Luke Harangody and Jared Dudley. The aforementioned players were compared to Golden State PF Draymond Green before the 2012 NBA Draft. In interest of full disclosure, I too was very short sighted in my projection of Green. I was called a “hater” because I proclaimed that my fellow Saginawian would be a 2nd round pick but I did not rejoice when he was taken 35th overall.
Clearly the only person that knew Green’s true potential is Green himself. Going from seldom used bench player during the Mark Jackson regime to potential All Star starter this season under Steve Kerr’s staff, Green has become a force in the NBA. Before the season there were questions as to how important Green was to the team’s success and many pundits claimed Green was a product of the system that Kerr built around last year’s MVP Stephen Curry.
To date Green has EIGHT triple doubles on the season. The most LeBron James has recorded in a season is seven. Furthermore, at his current rate, Green could eclipse Michael Jordan’s single season mark of 15. That’s remarkable considering that he guards every position defensively, and still has the energy to initiate the offense. In the NBA, it seems to be an unspoken criteria that the MVP must be on a top 5 team and must be an elite scorer. While that may be the norm that is not exactly the precedent. Here are some things to consider before handing Curry another MVP trophy or gifting James a 5th.
Curry, Tony Parker, Jeff Teague, Mike Conley, James and Derrick Rose. Green averages more assist per game than all the aforementioned players. Three of those players are former MVPs. Four of those players are pure point guards. Green’s 7.5 assist per game average is 6th in the NBA. Within the top 10 assist per game leaders he is the ONLY player that’s not listed as a SG or PG. Moreover, his assist to turnover ratio is better than John Wall, James Harden, and Damian Lillard, to name a few.
The New Mound of Rebound
No one should ever mistake Green for Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. Their games are totally different and last I checked the two really don’t care a great deal about each other. However, Green’s rebounding prowess is far better than we could have ever anticipated. Once again in comparison, Green has a better rebound per game average than Greg Monroe, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin. Keeping those names in perspective, Green is listed at 6’7″ which some may consider generous. The players ahead of him in rebounding are at least 6’10”. The positive consequence of Green’s defensive rebounding (7.9 per game) is that it initiates the offense as he is able to generate transition baskets for Curry and Klay Thompson.
Green’s scoring is predicated on his rebounding and improved jump shooting. The area that he has improved the most is his three point shooting. Once a sub 25% shooter from the three point line, he is now shooting 41%. That’s a remarkable clip considering that he is a Power Forward. He has improved his scoring average every year and is at 15 points per game this season. In the team’s losses this season he actually averaged more points per game than in his wins. It’s not an indictment on his ability to score as it a validation of the importance of him to facilitate. There has only been one MVP in the past 30 years to win the honor and average less than 20 points per game, Steve Nash, when he won consecutive trophies. Green could very well buck that trend or even continue to increase his point per game average during the course of the season.
Green is so reliable that in the past two seasons he has missed THREE games. Harrison Barnes, Curry, Thompson, and Andrew Bogut have combined to miss 49 games since the beginning of last season. His physical conditioning and pain threshold should be considered in the MVP discussion. Current front runner James has missed three already this season and in all likelihood will miss more as the Cleveland Cavaliers continue their dominance of the Eastern Conference.
Advanced Metrics and Defense
Over the past three seasons, the one area that critics could not dispute is Green’s defense. Last year, there was controversy over San Antonio Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. Green tallied more first place votes than Leonard but was second place overall in a flawed voting system. Nonetheless, Green could very well win the award this season, unanimously. Currently, Green is in the top 5 in Defensive Box Plus/Minus, Defensive Rating, and Defensive Win Shares. Green also is top 10 in the league in Value over Replacement player. The last area of recognition is key, as he is the only player in Value over Replacement Player that is not considered a ‘franchise’ player.
I truly wish I was on the bandwagon from his high school days until now. I wish I could be among the many now that are saying “I told you so.” I was not, but I am now a believer. Draymond Green should at the least garner some MVP votes this season. He is a franchise player on a team that currently has an MVP on the roster. He is doing unimaginable feats on the court despite not truly having a position. The pundits have stated that Green is a product of Curry. With all due respect to the naysayers, Green is a product of Saginaw, Michigan. Curry, the Warriors, or the NBA can’t put a claim on that.