Draymond Green has become the face of the NBA’s small-ball craze.
At 6’6″, Green became a vital member of the Golden State Warriors championship team, bringing versatility at power forward and center where he could spread the floor, take big men off the dribble, and find open shooters when defences collapsed on him.
Green was rewarded for his part in the championship, getting a five-year, $US85 million deal from the Warriors — a considerable pay raise from the $US915,000 he made last season.
While Green is not available to teams, he remains perhaps the most coveted type of player in the NBA, according to Grantland’s Zach Lowe. On his podcast “The Lowe Post,” Lowe discussed the small-ball revolution in the NBA and said people around the league talk about Green more than any type of player, even LeBron.
“Literally the player that is most often brought up in conversations I have with GMs and scouts and assistant GMs and other players is Draymond Green,” Lowe said. “Everybody is talking about Draymond Green. I’m sorry I keep mentioning him in columns, but literally, he comes up more than LeBron.”
Washington Wizards forward Jared Dudley, who was Lowe’s guest, said that Green helped demonstrate how useful small-ball can be with his ability to spread the floor, attack defences, and make plays. Dudley said watching Green actually encouraged him to switch to power forward, where he was a useful bench player for the Milwaukee Bucks last season.
Green is the epitome of the NBA’s realisation how devastating small-ball can be. While often, teams will switch a small forward to power forward to space the floor around a center, the Warriors sometimes took Green and used him at center. This lineup was particularly deadly in the NBA Finals.
Dudley explained one of the simple advantages of going small.
“My three-point percentage went up when I went to the four. I mean, you get more wide open shots. Let’s just be honest, bigs are not as smart as wings when it comes to defensively. They’re lazier… they get tired faster. That’s a fact. So, I mean, would you wanna have LeBron guard you, or would you wanna have Kevin Love guard you? Would you wanna have DeMarre Carroll guard you or Paul Millsap guard you?”
As Lowe wrote in May, the NBA isn’t just looking for stretch fours — power forwards who can shoot three-pointers — “playmaking fours” are what everyone desires, and that’s what Green brings to the table. Lowe wrote:
Shooting is nice, but it’s not enough anymore as defences get smarter, faster, and more flexible working within the loosened rules. Spot-up guys have to be able to catch the ball, pump-fake a defender rushing out at them, drive into the lane, and make some sort of play. If they can’t manage that, a possession dies with them.
George Karl, coach of the Sacramento Kings, told Lowe, “In a playoff series, you can figure out shooting. You just cover Kyle Korver. All that cute stuff they ran for him all year long — they only get that once in a while now. The shooters who have playmaking ability — those are the guys that are really kicking arse.”
In the play below, Green and the Warriors’ offence at its deadliest. The Cavaliers are already spread thin sticking to shooters. Stephen Curry is a human magnet. As he comes off the screen, the Cavs flock to him, and he hits Green, who has an open lane. As the defence shifts, Green hits Harrison Barnes for the open corner three-pointer — one of the most efficient shots in basketball.
Other teams would love to replicate this:
As noted, Green’s services earned him $US85 million this summer. While Green is a unique player in the NBA — he’s not only talented, his frame sets him up to play this role as he’s quick enough to stick to guards and strong enough to defend big men.
However, as Lowe notes, this is what every team wants in the NBA. Of course, teams want the next LeBron James or Anthony Davis, but those are once-in-a-generation type of players. Players like Green — smart, versatile, two-way players — are available in the second round, but need to be uncovered first.
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