Is Draymond Green Playing Himself Out of Golden State Warriors' Future?

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2015

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30), Draymond Green (23) and Klay Thompson (11) walk up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, in Dallas. Curry had 29-points, Green had 20-points and Thompson had 25-points in the 105-98 Warriors win. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Depending on the night, Draymond Green is capable of providing the Golden State Warriors with explosive scoring, dominant defense, pinpoint passing and wildly effective floor spacing. Usually, the versatile forward brings several of those elements to the table, molding his game to meet the demands of that particular contest.

Players with this type of all-around talent don't come around often, and they never stick around for cheap. Once the former second-round pick sheds his rookie contract this summer, some team is going to throw major money his way.

Because Green is such a rare breed, finding a reasonable NBA comparison for him isn't easy. As such, it's difficult to determine just how many dollars he has added to his future earnings this season.

Ringing the Register

Wherever Green's expected salary sat before the start of the season, it has grown considerably since. But, as is often the case with the former Michigan State star, it has taken off in a unique way.

He hits all corners of the stat sheet, but he rarely spends enough time with one category for it to jump off the page. No one is sending armored trucks stocked with cash at a player for providing 12.1 points a night or tracking down 8.3 rebounds per game or dishing out 3.7 assists on a nightly basis.

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But what happens when a player does all of the above, while also averaging 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 threes? That's a rhetorical question, by the way, as no other NBA player has a resume quite like Green's. There are only two others averaging 12 points, eight boards, three dimes and one block: Tim Duncan and Marc Gasol.

And Duncan and Gasol aren't even firing up triples, let alone converting a high volume of them at a 34.5 percent clip. The two All-Star bigs also aren't coming up with 1.5 thefts per night or handling the wide array of defensive assignments that Green seems to manage with relative ease.

Look for guys with a checklist similar to Green's, and you'll be lucky to find a handful.

"He guards four positions, stretches the floor on offense, pushes the ball in transition and moves the ball quickly in the half court," ESPN.com's Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote of Green.

During Golden State's 117-91 thrashing of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, Green tallied 13 boards, 11 points, five assists, three blocks and one steal. He also buried three of his seven long-range attempts and helped limit Oklahoma City's trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka to 10-of-44 shooting from the field combined.

Only nine players in the entire league have had a 10-point, 10-rebound, five-assist, three-block game this season. Green is now one of the four who have done it two different times. He is also one of only two players who have had at least three assists, three steals and three blocks on three separate occasions. And he has more games with at least 10 rebounds and two made threes (five) than everyone not named Kevin Love.

Again, there aren't many players who affect more angles of the box score than Green, whom Warriors coach Steve Kerr has called the "heart and soul" of this team, per Bay Area News Group's Diamond Leung.

So, how does one appropriately price such versatility? Let's just say it's an inexact science.

One league scout told Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher in November that Green will command "approximately $8 million per year in free agency." That same month, former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said during a Warriors broadcast that he felt Green could collect "$10 to $12 million," per Comcast SportsNet's Monte Poole.

Green may not have the typical stats of an eight-figure-salary player, but it feels like that's where his negotiations will eventually lead for a multitude of reasons.

Appreciable Value

Green is only 24 years old. And judging by his track record—which is essentially one solid line of constant evolution—he is only going to continue improving.

"Green didn’t arrive in East Lansing with a picture-perfect jumper. He developed one," wrote Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan. "He wasn’t always known as a savvy passer. He became one. Written in his genes, poise in the paint was not. He made it so, slowly but steadily."

Green was the 35th pick in the 2012 draft and a part-time player on a 47-win team as a rookie. Now, he's a key cog of a group on pace to flirt with 70 victories. He has seemingly strengthened every facet of his game during his two-plus NBA seasons.

Draymond Green's Steady NBA Climb

But here's the kicker: Green isn't a numbers guy.

His best work isn't always captured in the box score, which contributed to his decision to sign with agent and former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of the Wasserman Media Group earlier this season, as Green explained to USA Today's Sam Amick:

He's someone who really knows the game, because I'm not going to come down and give you 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) every night, so you may not always read in the stats what I do. Someone who really knows the game as well as B.J. does can really appreciate and sell what I do. I felt a great connection there, and that's why I made the decision.

