Connect with us

NBA

Draymond Green Redefines NBA ‘Greatness’

After four years, Draymond Green has redefined what it means to be a “great” player in today’s NBA.

Moke Hamilton

Published

on

Draymond Green may have made some enemies and lost a few friends during these playoffs, but let’s face the facts: the NBA would probably be a better place if more players were like him.

In Green, the league has seen the emergence of a superstar from an unlikely source — a doughy, undersized forward who didn’t become a full-time starter until his junior year in college.

Somewhere between then and now, 34 players were deemed more valuable. He went from playing for a minimum salary and backing up David Lee to earning nearly a maximum salary and being a linchpin on one of the greatest NBA teams in history.

I have no problem admitting when I am wrong. And I was wrong about Green — he’s one of the greatest players I have ever seen.

* * * * * *

What makes pro sports and arguments around them so compelling and so worthwhile is the degree to which subjectivity enters the equation.

What does it truly mean to be “better” than another player? Do we use common statistics? Advanced statistics? Wins? Championship rings?

How easy it is to quantify greatness? Is it quantifiable?

DraymondGreen_InHow much is it worth? How much is 73 wins worth?

After watching Green over the past two years, it has become obvious that he’s worth his weight in gold; there is no way that the Golden State Warriors become champions without him.

One of the greatest things about professional basketball is that, unlike many of the other professional sports that we watch, the degree to which there is position specialization is minimal. In football, a quarterback who can’t run quickly won’t hinder an offense so long as he makes quick decisions and has a capable offensive line. In baseball, a pitcher doesn’t need to be able to hit a lick so long as he can throw a 95 mile per hour fastball. In hockey, soccer and most other team sports, position specialization is key. In pro basketball? Not so much.

In the past, many NBA teams have failed to win big because the approach at the front office level was built on a farce. You can’t outsource hustle. You can’t outsource heart and you can’t outsource work ethic. Any team that is built around a “superstar” who isn’t the first one in the building and the last one to leave is doomed to fail. At least partially, the failure to galvanize and fuel teammates by leading by example can tell the story as to why Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony haven’t been able to get it done.

So as to not go off on a complete tangent, the point in this is simple: Draymond Green has taken the idea of “position-less basketball” to a new stratosphere. He’s a leader in every sense of the word. He doesn’t take shortcuts. He doesn’t give up on any play, and at the end of the day, in an NBA dominated by entourages and fraternizing, Green doesn’t give a damn about your team or friendship. All Draymond cares about is winning, and he’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that his team does.

When Kevin Garnett entered the league back in 1995, the world marveled at the things that the 18-year-old seven-footer was able to do. Garnett had the length of a center, but the nimbleness and vision of a guard. Dirk Nowitzki would eventually prove to have similar DNA before Kevin Durant turned the idea of size limitations on its head. Between these paradigm-shifters were other players who muddied those lines, most notably Lamar Odom. Odom never lived up to this true potential, but his legacy will always be one of a player whose rare combination of versatility and size made him a matchup nightmare.

As the NBA has seen its game revolutionize, position-less basketball has become the norm. Out of necessity, teams employ “stretch fours” and run motion offenses to keep pace with the quicker pace and free-flowing ball movement that has become synonymous with winning.

In the end, in order to succeed in today’s NBA, every team needs front court players who are capable of dominating games in a plethora of ways.

Someway, somehow, each general manager needs to find the basketball equivalent of a unicorn — a player with enough size and strength to guard a center but light-footed enough to stay in front of an opposing guard. The unicorn has to be able to handle the basketball, run the floor, make the right pass and hit the three-point shot. And above all, he has to be willing to adapt his game and his output at a moment’s notice, depending on what the current situation requires.

Most importantly, he has to do so without his ego getting in the way and without allowing the want of personal accolades and flashing lights to blind him to the chase of the team’s goal.

Indeed, every general manager and every franchise is searching for the basketball unicorn.

Only the Golden State Warriors have managed to find him.

* * * * * *

Stephen Curry slowly dribbles the ball up the floor. He stops at the top of the key long enough for Green to get in position to run the team’s well-renowned “1-4” pick-and-roll. When the defender goes under the screen, Curry launches a three-pointer from the parking lot and drills it.

