With the end of the college basketball season, NBA draft speculation begins in earnest for hoops fans around the country. Underclassmen will inevitably dominate the discussion, but one of the most accomplished seniors in the pool will be Michigan State star Draymond Green.
The best player on the Big Ten co-champs, Green is a versatile forward who served as the linchpin for the Spartans on both ends of the floor. At 6’7”, though, he’s in a bit of a no-man’s-land when it comes to finding a position in the NBA.
Herein, a closer examination of Green’s skill set and how he’s likely to fare at the next level.
Green improved appreciably in his senior year, raising his scoring average to 16.2 points a game and his three-point percentage to .388 (both career bests).
An effective post option who spent most of his time near the paint, Green can score from farther out but struggles to create his own shots, especially against top-tier defenses.
One of Green’s biggest assets is that he’s an outstanding passer who led MSU in assists as a junior. He’s an excellent candidate for a point forward role as a pro, provided he lands on a team where he’ll have some scorers around him.
Green is tremendously strong, a key factor in his Big Ten-leading average of 10.4 rebounds per game. He's a fundamentally-sound defender who put up solid stats on that end of the floor, averaging 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks a night.
In the low post, Green’s muscle serves him well, though his lack of length will be a factor at the next level.
He’s also inexperienced as a perimeter defender, so it’s a bit of an open question whether his instincts would be as sharp out there as they are guarding the lane.
The most damning line on Green’s draft resume is his 6’7” height. He simply doesn’t have the length to play full-time at PF (his best position) in the NBA.
On the other hand, he’s not especially quick, and asking him to guard Rudy Gay or Paul Pierce out by the three-point line would be a dangerous proposition.
Wherever Green plays, he’s going to have matchup problems, and there’s no certainty that even his considerable skill could overcome them.
There’s not much fault to find with the mental side of Green’s game. He’s a three-year starter who thrived when placed in a leadership role in East Lansing.
The unselfish Green also deserves credit for not jumping ship after his team's disappointing 2010-11 season. Instead of leaving for the NBA when he clearly wasn’t ready, he stayed and improved his game while leading the Spartans to a conference title.
Green is a smart player who knows his strengths, but he’s not a big-time athlete by NBA standards.
Without an obvious position, he’s unlikely ever to start as a pro, but he could be a valuable bench player along the lines of Sacramento’s Chuck Hayes or Memphis’ Dante Cunningham.
In a weaker draft class, Green’s maturity and Big Ten pedigree might let him sneak into the bottom of the first round, but there’s going to be an awful lot of height available in this June's talent pool.
Look for Green to come off the board early in the second round, where a bench-poor team such as Cleveland or Golden State might snap him up.