The phrase most people use to describe Draymond Green is “the ultimate glue guy.” Would you call him a superstar? There are arguments to be made that he is just as important to the Warriors on defense as Stephen Curry is to the team on offense, and he’s contributing an enormous amount on offense as well. Green is currently one of leading vote-getters for the All-Star game among forwards. Everything he’s done for Golden State has helped make them into the historically great team they are today, and he’s done it with his incredible versatility. So why is he generally thought of as a super glue guy, instead of a superstar?
Sporting averages of 15 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game, with an absurd 57 true shooting percentage, Green is having another breakout season. The points and rebounds are one thing, but passing is where Green has truly shone brightest, on his way to a league-leading eight triple doubles. Big men aren’t supposed to pass the way he can, and it’s this versatility that has helped cement his status as one of the most important players in the league. There isn’t another big man in the NBA, except maybe LeBron James, that can dribble the ball up court, call the play, and then run it as if he were a point guard. Mentioning him in the same sentence as LeBron should be an indicator of how good Green is. This play-making wrinkle to his game is so difficult for defenses to defend, because they just aren’t used to seeing it. It also forces defenses to chase Curry and Klay Thompson through screens all night. Yet, as versatile and impactful as Green is on offense, he’s probably even better on defense.
Golden State’s elite defense would not exist if it wasn’t for Green, at least not in the form we know it today. He’s on anchor both on perimeter and at the rim, unafraid to go up against the likes of LeBron and Anthony Davis. He once again shows versatility when he switches easily to whatever position he happens to be guarding, and that interchangeability makes everything Golden State does click. The Warriors give up a team-high 107.9 points per 100 possessions when Green is off the floor, but that drops to 95.3 per 100 when he’s on the court with only Curry’s 95.1 per 100 being lower. He does this by fitting into the broader category of “big” rather than merely a center or power forward. Green can play either the four or five spot, while at the same time switching on to guards in the pick-and-roll. Getting a switch on most bigs is a success for the offense, but when going up against Green it’s not that much of an advantage and in some cases a disadvantage.
Steph Curry will always be the Warriors’ best player but Green might be the most important. It is not simply what he does, but what his skills allow the team to do. His playmaking frees Curry and Thompson and allows the entire system to focus on fluidity and movement. His defensive versatility is what unlocks their versatile lineups, the ones no one has really had an answer for the past two seasons. If Curry’s ability to bend an entire defense is what makes Golden State’s offense work, then Green’s ability to bend matchups and mismatches is what makes the defense hum. Through this they’ve become one of the most dangerous combos in the NBA. Recognition is coming. Green is mentioned as an MVP candidate and will almost certainly appear in the All-Star game, but always with the added note of being lucky to play on a team that fits his skills. The implication is that it is his team who have helped his impact reach superstar levels. He doesn’t look like a traditional superstar so we don’t seem to know what to do with him.
A common question regarding Green focuses on his offense if he were on a different team. His versatile skillset is incredible but he’s not one of those players that can go out there and get their own shot at will. Take a look at his shot chart.
He only shoots at the rim and from three-point range. This isn’t a bad thing, as those are the best shots in basketball, but guys like James Harden get the tag of superstar because they can shoot from anywhere on the floor. The biggest reason Green has started getting superstar discussion this season is because of what he’s done on the offensive end. His scoring and his assists are up, but take him off the Warriors and what happens? He’s too good to not have an impact, but is he still pulling out triple-doubles the way he is right now? What does it look like when an entire defense is designed around slowing him down, as compared to slowing down Curry?
Traditional superstars usually make their biggest impact on the offensive end. Green’s largest impact comes from the defensive end. But is being a superstar about impact and talent, or is it about scoring? There are very few players in the NBA that can do what Green does on the defensive end of the floor, and it’s merely a bonus that he happens to be as skillful as he is on the offensive side as well. There have been plenty of superstars that were simply okay on defense, while being incredible on offense. Why can’t Green be on the same tier with the situation flipped?
Draymond Green is challenging what we consider a superstar. He changes the game with his defense while being the ultimate balance on offense, and there aren’t many players better than him at doing these things. Maybe it’s time to reconsider what it is that makes someone a superstar. Maybe Green will be the player to change that.