What Green's basic stats don't show is that he ranks sixth among volume rim protectors with a 44.5 field-goal percentage against at the rim. Or that his opponents shoot more than five percentage points worse against him (40.5) than they do on average (45.9). Or that the Warriors' net efficiency goes from plus-17.7 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor to plus-0.9 when he sits.

Green is a player who needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.

He can be an offensive catalyst as a scorer, passer, shooter or slasher. There isn't a hustle play he is unable or unwilling to make. He is strong enough to bang on the defensive interior and quick enough to keep pace with attacking guards on the perimeter.

"Draymond is as good as anybody in the league at switching and staying in front of guards and guarding multiple positions," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, per San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami.

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 05:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors tips the ball away from Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers at ORACLE Arena on November 5, 2014 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There is tremendous value in what Green brings inside the lines, particularly in today's NBA.

Teams are looking for floor-spacing bigs, both due to the analytical appreciation of the three-point shot and the impact a stretch forward can have on creating breathing room for pick-and-roll attacks. Green may never be consistent enough from distance to be the third Splash Brother, but he's willing to take those shots and capable of burning a defense for leaving him alone.

At the opposite end, his instincts, athleticism and 7'1" wingspan, per Draft Express, combine to form a devastating defensive package. He can get out on a perimeter marksman, change shots near the basket or halt dribble penetrations at the point of attack.

The Warriors have found the best way to feature him, but his impact is not dependent on this system. He's a ball of clay that free-agent suitors could mold any number of ways.

"He's just a really good basketball player," Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry said, per Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post. "He can be whatever you want him to be."

The problem is other teams know that. And they could be waiting with cash in hand, ready to make Green whatever they want him to be.

What a Crowded Market Means for Golden State

The fact that Green is going to be a restricted free agent could scare some teams away, but those that remain interested may adjust their contract offers accordingly. That could further inflate his price tag or lead teams to format their offers in a way designed to discourage a match like the Dallas Mavericks did with Chandler Parsons.

So, who might be looking to pry Green out of the Bay? Just about every team with money to spend.

The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks both need significant defensive upgrades, and they could chase Green pretty hard if they are unable to snag a bigger fish. The Detroit Pistons might target the Saginaw native to be what they thought they were getting with Josh Smith. The Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers could all enter the bidding depending on what their own free agents do.

The Warriors will still have the final say with Green, but they will have to pay a premium if they want to keep him around. One look at their current financial situation shows how much of a challenge that could be, via HoopsHype.com.

Golden State's Biggest Financial Commitments Going Forward
Klay Thompson$15,501,000$16,663,575
David Lee$15,493,680N/A
Andrew Bogut$12,000,000$11,027,027
Andre Iguodala$11,710,456$11,131,368
Stephen Curry$11,370,786$12,112,359

The salary cap isn't expected to explode with the new TV money until the 2016-17 season, so Golden State could be staring at a substantial luxury-tax bill if it keeps all of its high-priced players around.

Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut are too valuable to move, so those salaries are staying on the books. This team's depth on the wing could lead some to deem Andre Iguodala expendable, but his two-way talent is probably greater than anything the Warriors could bring back in return.

That means David Lee could be on trade watch, but he's probably been there for a while and hasn't moved yet. The Warriors have shown they can win without him (he's only played eight games this season), but it's hard to imagine many teams are eager to take on his salary without unloading a heavy one of their own.

If the Warriors want to have a future with Green, they should prepare for one with a luxury-tax hit, too. He doesn't sound like someone who wants to leave, but he knows what he is worth—and he knows the Warriors can meet that price.

"I really love it here," Green told Bucher. "It's all I know about this league. As far as the money working out, if they want me to stay here, I know there's a way to keep me here."

The cost of keeping Green might be on the move, but that doesn't mean the Swiss army knife needs to be. The Warriors know as well as anyone how valuable he is, and that knowledge should be enough to keep him around for the long haul.

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.


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