Don’t Write Off Draymond Yet

Draymond-Green

Draymond Green hasn’t been very effective this season for the Warriors. Anyone who looks up his numbers could tell you that. It just hasn’t been pretty. After being selected by the Golden State Warrior with the 35th overall pick of last summer’s NBA draft, Draymond is shooting just 32.6% from the field this season, and only 21.1% from three. The field goal percentage for Green is last in the NBA this season for players who have played at least 850 minutes this year. Needless to say, most people overlook a guy who shoots this poorly from the field in their rookie season. But there’s something different about Draymond Green. His effort on the floor, energy off the bench, and commitment to getting better makes Draymond Green special. He has a bright career ahead of him, he just needs to find his way in the league.

Work Ethic:

Some players have a very smooth transition into new circumstances. Kenneth Faried and Chandler Parsons last season and Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond this season just seemed to understand their role in the NBA immediately. They jumped into their specific job on their team like they had been doing it for a dozen years. Other players (like Green) don’t adjust as immediately well into new situations, but that’s okay. Even at Michigan State, it took some time for Draymond Green to adjust to Izzo’s system. As a freshman, Green played just 11.4 minutes a game and scored a measly 3.3 points per game with 3.3 rebounds a game this season (eerily similar to his 14.4 MPG with 3.2 PPG and 3.6 RPG in the NBA this season). In the years following his freshman season, he grew as a scorer, a rebounder, and as an outside shooter every season. By the time Green was a senior, he scored 16.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG, and was voted in as a first-team consensus NCAA All-American and the NABC player of the year. Let’s get back to the three-point shooting aspect, though. As a freshman and sophomore, Draymond Green made two three-pointers in both seasons combined. In his final two seasons? Green made 89 threes. So he’s shown that he can work hard and improve his game.

He’s shown that practice has paid off in other facets of his game, too. Just look at his performance from the free-throw line. Here are his free throw percentages in his four seasons at Michigan State: 61.5%, 67.2%, 68.3%, and 72.3%. Improvement every year. You know what Draymond is shooting from the free-throw stripe this season with the Warriors? 85.1%. It’s subtle, but the subtle things like this are sometimes the best indicators of a player’s determination to improve and strive to be the best that he can be. When discussing Draymond Green’s work ethic and continuous growth, his MSU head coach Tom Izzo said, “Draymond embodies everything that is right about a college basketball player… …He’s done what few can do and that’s get better each and every year… …He’s worked hard on improving his decision making, his body and his versatile skill set.” Izzo also went on to compare Green’s work ethic and winning attitude to that of Michigan State legends Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves. It’s pretty high praise for a guy with as much of a legacy as Tom Izzo has.

It’s that kind of work ethic that leads to players improving in the NBA. Even within this season, Draymond Green has improved. His field goal percentage reached 47% in January, improving from the two prior months where he shot horridly. His rebounding has improved as well, as it was up to 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes in February, a very impressive mark by someone who’s logging the majority of his minutes playing at the small forward.

Energy off the Bench:

Draymond Green has been a defensive factor coming off the bench this season. His length poses problems to many taller players that he has to play defense against on the floor. He has a knack for getting in the passing lane and forcing turnovers. He and Stephen Curry are the only qualified players on the Warriors that record a steal on at least 2% of their defensive possessions, and Curry has an advantage in that category by being able to play on the point guard, the predominant ball handler on every team in the league except the Heat. (Lebron just breaks every trend.) Let’s examine an example. Like always, you can click on the images to zoom closer.

Screenshot (14) copy   Screenshot (15) copy

This is from a game in November when the Warriors played in Dallas against the Mavs. On the left, you can see Darren Collison is trying to hit Bernard James, the back-up center for the Mavericks on a backdoor cut to the basket. The pass attempt coming up is shown in dotted green while James’ cut to the basket is shown in red. Draymond Green, whose man is Troy Murphy in the corner (can you believe that it was this season that he was on the Mavericks?), recognizes that a pass from Collison to Murphy from the position that he’s in would be nearly impossible so he cheats down and helps on Bernard James. With excellent play recognition, Draymond Green, circled in pink is able to beat James to the ball, get into the passing lane, and force the turnover.

His energy helps the team in other areas too. He’s a solid rebounder for a small forward, and as I mentioned earlier in the article, is grabbing 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes in the last month. His tenacious rebounding can be seen in this example here.

Screenshot (16) copy  Screenshot (17) copy

As you can tell based on the freeze frame to the left, this is a Harrison Barnes free throw attempt in the final minute of a close game about a week and a half ago against the Timberwolves. The ball is circled in yellow and Draymond Green is circled in the color that fits his last name. You can see that Derrick Williams appears to have good position boxing out on Green. Barnes missed the free-throw, and Green made a strong move to the basket to get the upper-hand in rebounding position on Derrick Williams. Williams tried to draw a foul and pretty blatantly flopped on the play, if you’re wondering why he’s sprawling on his back 5 feet behind the baseline in the second photo. Luke Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko were the only ones left to grab the rebound for the Timberwolves. Green just out jumps them and snags the ball. He took the ball out and passed it to Kent Bazemore, who took a foul and made free throws to ice the game.

Coaching Belief:

You’re probably wondering why Draymond Green is even in the game in that situation. Why would Mark Jackson have a 33% shooting first-year player in the game with the game on the line? Mark Jackson is not a dumb man, and he understands that shooting percentages aren’t a tell-all statistic. He still uses the rookie for the reasons mentioned in the article. He is a great young defender and attacks the glass well. If his veterans are out there, playing lackadaisically and seem out of it, it helps to spark a motor within them when they see a young player fight for offensive rebounds or dive for loose balls.

Here’s what Mark Jackson, a retired NBA great in his own right and possibly the leading candidate for NBA coach of the year had to say about Draymond Green, “He’s a leader, and he doesn’t care about tenure. He stepped in here as a leader, and that’s a leader’s mentality… …He’s cooling off opponents’ hottest scorers, keeping a body on them and making it tough on them. He’s rebounding and making plays offensively. He’s giving us a presence by playing with force. The guy is just a tremendous competitor.” Pretty high praise from a man like that. It’s very similar to the praise that Tom Izzo gave to him as a chubby college freshman. He’s a leader and he works hard and he’ll find his way. Coaching belief is one of the most underrated factors in evaluating young players. It helps his morale so much to just know that despite not being able to put the ball in the hoop consistently, his coach still has his back and supports him and still gives him his fair share of minutes for all of the other things that he does that helps the team that doesn’t necessarily show up in the box scores.

Draymond’s shooting percentage is of great concern, but he’s always been someone who works hard and will make proper adjustments to do what it takes to win. It’s not like it’s something that’s impossible to rebound from. Jason Kidd, Mugsy Bogues, Chauncey Billups, and Peja Stojakovic all struggled as rookies, each shooting less than 39% from the field. They all found their way in the league and were able to play and be effective for a long time. There is no doubt in my mind that Draymond Green can do the same.

You can follow Skyler Gilbert on twitter at @SkylerJGilbert. I tweet a lot. I’d also like to thank NBA.com/stats, 82games.com, and basketball-reference.com for their statistics that I used in this article.