likes of LeBron James, who was guarded by Green for the majority of their matchup back in December.
“It was great competition out there between me and him,” said James following their December 12 loss at the hands of the Warriors in Miami. “I have always respected him, especially in college. You could tell he really knows how to play the game. It was good to see him out there.”
Toughness and a certain level of defensive bluster is something the Warriors have been looking for ever since the days of Stephen Jackson. Green, as a rookie, has shown this on a nightly basis. For a franchise that has been defensively impaired for so long, the efforts (and effectiveness) of Green, Andrew Bogut and even Kent Bazemore are apparent on the floor.
Green has caught some flack recently for his “hard” fouls and feisty play on the defensive end. In Oklahoma City (2/6), Green shoved Kevin Martin late in the third quarter on a 2-on-1 fast break, a play that Martin later, anonymously, criticized the Warriors for.
“Coach (Mark) Jackson should talk to a couple of his bench players,” Martin said, “make sure they get wet behind the ears before they come barking up a couple of our player’s tree…It wasn’t only talking trash. They did a couple of dirty plays to inspire us as a team.”
Green, noticeably audible on the defensive end, also isn’t afraid of being demonstrative on the court. He’s been seen celebrating, talking trash and just being a pest out on the floor.
One game earlier, Rockets guard Patrick Beverly was fouled by Green in the closing seconds in a 140-119 trouncing of the Warriors (2/5). The Rockets were going for the NBA record for three pointers made, leading Mark Jackson to order intentional fouls in order to prevent the Rockets from breaking the record. Green, fulfilling Jackson’s request, fouled Beverly in the neck, causing Beverly to fall to the ground, starting a minor scuffle.
The Warriors needed more players like Draymond Green — someone who isn’t afraid of a hard foul, diving to the floor for a rebound, taking charges, manning up on defense or getting into it with the other team if need be. A defensive brute, Green’s attitude and play have been great for this team.
Who cares if other teams call him out? What does it matter that Kevin Martin or the Houston Rockets don’t approve of his play? Who cares if he can’t make a three to save his life?
Green isn’t of the typical Warriors mold. He can’t really shoot (35% on the season), he plays defense, he rebounds, he’s gritty and he’s prone to contact. The fact that Green pisses players off is a good thing. Make the other team work, make them worry about somebody on the defensive end for once. This type of play is infectious.
“I know I’m not the most athletic, not the fastest, not the strongest, not the quickest and not the highest jumper,” Green said back in December. “My understanding of the game can’t come to a standstill, or my improvement will come to a standstill.”