Golden State Warriors at Detroit Pistons Q&A: Draymond Green's return home

Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

The Golden State Warriors face the Detroit Pistons today at 4:30 p.m. PST to begin a seven game road trip. For insight on the game and what fans in Michigan make of Warriors rookie Draymond Green's early season success, I contacted Patrick Hayes who writes about the Pistons and has watched Green's development since high school.

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?

PH: Well, assuming that they still ended up with Green in the second round, I'd take Drummond. But Drummond has been phenomenal -- 13 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks per 36 minutes. The motivation issues that dogged him at UConn have been non-existent as a pro. This is nothing against Barnes, who I think is also going to be a good player, but it's fairly easy to find productive wings in the NBA. It's incredibly hard to find game-changing defensive-minded bigs, and Drummond looks like he could be a true difference maker in that respect very soon.


4. Drummond and Greg Monroe - another guy that Warriors fans wanted to draft - haven't played together very often, but I know Pistons fans have called to see that pairing more often. How specifically do you think playing them together more often would help the Pistons and why haven't they been playing together?

PH: The first part of this question is the easiest -- they complement each other about as well as any two big men can. Drummond is deficient offensively, basically limited to moving without the ball, offensive rebounding and finishing up and over people. Monroe is an extremely polished offensive player, particularly adept at passing in the high post, finding cutters, drawing the attention of the defense and creating easy shots for active players like Drummond. Conversely, Monroe is weak defensively. He's only average athletically, he doesn't hold position well and he doesn't block shots. Drummond is already a great shot-blocker, and as he develops with his size and quickness, he should prove to be an excellent post defender and weakside defender. His skillset is the exact thing the Pistons needed next to Monroe.

As for why they haven't played more together, that's anyone's guess. Lawrence Frank hasn't really answered the question (although it has been asked a lot) directly, so we're left with theories -- incumbent starter Jason Maxiell is playing decent and is an expiring deal, so perhaps the Pistons are trying to showcase him for a trade, or perhaps Drummond is simply further along in his development than the Pistons expected (Joe Dumars even suggested after the draft that it could take Drummond 1-2 seasons to be a reliable rotation player) and Frank is hesitant to change his original rotation plans on the fly. No one really knows, so in the meantime, Pistons fans have had to be satisfied with the few minutes here and there that they get to see the future frontcourt together.

5. Although some Warriors fans are looking at this game against the Pistons as one they *should* win, the Pistons - like the Warriors - are about average defensively (not exciting by Pistons' standards but stalwart by Warriors' standards). And despite an 0-8 start to the season, the Pistons have been 6-5 since, holding opponents under 85 points in their wins, and have won five in a row at home. What do you think Warriors fans should worry about most in this matchup?

A couple of things could help swing this the Pistons way. First and foremost, Monroe struggles against the league's biggest, best defensive big men (like Anderson Varejao or the Memphis frontline, for example), but is fantastic against power forwards or lesser centers, so I'm confident he would have a big game if he's primarily defended by either David Lee or Festus Ezeli for any length of time.

And secondly, the Pistons better play of late has coincided with, of all people, Kyle Singler's insertion into the starting lineup in place of Rodney Stuckey. No one would've fancied Singler a shooting guard coming out of college, but he's actually handled the position well. Offensively, he's the floor spacer the Pistons desperately needed in that unit since Stuckey is an awful perimeter shooter, but Singler has also been great finishing at the rim, passing and moving without the ball. Defensively, he struggles to stay in front of players, but he's sneakily athletic and, even though he occasionally gets beat off the dribble, his long arms allow him to recover and contest shots from behind.

Detroit's perimeter defense has improved because Brandon Knight, Singler and Tayshaun Prince are all long-armed defenders who bother jump-shooters. If they have success contesting shots by the Warriors, they should have a shot at winning.

For more of Hayes' thoughts on Green, check out our Q&A from this summer and be sure to follow @Patrick_Hayes on Twitter for his ongoing analysis of the Pistons.

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