Draymond Green's ball handling and passing abilities were a huge asset to the Michigan State Spartans over the last four years and that skill could help him find a niche for himself in the NBA as well. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.
But when Patrick Hayes of BallinMichigan.com contacted me for initial impressions of Green in summer league, I figured it was as good an opportunity as any to get some insight from someone who has watched his college career closely on his development over the years and what he might expect from Green at the next level.
As I said, I'll have more on Green soon from summer league, but Hayes brings a different sort of perspective from the other people we've seen Q&A's from here in that he has watched Green since high school; even if you feel his thoughts reinforce what college statistics or summer league already told you, it's always nice to have the perspective of someone who has watched him closely over an even longer period of time.
GSoM: First, based on what you know about the Warriors, what was your reaction when they selected Green?
Patrick Hayes: Well, like everyone, I was a huge fan of the 'We Believe!' Warriors, but I've always had a fondness for the franchise - they drafted Chris Webber, a Detroit native; they drafted Latrell Sprewell, who was actually cut by his high school coach in Flint, Mich., before his family moved to Milwaukee; they drafted Saginaw native Jason Richardson; and now they add Green, another Saginaw native, to that mix. Actually, another Saginaw guy, Dar Tucker, was also on the Warriors summer league roster this summer, although I don't believe he saw any game action.* The Warriors have a bit of a following in Michigan because a handful of our local stars have made their way out there.
I was excited to see Green land with the Warriors. I was certainly hoping he'd work his way into the first round and I also thought pre-draft that his skillset would be better utilized on a team closer to contention than the W's appear to be, but I'm sure Green will find a niche and I'm positive both Mark Jackson and the fans will love him.
GSoM: Full disclosure: I'm a Bay Area native but also a Michigan alum. So I've spent most of the last four years rooting against Green - and he had 16 boards in his final game against Michigan - but it's hard not to appreciate the guy. For those that are die hard Michigan fans or haven't watched much of Green (i.e. west coast basketball fans that don't pay for the Big Ten Network), what do you think we'll come to appreciate most about him at the pro level?
P.H.: I'll admit my full bias here as well -- I've covered Green since he was in high school, watched him lead his HS team to two state titles, watched him head to Michigan State as a player who most thought would be a contributor at that level but certainly never a star and watched him blossom into one of the most unique, productive players in college basketball.
I'll give you both a tangible and an intangible thing fans will love. First, he's a fantastic rebounder. His athleticism is average, but he's a quick jumper, he seems to instinctively know where the ball is coming off the rim and he uses his body and long arms to create space and snare a huge percentage of rebounds when he's on the court.
Intangibly, he's one of the most driven, hardest working players I've ever followed. At MSU, he lost a lot of weight, he re-invented himself by adding a significant perimeter game and he became a star largely on the strength of how much he loves the game and how hard he worked to give himself the opportunity to play professionally. He'll continue to do that as a NBA player and Golden State fans will really enjoy that.
GSoM: The Warriors actually offer a pretty good opportunity for a power forward to make the roster because they are terribly shallow in the post. But one concern about Green is that dreaded "tweener" tag: possibly too slow to play small forward in the NBA and too small to play the power forward position. From your time following his development, what are your impressions of what Green is capable of defensively?
P.H.: He's not going to guard LeBron James or Kevin Durant on the perimeter effectively, but I suspect the Warriors will get productive minutes from him at both forward spots. He doesn't have great lateral quickness to guard the fastest perimeter guys, but his wingspan will allow him to sag off defenders some and still recover to contest jumpers. He's a smart defender who Tom Izzo often compared to Shane Battier as a player who could see two or three moves ahead, beat guys to spots despite not being as quick as them and pick up some charges that way.
As a four, again, he's not going to guard the most elite players defensively at that position, but he's strong enough to not give up position, smart enough to draw some charge calls and he has really quick hands - look for him to strip the ball from guys on the way up fairly often in post-up situations.
GSoM: People sometimes see four year guys as having limited "upside". But having watched Green over the years, what major improvements would you say he has made and what might he be most likely to continue to improving upon at the next level?
P.H. Really, he improved everything. He came to MSU as a pudgy backup power forward who was an effective passer and rebounder. By the time he left, he was a nearly 40 percent 3-point shooter, Michigan State's offense ran through him (he was a far superior better passer than any guard on the roster the last three seasons) and, as I said above, he lost a lot of weight, took his diet seriously and completely remade his body by the time he left school. I wouldn't say that Green is going to develop into a star or anything, but he also hasn't shown that he's plateaued as a player yet either.