Why Draymond Green Is Invaluable to Golden State Warriors

Simon Cherin-Gordon@SimoncgoContributor IIIMarch 4, 2014

OAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Spencer Hawes #00 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots a layup against Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors on February 10, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

If you have ever looked at Kevin Durant's statistics (and I know you have), you probably did the thing where you read off each stat in an increasingly loud and obnoxious voice. "He has 31.6 points per game and 7.7 rebounds. And 5.6 assists. And 1.5 steals? AND 0.8 blocks? On 50.7 percent shooting? And 39.6 percent three-point shooting?? AND 88.0 PERCENT FROM THE LINE???"

When looking at Draymond Green's stats, you probably do something similar. The difference is that your voice gets louder, then quieter, then louder and so forth, and your tone never gets quite as annoying.

"He only has 5.4 points and 1.6 assists? Oh, but he plays 20.2 minutes a night. And yet he still has 4.6 rebounds. And 1.1 steals. AND 0.9 blocks? But he only shoots 37.8 percent from the field. And 29.4 percent from three. And 62.8 percent from the line?" 

Coaches, teammates, announcers and reporters alike love to describe Green as a player whose impact fails to "show up in the box score."

This has not only become a cliche when discussing the Warriors forward, but it is untrue. The box-score format almost perfectly portrays Green as the limited scorer, strong rebounder, poor shooter and active defender that he is.

In fact, Green's box score even shows his "intangibles"—the 20.2 minutes he gets for a good team despite his dreadful shooting and poor shot selection indicate that he is an energizer, a player who helps his team win just by being on the court.

Feb 22, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson (7) shoots the ball against Golden State Warriors small forward Draymond Green (23) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Playing winning basketball is based on three things: maximizing your team's points per possession, minimizing your opponent's points per possession and creating as many extra possessions for your team as possible.

These three essential battles will be discussed throughout the article, so I will refer to them as "maximizing, minimizing and possessing."

Therefore, the best teams are the ones not only with superstars, but with the most players that can help in these three areas.

Why do the Golden State Warriors sit well above the .500 mark while the Minnesota Timberwolves hover around it and the New York Knicks land far below it? To call Stephen Curry a better player than Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony is valid, but to believe this is the reason for the Warriors' vastly superior record is not.

When it comes to maximizing, Curry is as good as any player. His true-shooting percentage—which factors in three pointers and free throws—is .598, good for fifth-best amongst players with high usage ratings (25 percent or more).

He is also second in the league in assist percentage (assists per field goals when he's on the floor) and eighth in offensive rating (points per-100 possessions) amongst qualified players.

But Curry does not do much to minimize, and he costs his team possessions by turning the ball over more than anyone in the NBA (4.0 per game).

Without players who can dominate in the minimizing and possessing areas, the Warriors would be a losing team no matter what Curry can do offensively.

Luckily, Golden State has Green—a power forward in a small forward's body who could have once been described as a basketball player in a football player's body.

March 22, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Draymond Green (23) reacts after a play during the first half in the semifinals of the west region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Louisville Cardinals at US Airway
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When Green was a 270-pound high schooler, he was a dominant player. As a 235-pound college star, he was unstoppable. As a 215-pound NBA player, Green is still making a major impact.

He earns his team possessions with fantastic rebounding for his size and position (8.1 per-36 minutes) and by generating steals (2.0 per-36 minutes).

He minimizes opposing offenses by locking up wings (12.0-opponent player efficiency rating) and protecting the rim (1.5 blocks per-36 minutes). His defensive rating is 97, which is the seventh-best mark in the league.

Of course Green is not the NBA's seventh-best individual defender. But again, basketball is not about individual performance—its about how good a team is in the three previously detailed phases.

With Green on the court, the Warriors are a phenomenal defensive team.

His individual defense is a nice asset, but his motor is irreplaceable. Green fights for every loose ball and wins most of them. He crashes the boards, boxes out, provides excellent help in the post and plays better than most 6'7" guys do when forced to guard bigs.

Offensively, he does not yet make his team better, but there is reason to believe that this will change.

Green posted an offensive rating of 87 during his rookie season. This was the worst number on the team, so he played only 13.4 minutes a night despite his 102 defensive rating (second-best on the team). In year two, he has raised his offensive rating to 99.

After dropping nearly 20 pounds during his first NBA offseason, Green has become a far better penetrator, playmaker and finisher inside. He's improved his shot, although it is still dreadful.

The point is that Green has substantially strengthened his offensive game and done so through a combination of conditioning, repetition in practice and watching film. He's a better athlete, a better shooter and a better decision maker than he was a year ago, and this type of multifaceted improvement is the kind that translates into continuous growth.

The other side of the spectrum is displayed perfectly by Harrison Barnes, who was drafted No. 7 overall—28 picks ahead of Green—in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Jan 24, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes (40) looks for room to shoot the ball next to Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer (13) in the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Timberwolves defeated the Warriors 121-1
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

After a strong rookie season that saw Barnes land on the All-Rookie first team, he has regressed as a sophomore. His immense physical talent has taken him as far as it can; he will not become a better NBA player without increasing his effort level during the offseason, in practice and on the court. Nor will he help his team win more without studying the game and enhancing his basketball I.Q.

Not only has Green upped his game and Barnes downed his, but Green is the better NBA player and asset for the Warriors—now and moving forward.

Golden State is built around talent and skill. Curry is a rare talent. Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala are ultra-talented wings. David Lee and Andrew Bogut are among the most skilled big men in the league.

What the team lacks is consistent energy, will and wit. It lacks players that play every game like it's the postseason. It is short on players that understand that the game is simple; that it is only about maximizing, minimizing and possessing.

One can only speculate as to how "tradable" Green is in the minds of Golden State's front office, but it's safe to assume that he would be dealt before any of the five starters or Barnes.

There is pressure from the top to win now, and there is an idea that winning now means adding offense: The team ranks third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offensive rating.

Moving a player like Green this summer would generally be a good idea. He's a young player on a cheap rookie deal. His well-rounded game, high-effort reputation and positive attitude would be highly valued by a team in ruins like the Milwaukee Bucks or New York Knicks. Maybe he could help net the Warriors a stretch 4 like Ersan Ilyasova or Andrea Bargnani.

This would be ill-advised. The Warriors have all the offensive weapons they need. The only thing stopping them from being a dominant offensive team is a lack of maximizing. Better coaching would help this, but the only way to truly achieve optimal offensive performance is for individuals like Thompson, Barnes and even Curry to take a lesson from Green.

To trade Green would be to rob this young roster of a potential leader.

Apr 26, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) reacts after making a three point basket against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter during game three of the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs at Oracle Arena. The
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There is a notion that high-I.Q. veterans and energy guys can be found and added for cheap when a team is close to a championship. Physical talent is seen as the premium; it must be kept and built around at all costs.

But a look around the league reveals plenty of young talent that is in no way helping teams win and probably never will. What is far more rare is a young player who has the game of a high-I.Q. veteran, plays lockdown defense, can fill multiple positions and makes all of his teammates better.

In fact, Green might be the only guy in the entire NBA that does what he does at his age.

Considering his minimizing and possessing abilities, his rate of growth, his leadership qualities and how perfectly he fits into Golden State's roster, Green should be as untouchable as any player not named Curry, Iguodala or Bogut.

His numbers may not directly portray him as an invaluable asset, but they certainly capture his essence: A totally unique player, one who may frustrate with poor shooting but more than makes up for it in every other phase of the game.

A player who is hopefully as tough for his general manager to part with as he is difficult for his coach to take off the court.



Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and 82games.com

Follow me on Twitter @Simoncgo


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