Draymond Green is not the best player in the league and despite finishing seventh last season he is not going to win the MVP award. As a matter of fact, based on the recent NBA MVP ladder he's not even being considered. But that doesn't mean he isn't the most valuable player for the Warriors.
Here are the reasons Draymond Green is, in my mind, the MVP of Golden State.
1) He defends everyone
I have said it once before and I will say it again: Draymond Green is not a system player. He is the system.
I could write about Greens' defense for days, but everything I could say has already been covered by basketball minds far greater than my own, so I'll try to keep this short.
First of all, every single statistic, advanced or otherwise, supports the idea that Green is an elite defender in this league. Let’s take a look at his defensive field goal percentage (DFG%) from last year in comparison to other players who are commonly accepted as being high caliber defenders.
This list contains some of the most prolific defenders in the NBA, and not only did Green hold opponents to a lower three point percentage but he also held them to a lower percentage near the rim (within 6ft).
Now let's look at the same numbers from this year. You will notice I added a couple of extra players.
Note: these statistics were accurate at the time of writing (12/12/16).
I feel the need to state the obvious here. All of these players I am comparing Green to play a variety of different positions and they play under completely different defensive schemes. Green isn't quite the rim protector Rudy Gobert is, and I still personally believe that Avery Bradley is the best man to man defender in the league.
What these stats do highlight, however, is Green is the most consistently versatile defender in the league (as if we didn't already know).
On one play he could be guarding a top ten guard out on the perimeter and on the next protecting the rim from one of the best centers in the league. Sometimes he does both - and more - in the same possession.
Green might not be the best perimeter defender and he's certainly not the best rim protector. But he's one of the best at both and that versatility not only makes him the best overall defender in the league in my opinion but also the most valuable defender in the league. Green is legitimately comfortable at guarding any position and that leads us onto the next point.
I stated previously that Draymond Green is not a system player, he is the system. What I mean by this is when you look at what Golden State does defensively it simply wouldn't be possible to execute it at the level they do without Green.
The Warriors’ tendency to "switch everything" wouldn't be anywhere near as effective without Green. He is the fulcrum of the Warriors defense. His ability to switch onto literally anyone defensively allows the Warriors to play the way that they do.
It's something the Milwaukee Bucks have previously tried to replicate with Khris Middleton with limited success. Normally when you run a basic pick and roll with your point guard and center it creates a mismatch. But when your center is Draymond Green this is no longer the case; you can safely switch defensively when defending the pick and roll, allowing Green to pick up the opposing teams point guard.
It seems small but it's a luxury that very few teams have had. And when I say it's a luxury very few teams have had, I don't mean recently; I mean ever. On top of all this there is no way that the Warriors renowned "death lineup" would be possible without Draymond Green.
I once made the case for Green to win defensive player of the year for the 2014-15 season. It's hard to argue with Kawhi Leonard winning it, but I genuinely felt that Green deserved it more. That being said he might have more luck now. We're nearly a third of the way through the season and it looks like it’s his to lose. Not only do the statistics back him up, but the casual fan is already salivating at the highlight reel whether it's clutch steals to win the game or just a flurry of blocks.
2) He makes everybody look good
A rarity for power forwards or front court players in general, Green is an exceptional passer. Again this is backed up by the numbers.
Last season Draymond Green and LeBron James were the only two front court players in the top 10 for Points created by assists (per game)The only other front court players inside the top thirty were Nicolas Batum (20th), Blake Griffin (29th) and Kevin Durant (30th).
This season Draymond Green is currently ranked 8th in that same category and is also 8th in secondary assists (the pass to the player who makes the assist), while also sitting sixth in assist to turnover ratio. The problem here is that assist to turnover ratio doesn't differentiate between turnovers from bad passes and other types of turnovers.
So it isn't a fair reflection of a players efficiency as a passer. To gain a better understanding I have examined the raw numbers for turnovers and recalculated the ratio myself when only bad passes are accounted for.
For this I simply took the top ten players in (total) assists this season and used their turnovers (from passes) to calculate the ratio, which I will refer to as AST:PTO for now.