The next time, the defenders decide to stay at home, but Curry’s defender gets hammered by a picture-perfect screen set by the rock solid Green. As Curry makes his beeline to the basket and the defense predictably collapses, Curry finds a wide-open Harrison Barnes in the corner for a three-pointer.

The next time Green and Curry execute their pick-and-roll, the defenders decide to blitz and trap Curry. He easily gets the ball to Green who makes his own beeline to the basket. When the rotation arrives late, Green converts a layup while drawing a foul.

Three different scenarios and three different situations — Green is never out of sorts.

On the defensive side of the basketball, Green — who barely stands at 6’8 — routinely outworks and out-hustles opponents to whom he yields up to six inches in height. At the same time, a part of what makes the Warriors defense nearly impregnable is his ability to switch out on smaller, quicker, opposing offensive players and harass them on the perimeter.

In terms of on-court attributes, it’s difficult to argue that Green has any weakness. Emotionally, perhaps he is unstable. Maybe he complains a bit too much, and his recent altercation with LeBron James will keep him off the court in Game 5. But that type of player will never have trouble finding work in the National Basketball Association. And he will seldom have trouble winning.

After watching Green closely over the past two seasons, he has helped me rethink my definition of a “great” player.

A great player isn’t one who accrues numbers and statistics. In fact, a truly great player may need to find a way to emotionally separate himself from caring about his statistical production altogether.

A great player isn’t one who, as I once thought, needed to be able to score 25 points per night or lead a lottery team to the playoffs.

Instead, a truly great player is one who manages to have a tremendous amount of “game impact.” A great player is one who brings energy and effort every single night and doesn’t allow a lack of touches on the offensive end or his number not being called to impact his work ethic.

DraymondGreenInside1Deflections, box outs, hard picks, “hockey” assists and drawing fouls — these are but a few ways that one can impact a game without their true contribution being reflected in the box score. And if there is one thing we can safely say about Draymond Green, over the course of the past two seasons, he has had as great of a game impact as any other player I’ve ever seen.

You simply can’t put a price on that.

* * * * * *

The Warriors have emerged as one of the all-time great basketball teams. The beauty in their ascent is the cooperative effort that it required. The 73 regular season wins didn’t happen because Stephen Curry scored 50 points per night, and they didn’t occur because Steve Kerr out-coached every single one of his opponents.

Those 73 wins came as a result of camaraderie, interchangeability and an overall lack of concern over who should receive the most credit.

Both figuratively and literally, Draymond Green has been in the center of it all and it’s something that one could only understand if they have had the opportunity to watch him closely.

Fortunately, for me, I have.

Neither in dollars nor in box scores is greatness quantifiable. Draymond Green taught me that, and if you’ve been watching closely, he would have also taught you what it means to be a fearless competitor and a winner in today’s NBA. He may have made a few enemies and lost a few friends, but winning comes at a cost.

Make no mistake about it, in blood, sweat and tears, Green always has and probably always will be willing to pay that price.

And only a great player is willing to do that.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

Is LeBron Enough For Cavs To Get Through The East?

Cleveland’s offense has struggled through the first two games of the playoffs. Can the four-time MVP consistently bail them out? Spencer Davies writes.

Spencer Davies

Published

on

After a less-than-encouraging series opener versus the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James responded emphatically and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a bounce back 100-97 victory to even things up at one game apiece.

Scoring the first 13 points of the game itself, The King was a one-man wrecking crew out of the gate and carried that momentum throughout all four quarters of Game 2. His 46 points were James’ second-highest scoring mark between the regular season and the playoffs. In addition, he shot above 70 percent from the field for the sixth time this year.

The four-time MVP pulled down 12 rebounds total, and but all but one of those boards were defensive—the most he’s had since Saint Patrick’s Day in Chicago a month ago.

What James did was another classic instance where LeBron reminds us that through all the injuries, drama, and on-court issues, whatever team he’s on always has a chance to go all the way. But having said all of that—can the Cavaliers realistically depend on that kind of spectacular effort for the rest of the postseason? It’s a fair question.

Kevin Love is a solid secondary go-to guy, but he’s struggled to find his rhythm in the first two games. He’s done a solid job defensively between both, but he’s getting banged up and is dealing with knocked knees and a reported torn thumb ligament in the same hand he broke earlier in the season.

