Draymond Green: From Bench Warmer to Second Star


One of the Golden State Warriors’ biggest success stories last season was Klay Thompson’s breakout year. Having signed a near-max contract extension with the organization, the pressure was on both parties to prove that Thompson was worth the money, especially since the Warriors had just turned down a trade deal involving Klay that would see former Minnesota Timberwolves’ All-Star Kevin Love join the Bay Area team.

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Thompson lived up to the expectation and delivered. By the end of the regular season, we had seen him erupt for 40 or more points on four occasions, single-handedly destroy the Sacramento Kings with a perfect third quarter, make the All-Star team as a starter, and finish the season as a top 10 scorer.

It was clear to many that while Stephen Curry was the head chef of this group, Thompson was his executive – the second-best of the group.

But as we look at the Warriors’ 11-0 perfect start, perhaps Thompson’s claim as the Warriors’ second best player isn’t as straightforward as it once was – especially with how Draymond Green has been playing so far.

Once seen as an energy guy or hype man on the bench, Green’s role on the team in his rookie year was simple – bring energy to practices and games, and hustle hard when your number is called. He struggled for court time in his rookie season, averaging just 13.4 minutes per game. His lack of athleticism against other small forwards made his matchups more difficult to handle, but what he lacked in speed, he made up for in strength and size.

In his sophomore season, he saw more playing time as the Warriors’ big men suffered injuries. But it wasn’t until the first round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers that we saw Draymond’s true potential. With Andrew Bogut and David Lee out injured, Warriors’ coach Mark Jackson was forced to play Draymond as the small-ball power forward – a role that he thrived in, despite going up against the Clippers’ frontline duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Upon taking over as head coach, Steve Kerr has continued that strategy, and Green has seized the opportunity with both hands. Going from benchwarmer to starter to Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Green’s transformation has been remarkable. When he was an unrestricted free agent during the offseason, many analysts were quick to point out that Green’s value was heightened with the Warriors, as he excelled in their system, but was unsure of how he would play on a different team.

The Warriors and Green have a symbiotic relationship where they play off each other’s strengths to create an ideal situation for success. It all starts with Green’s greatest asset – his strength. The Warriors’ offense relies on spacing to work, and they do so by flooding the floor with shooters and off-the-ball movement. By playing a more traditional power forward at the four spot, the floor spacing becomes more cramped due to the lack of shooting. While Green isn’t a knockdown shooter from long range, his 33.7 percent from last season is above average for a power forward. The common problem that small-ball power forwards face is their inability to deal with their bigger counterparts on the other end of the court. This is where Green’s strength comes in – he is able to hold his own against bigger forwards, allowing the Warriors to reap the benefits of a small-ball power forward, without suffering any of the repercussions.

Another underrated aspect of Green’s offensive game is his passing. While all the plaudits are targeted as his defensive ability, it’s easy to overlook his passing game as well. According to NBA Stats, Green is averaging 79.4 touches per game this season – the highest for all forwards. Green also averages 63.5 passes made per game – the ninth most among all players (not just forwards). Perhaps, more surprisingly, Green makes more passes per game than he receives passes (63.5 to 50.7) – making him the only one in the top 20 of most passes per game to have such an interesting stat.

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And we haven’t even touched on Green’s leadership ability in the locker room either. Overall, Green is a really important cog of the Warriors’ machine – without him, the Warriors wouldn’t be having such great success. Once considered an expendable part of this team, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors without him. So while Curry may be the best and most important player on the team, Green is a close second.