When a title reads something as generic as "season review" or "what does Player X need to improve on to take the next step?", I immediately draw back into my memory banks, reflexively trying to coax out the iconic moments of that player's season, and career. For Draymond Green, nothing flashy comes to mind because, well, he's the most generically invented cliche character ever. If Seth Rogen plays the same bro-stoned-underachiever dude in every movie, Green functions as the same defensively gifted, active hands, and ubiquitously limb-built machine in every game.
One could argue Green's most memorable play was his forced steal against Chris Paull in Game 1 at Los Angeles. A highlight marked by subtle footwork along with Green's smart realization that a double to keep the ball away from Paul would be the correct play under all circumstances? So Draymond Green. The encapsulation of that play also spoke great volumes about the Golden State Warriors season as a whole.
David Lee was awful in the playoff series, repeatedly torched on defense and fumbling passes and shots away on offense like a nervous eighth grader at his first basketball tryout. That opened the door to Green's insertion into the starting lineup, a decision that should have been made some 50 games before that. Green battled Blake Griffin to a draw during the crucial middle portion of the series and was the second-best player on the floor in the decisive Game 7. That is Draymond Green, not the organization's golden boy Klay Thompson (forever salty about the Kevin Love situation, I am).
Between his rookie and sophomore season, his minutes jumped from 13.4 to 21.9 minutes per game. Every other peripheral statistic improved but it's improvement from his three-point shooting that will earn him the most money, on and off the court. The herky-jerky slow release jumped from 20.9 percent in his first season to 33.3 percent in his second. This isn't to mention that Green is the second-best, in my opinion, perimeter defender on the team behind Andre Iguodala. He certainly qualifies as the most versatile, able to memorably take on Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki on any given play. Wait, that's probably his most impressive, recognizable play, no?
What makes Green most valuable is his ability to defend stronger wing players. For what Iguodala and Thompson brought them on the defensive end, they couldn't body up against the more agile and stronger forwards. The Blake Griffins, Kevin Loves and even Tim Duncans were left for Green. Perhaps the most fascinating subplot of the Clippers-Warriors playoff series was Griffin repeatedly trying his rip-through move with zero success. The man has super-glued hockey gloves for hands.
But we're not doing the 2013-14 Warriors-related narrative work justice without mentioning Mark Jackson's role in all this. Green has remarked on several different occasions that he loves the ex-Warriors coach. It's amusing to me that the coach he so loves refused to use him in his best role, subsequently driving his price as a restricted free agent lower than it should be. 21.9 minutes per game is low, but the negligent use of Green as a power forward was embarrassing from a strategic standpoint. With David Lee's offseason showing he's ready to show off a new three-point shot (don't all laugh at once!) and the Warriors perpetual love-fest for their bazillion dollar starting power forward, it should be interesting to see how Kerr starts off with his most fluid defender.
There are flaws in Green's game. After a rookie season where he shot over 80 percent from the line, he mysteriously struggled to Iguodala-esque levels. His high-energy level of play does tend to lead to quick fouls and turnovers. And for all the improvements as a shooter, the Clippers still let him bomb away from midrange and he wasn't as comfortable with his Lee impression. But we're willing to gloss over those blemishes if the Warriors front office doesn't seem to mind that Thompson can't pass or dribble.
Andre Iguodala has been a staunch supporter that Klay Thompson should remain with the team, even going as far to name him as the best shooting guard in the entire league. That's likely just teammate-love echoing from all chambers but there's some truth to how Iguodala feels. With Thompson in the fold, he doesn't bear the sole responsibility in guarding jitterbug point guards. While Iguodala's awareness and footwork are all still sublime, he's in his 30s and battled injuries throughout last season. Think of it this way: the "If we trade Klay, our defense will stink" lame excuse works because consensus remains that someone has to protect Stephen Curry on defense and no one is better than that than Thompson. Now think of that ostensible versatility, however truthful, in that statement, and multiply it by two. That's how good Draymond Green can be on defense. He's not Iguodala on that end of the court and doesn't possess Thompson's now-overrated credentials on that end, but in a vacuum? Green is probably more valuable to this team on that end than the likely max contract shooting guard. And as for Iguodala's tweets? Green might become the league's best power forward by the end of next season.