Love has admitted that he’d like more post touches instead of strictly hanging out on the perimeter, but it’s on him to demand the ball more and he knows it. But finding that flow can be challenging when James has it going and is in all-out attack mode.

Kyle Korver came to the rescue for Cleveland as the only shooter that consistently converted on open looks. Outside of those three, and maybe J.R. Smith, really, there hasn’t been a tangible threat that’s a part of the offense during this series.

We all pondered whether or not the “new guys” would be able to step up when their respective numbers were called. So far, that hasn’t been the case for the most part.

Jordan Clarkson looks rushed with tunnel vision. Rodney Hood has had good body language out there, but seems reluctant to shoot off dribble hand-offs and is second-guessing what he wants to do. The hustle and effort from Larry Nance Jr. is obvious, but he’s also a good bet to get into foul trouble. Plus, he’s had some struggles on an island against Pacer guards.

As for George Hill, the good news is the impact on the floor just based on his mere presence on both ends (game-high +16 on Wednesday), but he hasn’t really done any scoring and fouled out of Game 2.

Maybe these things change on the road, who knows. But those four, the rest of the rotation, absolutely have to step up in order for the Cavaliers to win this series and fend off this hungry Indiana group, which brings us to another point.

Let’s not forget, the offensive issues aren’t simply because of themselves. After all, the Cavs were a team that had little trouble scoring the basketball in the regular season, so give a ton of credit to the Pacers’ scheme and McMillan’s teachings to play hard-nosed.

Unlike many teams in the league, the strategy for them is to pressure the ball and avoid switches as much as possible on screens. The more they go over the pick and stick on their assignments, the better chance they have of forcing a bad shot or a turnover. That’s what happened in Game 1 and in the majority of the second half of Game 2.

Cleveland has also somewhat surprisingly brought the fight on defense as well. In the first two contests of the series, they’ve allowed under 100 points. Lue’s said multiple times that they’re willing to give up the interior buckets in order to secure the outside, and it’s worked. It doesn’t seem smart when there’s a yellow-colored layup line going on at times, but it certainly paid off by only allowing 34 percent of Indiana’s threes to go down.

Still, looking ahead to what the Cavaliers can do in the playoffs as a whole, it doesn’t bode well. They’re not only locked in a tug-of-war with Indiana, but if they get past them, they could have a Toronto Raptors group chomping at the bit for revenge.

If they’re having this much trouble in the first round, what should make us believe they can barrel through the Eastern Conference as they’ve done in the past?

It’s not quite as obvious or as bad as Cleveland’s 2007 version of James and the rest, but it feels eerily similar for as much as he’s put the team on his back so far. The organization better hope improvement comes fast from his supporting cast, or else it could be a longer summer than they’d hoped for.

Continue Reading

NBA

2017-18 NBA Report Card: Third-Year Players

Among the third-year players a few budding superstars have emerged, along with some role players who are helping their teams in the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs.

Mike Yaffe

Published

on

The 2015 NBA Draft has provided the league with a limited quantity of talent so far. After Terry Rozier (at 16th), it’s unlikely that anyone remaining has All-Star potential. Despite the lack of depth, the highest draft slot traded was at number 15, when the Atlanta Hawks moved down to enable the Washington Wizards to select Kelly Oubre Jr.

But placing a definitive “boom” or “bust” label on these athletes might be premature as the rookie contract is standardized at four seasons with an option for a fifth. If their employers are given a fourth year to decide whether a draftee is worth keeping, it seems reasonable to earmark the NBA Juniors’ progress for now and see how they’ve fared after next season’s campaign before making their letter grades official.

The Top Dogs

Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves: Given the dearth of premier choices and their glaring need up front, it’s hard to envision the T-Wolves drafting anyone but KAT if they had to do it again. Although his scoring average is down from last season (21.3 vs. 25.1 PPG), that trend could be explained by the addition of Jimmy Butler and the team’s deliberate pace (24th out of 30 teams).

To his credit, Towns had career highs in three-point percentage (42.1 percent) and free throws (85.8 percent), while finishing second overall in offensive rating (126.7). His continued improvement in these areas could explain why the Timberwolves ended their 14-year playoff drought.

