Warriors power forward Draymond Green stands at just 6’6 and doesn’t possess any outstanding athletic abilities. In his 9th season in the NBA, he struggles to make wide-open jumpers, shies away from scoring opportunities, and averages an underwhelming stat line of 5.0/4.5/6.6.
Based on this information, one would think that Green is nothing more than an average role player. Many people do. When fans bring up Green on social media or in general NBA discussions, more people poke fun at his triple-single stat lines and laughable shooting form than they appreciate his actual value as a player.
Admittedly, Green does have his fair share of flaws. But his impact is profound and can’t accurately be measured by a simple box score. This was evident just over a few weeks ago in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. While teammate Stephen Curry stole the show with 62 points, Green played fantastic, despite what his modest 1 point suggested.
He made several key defensive rotations, neutralized Portland’s pick and roll game, helped Curry reach his career-high points total with multiple vital passes, and finished with a plus-minus of +22. This performance was reminiscent of the “old” Draymond Green, who won the Defensive Player of the Year award and anchored a dynasty’s defense. And best of all, this game wasn’t an anomaly. More often than not, he’s been putting forth these performances for over half a decade. Even in 2021, Draymond Green remains a highly valuable basketball player.
Green’s Skill set
What makes Green so unique is his defense. Although he doesn’t possess Giannis Antetokounmpo’s athleticism or Rudy Gobert’s height, Green is a top 10 defender in the NBA.
He’s agile enough to switch onto guards, strong enough to bang down low in the post with bigs, and smart enough to call out plays before they happen. Green’s defensive rotations are also incredibly advanced. They’re the primary reason he could retire as one of the best help defenders of all-time.
Green’s impact shows up in the advanced stats too. Since 2014-15, Green has ranked in the top 20 of Defensive Box Plus-Minus every season, including three top-3 finishes in the category. He also owns a steals title and ranks favorably in other stats like Defensive Win Shares and 538’s Defensive RAPTOR.
Green’s immense IQ and understanding for the game carries over to his offense as well. Although his scoring and shooting abilities have disappeared from his prime years, Green still adds plenty of value as a playmaker.
In transition, he’s notorious for his ability to run the floor and find open teammates running the break. He’s also great at feeding his Splash Brother teammates for open 3’s and making tremendous passes in the short roll.
Green’s playmaking ability naturally gets overshadowed by Golden State’s other offensive stars, but it shouldn’t be disregarded. His presence unlocks plenty of scoring opportunities for others, and it’s the glue that helped all of the Warriors’ weapons work well together.
And unlike most poor shooters, Green’s off-ball offense is serviceable. Without the ball, Green frees up teammates with timely screens and knows precisely where to be at all times.
Is Green ‘Just’ a System Player?
As mentioned earlier, there are some valid critiques of Green. Last season, he had a clear down year without Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant alongside him for the first time in multiple years. This disappointing season caused people to question his value and label him as nothing more than a system player who needs great teammates to succeed.
While many took it out of proportion, that narrative isn’t entirely wrong. Green isn’t suited to be the best player on a championship-caliber team. But contrary to popular belief, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Green knows that he’s not quite talented enough to lead a team on his own. Instead of trying to do things he’s unable to, he buys into a less flashy role for the good of the team. He’s a ceiling raiser, not a floor raiser. In other words, he won’t singlehandedly turn terrible teams into playoff contenders. Still, he can turn good teams into great teams and elevate his teammates in the process. He’s one of the best at what he does, which is what matters above all else.
Instead of evaluating him based on what he can’t do as the team’s leader, Green should be assessed based on what he does as a support piece. There’s only a handful of players who can come close to replicating his role.
Green won’t score 40 points any time soon, but he’ll do all the little things that produce wins. He does the dirty work and plays with unrivaled tenacity that rubs off on his teammates. It’s nearly impossible to measure those things with a simple stat. All in all, every great team could use a guy like Draymond Green, and he shouldn’t be undervalued any longer.