by Jordan Lee
While everybody has been talking about Klay Thompson’s recent max extension, the Warriors have another contract concern looming: Draymond Green’s impending free agency next summer.
Green is restricted, so the Warriors will be able to match any offer sheet he signs with another team. However, Draymond’s market value has been skyrocketing; with Andrew Bogut going down before last year’s playoffs and David Lee sidelined to begin this year, Green has had a chance to show the world what he’s got in extended minutes, and he hasn’t disappointed at all.
The Warriors are hands down one of the most exciting teams in the league, headlined by the Splash Bros. SportsCenter constantly replays Steph and Klay highlights, crowning them as the best backcourt duo in the game. Which is fine... Steph has the ability to become the greatest shooter of all time, while Klay’s dominant start to the season has put his name in the discussion for best shooting guard in the league. But is it these two shooters that has allowed Golden State to take the next step towards becoming one of the most feared teams in the league this year? Yes... but no.
It’s understandable why most people credit the offense for Golden State’s impressive 5-0 start, but the stats seem to differ from popular thought here. The Warriors currently only rank 10th this year on offense, averaging 108.7 points per 100 possessions. Shocking… What’s even more shocking is the fact that their defense is the BEST in the entire NBA thus far, allowing a stingy 93.1 points per possession. If you think this is some fluke, the Warriors leaned on their defense last year too, ranking 12th on offense and 4th on defense.
A lot of credit should be given to former coaches Marc Jackson and Darren Erman for the Warriors’ improved defense, but the player who has really stepped up in Bay Area is Draymond Green.
Only three years ago, Draymond had just finished leading his Michigan State Spartans to a 26-8 record, winning the Big 10 and earning a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans got knocked out in the Sweet 16, but one thing was now certain. Captain Draymond Green was heading to the league.
Even if he was an overweight 6’7” center who lacked explosiveness and quickness, someone was going to draft him. Green’s skill set and basketball IQ more than made up for his physical limitations. Plus, he had a non-stop motor and played with a lot of intensity and heart.
The Warriors selected Draymond Green with the 5th pick of the 2nd round in the 2012 Draft. Little did they know they had just taken one of the biggest steals in the draft.
Draymond was hardly noticeable his rookie season, until the postseason. Everyone remembers one of the most entertaining playoff series in the last few years: Golden State vs. Denver. The Warriors were the 6th seed and playing without All-Star power forward David Lee, but never looked like the underdogs. Curry was nearly unstoppable before hurting his ankle in Game 4, rallying the Dubs to a 3-1 lead averaging 30 points and 10 assists in their wins.
Golden State had a critical Game 6 at home, leading the series 3-2. It was their chance to close out the series instead of returning to the dreaded Mile High City for Game 7. With Steph hobbled, the Warriors needed everyone to step up. The most unlikely of heroes, Draymond Green, would be the one to answer the call, posting career-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds, going 2-4 from deep.
Although common stats don’t show it, Draymond continued to make his presence felt, mainly on the defensive end. When considering players per 100 possessions, Draymond was a beast:
Joakim Noah and Tim Duncan were the only other players in the top 5 for both stats. If we count Duncan as a center last year, Green was the only power forward in either top 8. Literally every player in both categories either plays center or is named Paul George/Kawhi Leonard. He was also 7th in steal percentage. But how the hell did this happen? Wasn’t he drafted for his all-around skill set on the offensive end? Yes, but a lot can change when you lose 40 pounds.
Draymond, like everyone else, knew he had to get in better shape if he wanted to compete at the NBA level. He reportedly lost 20 pounds before even showing up to training camp his rookie season. He then followed that up by losing another 20 pounds the next summer. Talk about dedication.
Green has always had a great feel for the game, even defensively. He showed off his hands and timing in college, using his massive 7’1” wing span to average 1.5 steals and 1 block over his final 3 seasons at MSU, but his defense was overlooked because scouts focused more on his unflattering physique. Getting in shape changed everything for Draymond. Not only was he quicker and more explosive, but his stamina also improved drastically. His timing and huge wingspan could now be put to good use.
In last year’s playoffs, even though they lost in the first round, the Warriors had gained the respect of not only the Clippers, but everyone who watched. The Warriors were able to push the Clippers to a tightly contested Game 7 without their most valuable defensive player, Andrew Bogut. With Bogut out, the obvious question going into the series was how would the Warriors stop Blake Griffin?
Draymond Green once again stepped up to the plate. I hated him all series long because he was dominating my Clippers, but also because I was baffled. How could a 6’7”, 230 pounder limit Blake Griffin? In similar fashion to how Chuck Hayes stopped Blake (before he had a jumper): relentlessly battling for position, nimble footwork, and great timing. It was clearer than ever what a little dieting did for Draymond.
As you can see, his per 36 minutes defensive stats are absurd in the playoffs. But even offensively, the dude has shown time and time again (in just 2 years) that he loves the bright lights. He is always willing to step up and take shots when his team needs it. I will even go as far as to say Draymond will be the next player to get fined for doing the infamous Sam Cassell dance.
With David Lee out for the first few weeks of the season, Draymond is continuing to show how important he is to the success of the Warriors. He has continued to find his niche offensively. His greatly improved three-point shooting pairs nicely with his ability to finish at the rim. Green is also much more explosive off the dribble now, allowing him to get inside and even create for his teammates.
But what I love most about Draymond’s offense is that you never need to call a play for him. He’s going to be the guy doing all the dirty work without complaining about getting shots. His passion is winning and the grind that comes along with it.
So what is Draymond Green going to be worth come free agency next summer?
Call me crazy, but I’m saying at least $11-12 million a season. If Green keeps up his stellar play, don’t be surprised if Coach Steve Kerr starts bringing David Lee off the bench. His stats will never justify the price, but Green’s scrappy play paired with Bogut’s rim protection is the key to this dominant defense.
If you don't think so, just consider one more fact. Super Agent Arn Tellem now represents Draymond. If you don't know the name, all you need to know is this means Draymond's in for a big payday. Just look at Tellem's clients and their salaries. But again, that kind of money is not absurd. If Draymond continues to expand his game offensively, he will soon become one of the most valuable role players in the league.
Just think about Kawhi Leonard’s progression. Did you really think he was going to win Finals MVP playing alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker? Like Kawhi, Draymond can have this type of impact for contending teams because you know what you’re going to get from these types of players: a boatload of energy, a strong defensive presence, and zero complaints. That is why everyone should love Draymond.