Nikola Jokić, Denver Nuggets: Although he was a 2014 draft pick, Jokić’s NBA debut was delayed due to his last year of commitment to the Adriatic League. His productivity as a rookie was limited by both foul trouble and a logjam at the center position, but he still managed 10.0 PPG.

With Joffrey Lauvergne and Jusuf Nurkic off the depth chart, Jokić became the clear-cut starter this season and rewarded Denver’s confidence by averaging 18.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. And by chipping in 6.1 APG, he provides rare value as a center with triple-double potential.

Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks: Although he has never played a full season since joining the league, Porzingis has provided enough evidence that he can be a force when healthy. Before his junior campaign was derailed, the Latvian was enjoying career highs of 22.7 PPG and 39.5 percent shooting from behind the arc.

Unfortunately, the Knicks haven’t provided much support at point guard to help with Porzingis’ development. Trey Burke looked impressive down the stretch in Zinger’s absence, but that was in a score-first capacity. Meanwhile, both Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay have underwhelmed. On the plus side, Porzingis’ outside ability paired nicely in the frontcourt with Enes Kanter, who prefers to bully his way underneath.

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns: Like Porzingis, Booker’s third year in the NBA was cut short by injuries, but that didn’t stop him from achieving career highs in points (24.9 per game), assists (4.7) and three-pointers (38.3 percent) on an otherwise moribund Suns team. Indeed, cracking the 40-point barrier three times in 54 contests was an achievement in and of itself.

While his short-term prospects would’ve been far better on a team like the Philadelphia Sixers (who might have taken him instead of Jahlil Okafor in a re-draft), Booker can still become a franchise cornerstone for the Suns if they are able to build around a young core that also includes T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson.

Solid Potential

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers: Despite an inconsistent freshman season at Texas, Turner has become a stabilizing influence at center for the Pacers, whose blueprint consists of surrounding a go-to scorer with role players. While he hasn’t shown drastic improvement in any particular area, he has produced double-digit PPG averages all three years as a pro.

Although Turner’s shot-blocking ability fuels his reputation as a defensive maven, the reality is his 104.8 defensive rating (which is just OK) was skewed by his 110.9 d-rating in losses (it was 100.8 in wins). In order to merit consideration for the NBA’s all-defensive team, he will need to bridge the gap in this discrepancy and impact his team’s ability to win more games in the process.

D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets: Following their respective trades, Russell has fared better in the Big Apple than his 2015 lottery counterpart Emmanuel Mudiay, as the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to cut bait to draft Lonzo Ball. While Ball has shown promise as a rookie, the Lakers’ perception of Russell may have been premature, as the former Buckeye has stabilized a Nets backcourt that had been characterized more by athleticism than consistency.

Despite missing a significant stretch of mid-season games, Russell provided similar numbers for Brooklyn to that of his sophomore season; but without a pick until number 29 in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Nets will have to bank on improved production from DLo and his raw teammates to contend for the eight-seed in the East.

Terry Rozier, Boston Celtics: Injuries have paved the way for Rozier to showcase his talent, most recently with a 23-point, 8-assist effort in game two against the Milwaukee Bucks. But Rozier was already making headlines as a fill-in for Kyrie Irving whenever he was injured. Now that the starting point guard reins have been handed to the former mid-round pick, he has become one of the more pleasant surprises of the 2017-18 NBA season.

The biggest impediment to Rozier’s success might be the regression to limited playing time once Irving returns. While the Celtics could “sell high” and trade Rozier on the basis of his recent performances, they may opt to retain him as insurance while he is still cap-friendly.

Best of the Rest

Larry Nance Jr., Cleveland Cavaliers: Following the trade deadline, Nance has provided a spark for a Cavs frontcourt that has been bereft of viable options aside from Kevin Love.

Josh Richardson, Miami HEAT: A jack-of-all-trades at the small forward position, Richardson has evolved into a three-and-D player that has meshed well with the HEAT’s shut-down focus.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Sacramento Kings: Thrust into the starting center role after the trade of DeMarcus Cousins, WCS has provided serviceable (albeit unspectacular) play as the next man up.

Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors: A key contributor for the East’s top seed, Wright was instrumental in the Raptors’ game one victory over the Washington Wizards with 18 points off the bench.

