– Bill Annechino
There are many ways to affect a basketball game. Most notable among these is scoring. But what if you already play on a team with two All-World scorers? What if, and this might be a stretch, you play on a team with two of the greatest scorers who ever lived, and a third player who must be involved in any “greatest shooter ever” discussion? What then? By now, you have probably seen through my rhetorical questions to know that I am talking about someone on the Golden State Warriors, and I am. A player in this situation can, correctly, deduce that their team does not need more scoring. Instead, they need someone to do everything else. Right now, without looking, answer this question: How many players are top-20 in four different statistical categories right now? The answer is one. Nobody does more than Draymond Green and, for that, he is the best player in the NBA.
All stats come courtesy of NBA.com, unless otherwise noted.
Let’s run down the traditional stats first. Draymond Green is eighth in blocks, with 1.8 per game. He is averaging 6.9 assists, good for ninth. He also is pulling down 8.6 boards per game, good for 19th. Green is also second in the league with 2.1 steals per game. He may only be averaging a little more than 10 points per game, but Green is doing more to fill out the stat sheet than any other player right now, and that’s extremely important to Golden State and what they are hoping to accomplish this season. Want some advanced stats? I thought you’d never ask.
The crux of Draymond Green’s game is the defense he provides. He was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year last year, and has made it known that he is gunning for the honor this season. He is making a strong run for it by contesting more shots than anyone else, at 15.1 per game. Of these 15.1 shots, 11 are two-pointers (third in the league) and 4.1 are three-pointers (tied for fourth in the NBA). Three-point shooters are shooting a measly 29.5% with Green guarding them, which is 4.2% worse than these players typically shoot. Two-point shooters fare no better: They’re shooting 42.9% with Draymond on them, 6.6% worse than normal. For reference, two-point shooters are shooting 41.3% with Rudy Gobert and his freak wingspan guarding them.
We can delve even deeper into these player tracking statistics. Within six feet of the hoop, players are shooting 45.5% on Draymond Green, which is 13.3% worse than normal. Within ten feet, that number is 46.2%, or 9% worse than usual. When he steps out to guard shooters that are greater than 15 feet, these players are shooting 31.9%. This number is 4.5% worse than normal. Overall, players are shooting 39.2% with Draymond Green guarding them, which is 6.2% worse than normal. Simply put, he is a one-man wrecking crew.
He hustles all over the floor, too. Remember when I said that he is ninth in the league in assists? He’s averaging 6.9 dimes per game, but I think that number should be even higher. The NBA has a player-tracking statistic called screen assists. In layman’s terms, these are when a player sets a screen for a teammate who makes a basket off the screen. Green is averaging 2.3 of these per game, which would give him 9.1 assists per game on the season. He’s also second in the NBA with 4.1 deflections per game. There is nobody who does more, in every facet of the game, than Draymond Green.
We, as sports fans, debate things like “Who is the best player in (pick a league) right now?” all the time. In the NBA, your average, casual fan probably looks to see who is averaging the most points per game and goes with him. If they know a little more about the league, they might look at who the reigning MVP is and pick him if he is having a decent season. To me, answering “who is the best player in the NBA?” by picking the guy who is scoring the most points is a little like saying the hitter with the most home runs is the best player in baseball. Yes, scoring is a very important part of basketball, but it is far from the only part of the game. As I said before, the Golden State Warriors don’t need another scorer with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on their team. What they needed was a guy who could do everything else and what they have in Draymond Green is someone who can do literally everything else. Green is no slouch in scoring (remember Game 7 of last year’s finals?), and is more than capable of carrying the Warriors for stretches of time. If intangibles and clichés are more of your thing, he is the heart and soul of the best team in basketball. If you want to take a more nuanced approach to the “best player in the NBA”, then Draymond Green is your man because no one is as good at so many different parts of being a basketball player as he is.
– Bill Annechino (@BillAnnechino)