Draymond Green. What do you do with him? What do you make of him? Though his muscular 6-foot-7 frame doesn’t fit in a box, he is the Christmas present that arrived long after the holidays, the Warriors’ second-round draft choice in 2012, the coup that keeps on giving.
Is he a small forward? No.
Is he a guard? No.
Is he a power forward? Not really.
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Yet in an industry gradually abandoning its obsession with size, youth and position, Green flouts convention and serves as unofficial spokesman for the anti-lottery movement. The Warriors have been masters of the NBA draft since selecting Steph Curry in 2009, but Green was still sitting there, fuming, furious, when he finally heard his name called with the 35th overall pick.
“I was pissed,” he said. “I won’t lie. But when I look at it now, I wouldn’t change anything. And, no, I would not have told you that on draft night. I realized later that I fell into a great situation.”
No kidding. Green didn’t go down quietly, though. He didn’t go down, period. As the Warriors attempt to clinch their semifinals series Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Saginaw, Mich., native is a powerful presence on a team that won a franchise-best 67 games during the regular season, led the league in the significant defensive categories and finished second in offensive efficiency, all while proving that being tough doesn’t require winning ugly.
35 Pick Warriors used to select Draymond Green in the 2012 draft
As the starting power forward, Green is their true grit, the bones of the foundation. Think Glen Campbell in shorts and sneakers. Curry is the league’s MVP. Klay Thompson gets the girl. Andrew Bogut limps along, valiantly anchoring the middle. Harrison Barnes is shedding his reputation as an erratic, confounding talent. The bench is deep, versatile and committed. And the head coach, Steve Kerr, is a cerebral poacher of the highest order. He routinely admits to stealing tactics from mentors Lenny Wilkens, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich and leaning heavily on experienced assistants Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams.
Kerr inserted Green into the starting lineup only because veteran David Lee missed the first third of the season with a hamstring strain. But once the undersized, 230-pound Green began hearing his name during pregame introductions, he became a fixture. True to his Michigan State roots, it would have taken a tractor to yank him back to the bench.
He often handles the ball on fast breaks, whips baseball passes ahead for layups, hits teammates on backdoor cuts and throws textbook alley-oops to the 7-foot Bogut, as he did in Wednesday’s victory over the Grizzlies. His improving three-point proficiency also gives Curry, Thompson and Barnes more space and helps keep the Warriors’ free-flowing system humming.
Defensively, he is an absolute nightmare for guards, forwards and centers alike. Having shed approximately 20 pounds and reduced his body fat below double digits after his rookie season, Green is part bookworm, part video freak. He studies tendencies, works the angles and benefits from instinct, anticipation and enhanced lower body strength.
Just ask him. He’ll talk all about it. Three years into his career, he trash-talks at an All-Star level. And one topic that gets him going? That 2012 draft.
Lottery picks that year included Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dion Waiters, Meyers Leonard, Jeremy Lamb, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Thomas Robinson (the Kings’ gaffe at No. 5), Barnes at No. 7. And Warriors backup center Festus Ezeli closed out the first round at No. 30.
In an era of analytics, exhaustive scouting and enough psychological testing to keep shrinks on alert 24/7, how could so many teams whiff on Green?
Some of it was his conditioning; he describes himself as “chunky” during college. Part of it was timing. The league was on the cusp of its shift toward multi-positional players when he completed his degree; his height, weight, quickness and vertical leap were underwhelming. There also is an inherent skepticism within the league toward players who remain in school for four years, the theory being that if they are talented enough for the NBA, they would have declared for the draft after one or two seasons.
“We’re so concerned about missing the next big thing that sometimes in the process we miss on guys,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. “The lottery is primarily all about young players. Look at the lottery projections this year. I can’t think of a four-year guy. Yet Jimmy Butler is a four-year (college) player, David Lee is a four-year player, Jae Crowder is doing very well for himself, and then look at Green.”
There are no regrets. He joined a team that has sprinted into championship contention with a huge boost from the draft. Curry in 2009. Thompson in 2011. Barnes, Ezeli and Green in 2012. Along with the addition of veteran swingman Andre Iguodala via sign/trade, principal owner Joe Lacob bolstered the roster with three controversial moves: the trade of Monta Ellis for Bogut, the firing of head coach Mark Jackson after a 51-win season, and the hiring of the unproven but so far wildly successful Steve Kerr.
“I talk to (general manager) Bob (Myers) sometimes about it, because he’s a great person, and someday I might want to go into the (agent) business,” Green said. “I’m in the right place. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Coming up big
Draymond Green’s regular-season averages
- Points: 11.7
- Rebounds: 8.2
- Assists: 3.7
- Steals: 1.6
- Blocks: 1.3
Golden State at Memphis
- Time: 6:30 p.m.
- TV: ESPN
- Series: Warriors lead 3-2