Bobby Portis, Chicago Bulls: The former Razorback has flashed double-double potential, but playing time at his true position (power forward) has been limited by the emergence of rookie Lauri Markkanen.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Looking At The 2018 Draft Class By Tiers

The NBA Draft is a hard thing to predict, especially when it comes to draft order and individual team needs, Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler takes a look at how this draft looks in tiers.

Steve Kyler

Published

on

Looking At The 2018 Draft In Tiers

While Mock Drafts are an easy way to look at how the NBA Draft might play out, what they do no do is give a sense of what a specific player might be as a player at the next level. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how some of the notable NBA draft prospects project.

It’s important to point out that situation and circumstance often impact how a player develops, even more so than almost any other variable.

So while the goal here is to give a sense of how some NBA teams and insiders see a draft prospect’s likely potential, it is by no means meant to suggest that a player can’t break out of his projection and become more or sometimes less than his he was thought to be.

Every draft class has examples of players projected to be one thing that turns out to be something else entirely, so these projections are not meant to be some kind of final empirical judgment or to imply a specific draft position, as each team may value prospects differently.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the 2018 NBA Draft in Tiers.

The Potential Future All-Stars

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona – C – 7’0″ – 245 lbs – 20 yrs
Luka Doncic – Real Madrid – SG – 6’7″ – 218 lbs – 19 yrs
Michael Porter Jr – Missouri – SF/PF – 6’10” – 216 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Stars, But Likely High-Level Starters

Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State – PF – 6’10” – 225 lbs – 19 yrs
Marvin Bagley III – Duke – PF – 6’11” – 220 lbs – 19 yrs
Wendell Carter – Duke – PF – 6’10” – 257 lbs – 19 yrs
Mohamed Bamba – Texas – C – 7’0″ – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Collin Sexton – Alabama – PG – 6’2″ – 184 lbs – 19 yrs
Mikal Bridges – Villanova – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Robert Williams – Texas A&M – C – 6’9″ – 235 lbs – 21 yrs
Miles Bridges – Michigan State – SF/PF – 6’7″ – 230 lbs – 20 yrs
Dzanan Musa – Cedevita – SF – 6′ 9″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky – SG – 6′ 6″ – 181 lbs – 20 yrs
Trae Young – Oklahoma – PG – 6’2″ – 180 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Starters, But Surely Rotation Players

Kevin Knox – Kentucky – SF – 6’9″ – 206 lbs – 19 yrs
Troy Brown – Oregon – SG – 6’6″ – 210 lbs – 19 yrs
Khyri Thomas – Creighton – SG – 6′ 3″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech – SG – 6′ 5″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Rodions Kurucs – FC Barcelona B – SF – 6′ 9″ – 220 lbs – 20 yrs
Aaron Holiday – UCLA – PG – 6′ 1″ – 185 lbs – 22 yrs
Jacob Evans – Cincinnati – SF – 6′ 6″ – 210 lbs – 21 yrs
De’Anthony Melton – USC – PG – 6’4″ – 190 lbs – 20 yrs

The Swing For The Fence Prospects – AKA Boom-Or-Bust

Lonnie Walker – Miami – SG – 6’4″ – 206 lbs – 20 yrs
Mitchell Robinson – Chalmette HS – C – 7′ 0″ – 223 lbs – 20 yrs
Anfernee Simons – IMG Academy – SG – 6′ 5″ – 177 lbs – 19 yrs
Jontay Porter – Missouri – C – 6′ 11″ – 240 lbs – 19 yrs
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State – PG – 6′ 2″ – 185 lbs – 20 yrs
Bruce Brown – Miami – SG – 6’5″ – 191 lbs – 22 yrs
Isaac Bonga – Skyliners (Germany) – SF/SG – 6’9″ – 203 lbs – 19 yrs
Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – SG – 6’5″ – 197 lbs – 20 yrs

Players not listed are simply draft prospects that could be drafted, but don’t project clearly into any of these tiers.

If you are looking for a specific player, check out the Basketball Insiders Top 100 Prospects list, this listing is updated weekly.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, @mike_yaffe, @MattJohnNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The Strictly Speaking Podcast

Advertisement

Trending Now