Draymond Green isn’t supposed to be here. That’s if you ask the experts. Where is here? NBA Champion, All-Star, and a 1st-Team All-Defensive Player. The product of Saginaw, Michigan was a highly productive four-year player for the Spartans at MSU; winning a B1G Tournament Championship, 2012 National Player of the Year award, 2012 B1G Player of the Year award, 2012 B1G All-Defensive team selection, three times an All-Conference selection, and making two Final Four appearances.
Even as accomplished as he was, Green still had to wait until pick 35 of the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft to hear his name called. Those experts said he was too small to be a pro power forward and not quick enough to be a perimeter player.
However the Golden State power forward, is the back-to-back runner up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a first-time All-Star in 2015-16, has become the heart and soul of the defending champion Warriors who just completed the greatest regular season win total in Association History.
The four-year pro is finally getting his due. As his game continues to flourish, his style of play is starting to remind me of a few guys I loved watching back in the day. Many of who also dealt with the same naysayers and bogus critiques when they entered the pro ranks.
Draymond’s ability to defend against guys 3-5 inches taller and 45 pounds heavier all while being able to switch off on the more athletic perimeter players in the NBA reminds me of Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. Rodman is mostly known for his rebounding prowess, but he guarded Shaq during his days in Chicago, and Michael Jordan back when he ran with the “Bad Boy” Pistons in their two championship seasons.
Draymond has also held down the center position for the Warriors in the playoffs guarding Dwight Howard and at times other dominant bigs during the season in the likes of Boogie Cousins, Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan. In last year’s Finals, he took his turn guarding this era’s current best player in LeBron James. His versatility on the perimeter has made it easy for Golden State to switch every thing on D because he can also clamp down on the James Harden’s, Russell Westbrook’s and Damian Lillard’s of the world.
Green’s offensive skills remind me of James Worthy’s ability to play inside and outside, while having the playmaking skills to set up teammates. Even though he was the top pick in the 1982 draft, “Big Game James” is often overlooked because he played with two of the top ten players of all-time in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. But, he was named one of the fifty greatest players in NBA history because of his championship contributions. Green is playing a similar role behind the consensus best backcourt in the Association in two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Robert Horry. While obviously Green doesn’t have the size and length of the 7-time NBA Champion, Draymond brings the same defensive versatility and ability to make tough timely baskets that often are only trusted to the Superstars of the team. Horry was the perfect compliment to Legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler with the Houston Rockets and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. As Shaq always says, “you need the others to play well to be champs”, well Big Shot Bob was the perfect “other” and Draymond is proving to be the same for the Warriors emerging dynasty.
Anthony Mason. The late “Mase” was the enforcer on those Patrick Ewing led New York Knicks teams that gave MJ’s Bulls a run for their money in the 90’s and became Eastern Conference Champions in 1994. Coach Pat Riley often used the 13-year power forward as a point forward during their time in the Big Apple and with the Miami Heat. It wasn’t odd to see him bring the ball up court and initiate the offense by dumping it down to the big fella on the block, or stop and pop an elbow jumper. While Mason didn’t have the all around range of Draymond on offense, both are similar as irritants on defense for opponents. The 2001 All-Star was a stellar defensive player throughout his career even making the All-Defensive team in 1997.
Cliff Robinson. “Uncle Cliffy” was a key contributor to those early 90’s Clyde Drexler-Terry Porter led Portland Trailblazers teams that challenged MJ’s Bulls, Magic’s Lakers and Isiah’s Pistons for NBA titles. Robinson, the 1993 Sixth Man of the Year did all the dirty work for those Portland teams during his eight-season there. He also was one of the original stretch power forwards who had range from deep shooting 35% with the Blazers. He also had a knack for mixing it up with trash talk and the occasional borderline physical play to gain an edge over his opponents. Sound familiar?