Draymond Green is already a fan favorite. The tenacity and emotion he plays with sparks the Oracle crowd. It’s hard to not root for a guy like Green, a classic underdog, overlooked in the draft, who has earned every minute he’s gotten.
Green has already done what most 2nd round picks don’t do, prove he’s a legitimate NBA player. In two years, Green has gone from after thought, to situation specialist, to arguably a top 5 contributor. There is no doubting Green is an NBA caliber player, and will likely have a long career.
The question becomes can Draymond Green take the next step and be a starting caliber contributor?
Green’s rookie year was largely a compilation of bit-part minutes (13.4 per game). He has his moments; jawing with Lebron James in the Warriors breakout road win on the road versus the defending champion, Miami Heat, and clutch shots in the playoffs against Denver. It was his second year when he flourished into the team’s first player off the bench, and oft first choice as a starter if someone was injured. Green averaged 21.9 minutes per game. The numbers don’t jump out at you (6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 40.7%, 33.3% from 3 point range), but the impact does.
If Shane Battier was the first ‘no stats all-star’, Draymond Green has been making a strong case to be his heir apparent. Box Score stats don’t value his contribution. He hasn’t shot a high percentage or scored a particularly high volume, but advanced analytics almost always show a positive impact (4th highest RPM for all SF). Coaches love his high IQ plays and how he helps his teammates. When he’s on the court good things happen.
As of now, Green has proven to be a positive rotation player. Green has shown signs of being a starting caliber player, but hasn’t done it consistently. It’s not the defense. Green was arguable the Warriors 3rd best defender. His +3.99 Drpm ranked second in NBA for small forwards behind teammate Andre Iguodala. When he’s played at PF with the starting unit, the Warriors defensive rating was 100.7 (which would be 2nd in NBA), and outscored opponents by 17.2 points per 100 possessions (small sample size considered).
After Andrew Bogut went down Draymond Green filled in valiantly in the playoffs and was possibly the Warriors second best player. Green was inserted into the starting lineup against the Clippers and was asked to guard Blake Griffin. The result, Griffin averaged 20.0 ppg, 46.4% in 38.2 mpg from games 4 through 7, after previously averaging 27.7 ppg, 61.8% in 30.8mpg in games 1 through 3. An argument could be made, had Jackson switched the lineup sooner, the Warriors might have pulled the upset, despite missing starting center Andrew Bogut. And in those playoffs, he averaged 11.9 points per game (58.8TS%), including his five 3-point, 24 point game seven performance.
When you look at how he played in the playoffs offensively, Curry’s monstrous impact with a stretch 4, and David Lee’s consistent production with bench players, Draymond Green starting at the power forward seems like a no brainer.
The problem becomes, how much are we reading into a small sample size of offensive production. Matt Steinmetz warned against this in his April 14th article:
“When you play Iguodala, Green and Bogut together you’re essentially playing three non-scorers, which puts a ton of pressure on the backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.”
Steinmetz point had validity. Green, for all his seemingly clutch playoff offense, averaged only 10.2 points per 36 minutes and had a true shooting % of 49.8. Both of these are gigantic drop offs from David Lee and well below league average. The Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Green, Bogut lineup was very productive, but also only used for 71 minutes. Over time, can this lineup generate enough offense or as teams see it will they just aggressively double Curry and Klay and dare anyone else to beat them?
Green is still a young player and has shown signs of offensive improvement. The splits between his 2013-14 season first and second half are night and day.
In the first half, it was hard for Jackson to keep him on the floor for extended stretches because he was such an offensive liability. From December till the all-star break, Green shot below 20% from 3-point range. In the second half of the season, Green’s offense came around and contributed at a starters level. He warranted more minutes.
And that is where the question comes in, growth or fools gold? Green is going to be a valuable player regardless of his scoring ability, but for him to truly be able to play more than 20 minutes per game, to play starting caliber minutes, he needs to be a consistent threat. Green is entering his last year on his team friendly 2nd round contract. His 2014-15 offensive output will be a large determinant of his next contract and where his career is headed. Is Draymond going to be a defensive specialist off the bench, or can he continue growth as an offensive weapon, to the point where he can be that ultimate glue guy like Andre Iguodala? This season can be a make or break year in determining Draymond Green’s career trajectory and just how big a building block he can be to the Golden State Warriors going forward.
Sources for Statistics: Nbawowy.com, Basketball-reference.com