Even today, in the modern era of basketball where huge contracts are handed out at the rate of a prime Joey Crawford with technical fouls, the idea of Draymond Green and his worth – in financial terms – is a divisive one.
Recently, HoopsHype asked its Twitter followers whether or not the Golden State Warriors wing should be a valued as a max-level player.
And the results were a bit surprising…
…because Green may have his flaws, but for over three-quarters of nearly 6,000 voters to be that adamant about him being undeserving of the max seems extreme.
It’s not like we were asking about some inefficient high-volume scorer who’s never been to the playoffs here. Green is a three-time champion, a two-time All-NBAer (2nd Team in 2015-16 and 3rd Team in 2016-17) and a three-time All-Star, to boot. And that’s without even mentioning his four All-Defensive Team appearances or his 2016-17 Defensive Player of the Year award, either.
Actually, we probably should have mentioned the defensive stuff first, considering how otherworldly Green is in that respect.
Few players in league history can come close to matching the nightly impact Green makes on the point-stopping side of the floor. In fact, his ability to defend all five positions is a big part of what helped propel Golden State from fun upstart to all-time dynasty seemingly from one year to the next. Yes, the main bucket-getters on the team, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, certainly deserve a bulk of the credit. But it almost feels like when we praise those two, we neglect the insane production the Warriors get out of Green, too.
Throughout the course of Golden State’s various lengthy playoff runs, Green has been tasked with being the primary defender on star-level talents of all shapes and sizes, and with all kinds of athleticism.
From six-time All-Star big men like LaMarcus Aldridge…
…to MVP-level guys like Anthony Davis…
…Green, despite his physical limitations, has, at the end of the day, gotten the upper hand on most of his foes.
Granted, the best scorers in the league are still going to get theirs no matter the defense they’re facing, but Green’s point-stopping ways have always been impactful enough to help the Warriors earn the ultimate reward: championships.
There’s a reason why Golden State (before they started mailing it in every regular season prior to turning it on in the playoffs) was able to rank first, sixth and second in defensive rating throughout the first three years of their dynastic run. It’s been, in large part, thanks to Green and the chaos he creates in his free-safety role when the Warriors defend.
Furthermore, it should also be noted that Green isn’t merely a defensive ace.
His offensive game, albeit unconventional, is also quite unique.
Because the Warriors have three of the greatest shooters of all time on their roster, they’ve been able to buck the league-wide trend of running as many pick-and-rolls as possible on a nightly basis. Instead, they specialize in off-ball screens and using them to get Curry, Thompson and Kevin Durant open and in attack position off of them.
That’s where the best part of Green’s offensive repertoire comes into effect: his passing.
Green has the uncanny capacity of knowing which way his shooters are going to come off screens – be it in looping motions towards the three-point arc or in quick darts to the rim – and hitting them with pinpoint looks to facilitate their scoring chances as much as possible.
It may seem like an easy skill to master, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. If it were, more big men would be averaging the 7.2 assists per contest Green has been putting up over the past four seasons.
Speaking of averages, a quick search on Basketball Reference’s statistical database will show us just how once-in-a-generation Green’s skill-set really is. When we look up players to have produced at least 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 90 blocks in a single season, just four names turn up: Green, Larry Bird (underrated defender in his heyday), Scottie Pippen (arguably the greatest wing defender ever) and LeBron James. And Green is the only player to have done it in more than two separate seasons.
Additionally, Green already sits 13th in league history in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (min: 10,000 minutes), proving the special mark he makes on that end of the floor. If we look at overall Box Plus/Minus, Green ranks 40th all-time.
So yes, Green may have his flaws. He’ll never be the No. 1 (or No. 2, or even No. 3) scorer on a playoff team. He’s a career 32.5 percent three-point shooter – a paltry mark, especially in the modern NBA. He’s too temperamental, which leads to shouting matches with officials, coaches and even teammates.
But overall, the good far outweighs the bad.
He’s a defensive stopper, who can not just shut down opposing stars in a one-on-one setting, but who also jumps passing lanes and protects the rim. He’s a fantastic passer. And his shooting, though far from a strength, is just effective enough to keep defenses honest.
The problem for Green, as far as predicting whether his next contract will be of the max variety, is the fact that he’s not due to negotiate his next deal until two summers from now, as Green isn’t set to hit free agency until 2020. By then, the former Spartan will be 30 years old, with even more miles on him as far as regular season and playoff minutes go.
Considering we’re already starting to see him regress a bit athletically, as well as with his shooting (his last three years’ three-point percentages: 2016-17, 30.8 percent; 2017-18, 30.1 percent; 2018-19, 22.2 percent), and we have many major reasons to believe he won’t be landing the full max as a free agent.
As is, Golden State is going to be spread pretty thin financially, with Durant and Thompson set to be free agents in 2019 and with Curry already owed $166.5 million over the next four seasons. Add Green to the mix and it may be too much, at least if he’s dead set on receiving the max.
Plus, it’s not like other teams will be going out of their way to make Green a max signing, either, for all the reasons we mentioned earlier. That is. unless he proves that he can become at least a league-average three-point shooter again, to make up for his dwindling athleticism.
The Warriors are the perfect team for Green and the talents he possesses. As of today, yes, he’s been worth every penny, and if he were a free agent in 2019, maybe he would land a max.
But add another year to his workload and with a poor outside shot, and it seems unlikely Green will command a max-level deal by the time his next free agency rolls around.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter: @FrankUrbina_.