As the chart clearly shows, Chris Paul is by far the most efficient player of the pack when it comes to AST:PTO. Second to that is Draymond Green.
Some fans like to simplify matters by claiming Green only gets the number of assists he does because of who he is passing to. Granted, he is passing to the splash brothers and Kevin Durant. However, to give them all of the credit is severely underrating what Green does. Sure a lot of his assists are simple passes to open shooters, but he can also make passes of a very high degree of difficulty.
Another area where Green receives very little recognition is his ability to set great screens. This isn't something you will see in box scores or highlight reels; for most fans it's trivial or even worthless. Let's face it, would you rather watch highlights of Deandre Jordan spiking the ball into the stands as he tallies another block or Draymond Green setting screens?
Despite the lack of interest, I would personally argue that a lot of these screens are just as valuable as an assist. Many of them lead directly to a made shot. In fact, according to Stats.NBA.com 58 of Greens’ screens this season have lead directly to a made basket.
As a team the Warriors are second in the league for points per possession coming off a screen. It's a large part of their offense and Green is integral to it. His timing and ability to anticipate his teammates movements is second to none.
Between his passing ability and screening there's absolutely no denying Greens’ value to the Warriors’ offense. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are so dangerous off the ball and having a "big man" who can facilitate for them and help spring them open for easy shots allows the offense to flourish.
There are a handful of players in the NBA who can make average teammates look good. There are even fewer that can make MVPs look greater than they already are.
3) He's a master of Kung Fu
We've seen the images on social media, the replays on sports talk shows. Draymond Green enjoys kicking people. He can strike you with a swiftness that would make Chuck Norris blush. He is a bonafide tough guy. In fact I heard that Giraffes used to have necks the same size as deer until one day Draymond Green kicked them in the chin.
I jest. But seriously, I will never condone those incidents. I'm not going to debate whether the kicking is intentional or not, and I don't know enough about the physics behind it to discuss whether or not it's a natural movement. What I do know is this: Green is all heart and hustle.
In the film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, Bruce Lee's master tells him that "Kung Fu is more than a system of fighting. It's a system of thought."
Whether it's trash talking his way into opponents heads or simply out hustling everyone else on the floor, Draymond Green brings a ride-or-die attitude to this Warriors squad. He respects his opponents, he's probably friends with a lot of them, but between those lines he's out to destroy you.
Very few All Stars are willing to do the dirty work like Green is. Statistically this season Green ranks number one in deflections, second in contested shots and second in loose balls recovered. He also leads the Warriors team in rebounding.
If you as a reader only took away one thing from this article I would want it to be an understanding that Draymond Green simply does not quit. When all the other Warriors are tired or disheartened, standing around aimlessly on defense and forgetting to box out, he's there putting 100% effort into every single possession.
He's the same height as Shaun Livingston, the Warriors backup point guard, and he's consistently matched up against seven foot tall centers who he's managing to successfully defend and out-rebound. He truly is the heart of this team.
The Warriors lost the finals in part due to Draymond Greens’ suspension. At the same time. he showed up in game seven and played his heart out. He actually had one of the greatest game sevens in recent history with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists. Unfortunately it wasn't enough and LeBron’s performance throughout the finals outshined everyone.
If Curry wasn't on the team Durant is there to handle the scoring bulk. And if Durant wasn't on the team Curry would take on those duties and have yet another MVP caliber season just like he did before Durant got here.
The difference between having Green on this team and not is glaringly obvious. He's probably the third or fourth best player on his own team. And yet the Warriors would just not be the same without him. Would they be a contender? Sure. Too much talent not to be. But would their defense still rank within the top 7 in the league like it does now? Would their offense be as potent without his deflections, blocks and steals igniting those fast breaks that electrify the crowd? Or without his screening and passing ability?
If you believe even for a second that Draymond Green might be the most valuable player to the Warriors overall success then you have to consider the possibility that being the most valuable player on the best team in the league sort of makes you the most valuable player in the league. Doesn't it?
As Draymond said himself: Maybe I'm wrong. But if I'm not mistaken, I'm right.