The recent success of the Golden State Warriors is in large part due to how well management has been able to draft in recent years.
First round picks Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes are all legitimate NBA assets with respect to their scoring, defense, youth, and maturity. Although Barnes has had a tough second season, he still may be the most valuable trade piece because of his age and potential upside. Consider that each of these players was not selected in the top five of their drafts, when the chance of player success starts to get murky, and it seems the Warriors have performed near the top of the league when it comes to the draft process.
One player that seems to get lost in the conversation when discussing recent draft prizes is Draymond Green.
Green was selected in the second round, 35th overall, in the 2012 draft. It is common knowledge that players selected in the second round of drafts have a very slim chance of any success in their NBA careers. Since second round picks do not have guaranteed contracts, they are forced to immediately impress and leap-frog veteran players for their position on rosters. Most second round players never see an NBA game because there are simply not enough new spots for second round rookies year after year. However, Green has defied the odds and has become not only a productive player, but also a key contributor on a team on track for the postseason in a scary deep Western Conference.
How did a player that shows obvious talent drop to the second round of a draft that saw Austin Rivers go 10th overall? People pick players apart based on their natural size and athleticism before properly judging a player’s entire background. Green possessed red flags that may have turned teams away, but the Warriors’ management was able to look past some shortcomings and potentially view those same qualities as advantages.
Green played until he was a Senior at Michigan State. His ceiling is greatly decreased because of his increased age.
While some may have believed that Green was too old, his age fits exactly what the Warriors were looking for at his draft position. Being a four-year player for the Spartans provided Green with the necessary experience and basketball IQ to step right into the NBA game.
It’s a far better scenario to draft a player in the second round that has tons of minutes under his belt. Coaches don’t have enough resources and time to try and develop a second round project. Management does not have enough invested in the player, which limits the franchise’s patience for individual growth. Knowing Green wasn’t going to the Hall of Fame, his increased age may have lowered General Manager Bob Myers’ draft day worries because he knew Green sustained high level college basketball performance for four seasons.
When teams have a flurry of draft picks, they have the right to “swing for the fences” a few times. However, when a team only possesses its normal pick allotment, they cannot afford to waste picks on super raw second round players. Green was a low risk prospect, which made the pick smart.
Green is 6’ 7” and played PF in college. He is undersized for an NBA PF and will not be able to guard opponents.
This argument is similar to the one that allowed Kawhi Leonard to drop to 15th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Teams had the opinion that Jimmer Fredette and Bismack Biyombo had more to offer based on being selected higher than Leonard.
A player’s position in college is completely dependent on a coach’s philosophy and the makeup of a particular team. Draymond Green playing power forward at Michigan State doesn’t automatically imply that he only has the skills of a power forward. Jabari Parker started the majority of his games for Duke as a center this season. If a player has the necessary athleticism, he can excel at multiple positions. Green has demonstrated his ability to play a hybrid mix of small and power forward. With the NBA continually transitioning into a more small-ball approach, Green has found his perfect position niche.
The value of players should not be subjected to their height and stature alone, but by their desire and want. One does not become the leader in rebounding at Michigan State by being passive and lazy. Green is a relentless player that will do anything to help his team win.
The Warriors knew the player they drafted was going to stand up to any challenge, annoy everyone on defense, and clean up as many rebounds as possible. The key to his ascension to relevancy is his ability to shoot from select places behind the three-point line. In one offseason he has raised his percentage from behind the arc by 10 percentage points, per NBA.com.
By having a respectable three-point shot under his belt, Green can play an increased amount of minutes on the court because he is a legitimate threat on defense and offense. We always thought he would wreak havoc on opposing offenses due to his motor, but the improved shooting touch is quite the added bonus. So, now we are left with a player who knows exactly what his role has become in this league. A player who treats defense as if it’s the only part of the game that can also camp behind the arc and hit an open three. In today’s NBA, these are the role players that everyone is drooling over. These are the players the Heat put around their superstars to build a championship contending team.
Players like Draymond Green are available for teams to select in later draft slots if they look for the right qualities. For a prospect outside the top five of draft boards, there is no such thing as undersized or too old. It simply becomes a comparison of who loves the game of basketball and demonstrates it with effort and improvement. Franchise changing players rarely come from outside the top two of a draft. So, when positioned later in a draft, why not fill a team with players who will work extremely hard? This strategy makes much more sense than putting so much reliance on the prototypical size, height, and age measurements.
How many Draymond Greens, Kawhi Leonards, and Paul Millsaps need to be overlooked before teams and fans realize the immense value this genre of player possesses in today’s NBA?