Draymond Green: The Unsung Warrior Hero

Nov 2, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) is fouled by Portland Trail Blazers center Chris Kaman (35) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) is fouled by Portland Trail Blazers center Chris Kaman (35) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports /

Versatility is hard to find in the NBA. It’s even harder to find in the second round of the NBA Draft, but when the Golden State Warriors selected Draymond Green with the 35th pick in 2012, they were taking a chance on an experienced Michigan State senior who could score, rebound and defend multiple positions. Simply put, he did what it took to help his teams win basketball games, even if it didn’t always bring him personal glory.

Entering his third season with the Warriors, Green has taken that reputation to the next level. He already has three starts, one-fourth of the way to the number of total starts he had all of last season. Filling in for the injured David Lee, Green is averaging 8.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.3 minutes per game — all career highs. He’s only shooting 39.1 percent from the field, but he’s spread the floor well enough, knocking down three of his six attempts from downtown.

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But as most Draymond Green fans know, his impact doesn’t always show up in the basic box score. Last season, Green played limited minutes, but when Mark Jackson gave him extended playing time, Green was a do-it-all Swiss army knife who could defend four positions, grab rebounds, make hustle plays, dive for loose balls, facilitate fast breaks and knock down an occasional jumper.

On one of the best defenses in the league, Green was one of Golden State’s best defenders, ranking in the top five in the league in defensive rating. But during the Warriors’ first round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Green got his chance to show what he could do to a box score with real playing time in a seven-game series.

In that playoff series, Green averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.7 steals in 32.6 minutes per game. He defended Blake Griffin for a team that was missing its defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut and in the decisive Game 7, Green was Golden State’s best player, finishing with 24 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals…all while shooting 9-of-13 from the floor and 5-of-8 from downtown.

With Harrison Barnes taking over Andre Iguodala‘s starting job at the small forward position, it appeared Steve Kerr wasn’t ready to roll with Green as a starter, which makes sense because Barnes needed the confidence boost and the Dubs’ second unit needed a ball handler with Shaun Livingston still out. But with Lee missing the first three games of the season, Green got his opportunity once again to prove he needs more playing time this year.

The numbers haven’t quite been as eye-popping as his Game 7 stat line last year, but Green is still performing better than he has in any past season. In his first game of the year, Green helped the Warriors pull away from the Sacramento Kings, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. His production and minutes have slightly declined every game since, but if Kerr takes a look at the advanced stats, he’ll notice Green’s impact on the defensive end.

We’re only a week into the season, but Green is once again fifth in the league in defensive rating (88.7 points allowed per 100 possessions with Green on the floor), he’s eighth in defensive win shares and he’s seventh in defensive box plus/minus. He held LaMarcus Aldridge relatively in check in a big road win against the Portland Trail Blazers and he’s played an important, albeit unsung role in the Warriors’ 3-0 start to the season.

With Lee most likely set to return to the starting lineup this week (and possibly even tonight), Green’s time as a starter could be at an end soon. But on such a deep team, Green will be able to come in off the bench, knock down a few threes with that improved jumper of his, and continue to bolster one of the league’s best defenses in crunch time.

Klay Thompson‘s hot start has been the big story so far, and any teammate of him or Stephen Curry is going to have to play extraordinarily well to grab the attention of the fans. But here’s hoping Kerr doesn’t lose track of Draymond Green in the rotation, because there’s a very good chance he’s the defensive X-factor who can make plays to swing a playoff series.

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