While fans in Michigan have reason to be excited about the prospect of their Detroit Pistons winning a sixth straight home game after a brutal start to the season, there has also been a bit of a buzz about the return home of Saginaw native Michigan State alumnus Draymond Green.
As described by David Mayo of Michigan Live, despite being "...one of the most competent basketball players in Michigan State basketball history" Green's prospects for pro success were questioned by everyone. Nevertheless, it's almost difficult to be surprised at his early success - as Mayo writes, "I believe overachievers overachieve".
With Green making his first trip back to his home state with the Golden State Warriors as they face the Detroit Pistons I contacted Patrick Hayes, a writer for PistonPowered.com and BallinMichigan.com, for insight on the player he's watched since high school and a Pistons team that has found a way to string together wins at home lately after an 0-8 start to the season.
Q&A with Patrick Hayes
1. As a Michigan alum, I have to say 10 Hail to the Victors before writing this ... but I'm starting to feel like I missed out having rooted against Draymond Green for the last four years - I'd say he's off to a great start to his NBA career. How much have you seen of him with the Warriors this year and what are your impressions thus far?
Patrick Hayes: You wouldn't be the first UM fan to secretly enjoy the way Green plays. It's absolutely impossible not to respect his basketball IQ, his toughness, his work ethic and the infectious way he plays the game. I'm friends with several Michigan fans who, begrudgingly, were Green fans despite his playing for MSU. Now that he's in the NBA, they feel much less guilty about rooting for him.
The Warriors have always actually been one of my favorite League Pass teams even before Green was in the mix, so now that they have him, I watch whenever I can. I thoroughly enjoyed his simultaneous first basket/first technical, just because he was known for shouting like that after made baskets throughout his college career and I can only remember him getting a taunting technical for it once or twice at MSU. Overall, I'm just impressed that he's found his way into a regular rotation spot this soon (although Brandon Rush's unfortunate injury certainly helped).
I don't expect that Green will turn into a NBA star. He might not even be a starter. But as the Warriors are finding out, used in in the right situations, he will consistently make good, smart plays that contribute to a team winning, whether that's hitting a timely 3-pointer, taking a charge or making great passes to set up shots for teammates. The thing I've been least surprised about is his rebounding. He's grabbing eight boards per 36 minutes, and I actually think that number will go up. All of the things that made him a great college rebounder -- positioning, strength, instincts and footwork -- will make him a great NBA rebounder.
2. In our offseason Q&A about Green shortly after summer league, you mentioned that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo compared him to Shane Battier and we're starting to see a bit of that - he's obviously a smart player and has been in at the end of quarters/games as part of our defensive unit, which is extremely impressive given that the rap was that he might not be able to defend at the pro level. Even as a MSU fan, does his transition as a NBA defender surprise you or is this moreso the byproduct of him being on a team that has been historically terrible defensively?
PH: I thought it would take him longer to adjust to the speed of NBA wings, but I'm not surprised that he's been sound defensively so far. Even Battier is not the quickest or most athletic guy (though he is smaller than Green, so that helps). He's defended well throughout his career because he's intelligent, he understands defensive concepts and he's able to anticipate where offensive players are going sometimes even before they know where they are going. Green has all of those same characteristics.
One of the things that is irritating about some who evaluate NBA prospects is their seeming disregard of intelligence. Athleticism, size, etc. are all important qualities -- I'm certainly not saying any schlub with a high IQ can make it in the NBA. But time and time again it has been proven that there is a needed supply of smart players to fill specific roles in this league. Green has always been in that mold and I never bought that he was going to be a defensive liability simply because he doesn't look like a prototypical NBA three or four. He's never going to be a dominant player at each position, but he's also smart enough to figure out how to accentuate his positive attributes at either position. And to his credit, Mark Jackson seems to be doing a great job of finding minutes to develop not only Green, but all three of his rookies while also winning games, something I wish the Pistons would take a lesson from.
3. Sticking with rookies, Andre Drummond has shown quite a few flashes of potential this year. There was obviously talk - and debate among Warriors fans - about him being drafted by the Warriors at #7 instead of Harrison Barnes, with the team's brass going to see the two in a private workout on the day before the draft. Put yourself in the Warriors' GM position for a moment: if you could go back to draft day with what you've seen now and were confronted with the decision to draft Barnes or Drummond, who would you take?
(H/T Pistons Powered)