A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Analyzing why Draymond Green was a draft steal

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Draymond Green has been a significant role player for the Warriors since they got him, many considering him a more valuable player than season than Harrison Barnes, picked 8th to Green’s 35th.

Why is Green succeeding? Here’s how I rate him in my 3 talent categories:

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent

Green’s physical tools coming into the draft were considered a major, potentially career killing weakness. He was a 6’7 power forward-small forward tweener, with a small 8’9 standing reach for a PF, with a more solid 7’1 wingspan because of the thickness of his body. In addition, Green was a mediocre athlete at best, showing not a lot of burst driving to the basket or playing above the rim. While on the perimeter his ballhandling skills were not especially effective.

However, there are two other physical tools areas Green did better in for a power forward. He’s both very thick and strong (albeit was criticized for conditioning in college) and he has strong lateral mobility for a power forward, enough to get by guarding the perimeter in the NBA.

Overall, this is not an impressive physical talent, due to underwhelming athleticism and length leaving too much to make up. A grade like 3 / Weak seems justified in this case. At the time of his draft, some may have gone even lower than that, if obsessed with height over strength.

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent

Green impresses more in this category. His senior year in college he hit 38.8% from 3 on 3.6 attempts, following 36.3% on 2.9 attempts as a junior. He shot a respectable 72% from the FT line as a senior and 69.3% as a junior, backing up talent as a shooter for a 4. Draymond notably was a terrific passer in college, helping him average 3.8 assists as as senior and 4.2 as a junior, in addition to using his body strength and touch to make plays in the post. Most of the time, I give 3 point shooting bigs a high score in this category, even before considering Green did enough in college to consider extra credit for passing skill. If coming out today, grade of 8 / Great or 9 / Elite in this category would be justified based on this skillset.

In the NBA Green started slow as a shooter, hitting 20.9% from 3 his first year, but has jumped to 33.3% as a sophomore on 2.0 attempts a game, including 38.1% after the all-star break this year. For his career he’s hit 71.3% from the FT line and averaged 3.0 assists per 36 minutes, an excellent number for a PF. Green is still improving, but is well on his way to a great outside shooting and passing career for a PF.

Feel for the Game

Surprisingly when I looked at Draymond using my method of grading feel for the game, I came out a little underwhelmed. I use fluidity when a player is driving to the basket or posting up to determine this. I looked at clips of Green both as a Warrior and Spartan and didn’t see more than a decent talent here, despite his results in defense, rebounding, block, steal, assist feeling as if it should come from a high feel player. In fact I sat down to this analysis expecting this to be Green’s strongest category just based on my preconception of him. But I will trust what my system and methodology says and not fall into a confirmation bias trap

To help show how I came to this decent but not great conclusion about his feel for the game, here is Draymond:

Now compare his fluidity, “natural”-ism and craftiness driving or in the post, to these two clips. First, a prospect in this draft I rate as 6 / Decent in feel for the game

Here is a prospect I have rated as an 8 / Great in feel for the game

In my mind Green’s fluidity is closer to McAdoo’s of the two. Green’s game in his clip is a simple and effective, while Randle is able to add more craftiness and moves, due to his feel. My grade for Green in the area is 6 / Decent.

Now to recap here is my 3 grades for Green:

Physical motion/impact (Explosiveness, ballhandling, size, lateral quickness) talent grade: 3 / Weak

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 9 / Great

Feel for the Game talent grade: 6 / Decent

Total talent grade: 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

On my 2014 draft board the players I have rated 18 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade) are rated 21st to 27st, which is higher than the 35th Green got picked, but not way higher. Notably my system rates talent level and does not account for Green’s outstanding non-talent intangibles. It’s conceivable Green could be both outside of the top 20 talents in his draft and have one of the 15 best careers.

Draymond being good isn’t surprising under this analysis, however just  how he’s doing it is. A player with his combination of lack of length but high skill level, should indicate offensive specialist before defensive one. So how the heck did Green end up with this defense vs offense split? Other than Green’s strength, lateral mobility and toughness making its mark, a major reason may be energy. Draymond’s functional role on the Warriors is a defensive role player, which when added to his intangibles, makes him go all out on that end in Marc Jackson’s defense favoring system. The result may be leaving less for the offensive end than he’s capable. In Miami the same may be true of Norris Cole, who’s offensive statistics have long been a trainwreck, but perhaps because of how defense-first his role and energy distribution is. If drafted by other teams Green and Cole may be putting up better shooting numbers, but stand out less as defenders. This also may end up true if they eventually go to a new team. Or for example, Green may end up with a coach like Mike D’Antoni or Steve Kerr who decides to play to a more “fun” running and 3 point shooting friendly style, which could open up his offensive production.

On the whole, I give the Warriors credit for taking Green more than I criticize teams for passing on him, since I doubt I’d have a prospect of his physical tools, perimeter skills and feel for the game in my top 20 if he had come out this draft. It’s a credit to Green’s work ethic and the Warriors coaching staff they are getting so much value out of this pick.



Written by jr.

May 2, 2014 at 1:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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