The NBA is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, where size is almost no longer relevant, and speed, shooting ability and versatility are the attributes teams look for when acquiring new players.
In a league where the pre-draft evaluation tag of “tweener” was once a death sentence, players that normally would fall into that category are suddenly the hottest commodity in the Association. The small-ball obsession of teams in both conferences has created a demand for players in the 6’6”-6’8” range that can help facilitate the offense, as well as space the floor with their shooting ability and guard multiple positions on defense.
The Golden State Warriors’ own Draymond Green is perhaps the most obvious example of just how much one of these “tweeners” can change your team, and his role in their championship run last season has led opposing general managers to look for similar players to play the same role for their squad in 2015-16 and beyond. This is part of the reason that players like DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap were so highly sought during last year’s free agency scrum, and helps explain why so many teams are experimenting with small-ball lineups of their own this year.
As the Toronto Raptors get set to host Golden State and try to put a stop to their record-setting 20-0 start, we thought it would be a good time to see how Green and Carroll stack up against each other based on their play in three categories this season: facilitation, floor spacing and defense.
Many fans around the league questioned Green’s max contract extension this past summer, saying that Green’s success was a result of him simply being a “system player.” But his start to the 2015-16 season has proved that he is anything but, and has even led to Jerry West calling him a top 10 player in the league. In the Warriors’ league leading offense, Green is the team leader in assists at 7.3 per game, and is a huge reason why the Warriors are assisted on nearly 70% of their field goals.
November 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) dribbles the basketball against Los Angeles Clippers forwardBlake Griffin
(32) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Clippers 112-108. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Green’s versatility opens up all sorts of options in Golden State’s offense. If he gets a rebound, he possesses the ball handling skills to push the ball up court and make a solid decision on the break. If he gets the ball in a screen and roll situation, Green has the court vision to make a pass out to the wing or either corner if the defense converges on him in the paint. And his deceptive quickness gives Green the ability to dribble penetrate on his own and find one of the Warriors’ plethora of shooters on the perimeter. Though his turnover average (3 per game) is a little high for a player with a usage rate of only 18%, his 2.46 assist to turnover ratio more than makes up for it. Additionally, Green accounts for 33% of his team’s total assists when he is on the court.
Carroll on the other hand is nowhere close to the facilitator that Green is, averaging just 1.3 assists per game and 1.5 turnovers, making for an assist to turnover ratio of just 0.85. While Green is a capable ball handler and often initiates the offense for Golden State, Carroll’s perimeter skills lag way behind. As a result, the few assists he does get aren’t a result of his superb court vision or play making ability, but instead because he makes entry passes to big men inside the paint for either short jumpers or one or two dribble post moves. He is not a comfortable outside ball handler, which makes dribble penetration difficult for him to manage, and he almost never brings the ball up after rebounds. Overall, Carroll isn’t a player that elevates the overall play of his team while he is on the court, evidenced by his -.01 plus/minus rating, compared to Green’s rating of 15.0
Neither Green nor Carroll are excellent outside shooters by the percentages, with Green averaging 1.5 threes per game on 38.2% and Carroll average 1.8 threes per game on 36.9%. However, Green is a vastly improved shooter (he shot just 20% from trey his rookie season) and Carroll has regressed from his career high mark of 40% last year, to 37% through the first quarter of this season.
Dec 2, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Toronto Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (5) controls the ball in front of Atlanta Hawks guardKyle Korver
(26) during the second half at Philips Arena. The Raptors defeated the Hawks 96-86. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
But floor spacing is more than just a player’s ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter; it also encompasses a player’s ability to operate out there as well. As a limited ball handler, Carroll’s role as a stretch forward is to either shoot the ball when it’s swung to him and he has an open look, or to continue to swing the ball around the perimeter or feed the big man inside. But playing in a 5 out, 0 in offense for the Warriors, Green’s role on the perimeter is much more intensive. Not only can Green shoot when the ball is swung to him, he has the ability to drive and kick (think LeBron James), get to the rim or make a quality skip pass to one of the Warriors’ shooters. Because Green is a much more versatile perimeter player, defenses have to stay honest when he has the ball, whereas teams can bait Carroll into making a poor decision and key onto what he’s about to do.
In just his third season in the league, Green finished second in Defensive Player of the League voting and made the All Defensive First Team, showing off his ability to guard anyone from James Harden to Dirk Nowitzki. Much of the Warriors’ defensive game plan in last year’s Finals was predicated on Green’s ability to slow down LeBron James, and it worked. This season, Green’s Defensive Rating of 95.6 is the 10th best out of players who average 25 minutes or more per game and his 31.6% block percentage (percent of team’s blocks he accounts for while on the court) is the highest on the Golden State roster of any non-center.
In comparison, Carroll’s Defensive Rating is 101.9 and his block percentage is just 8.7%, though his steal percentage is 28.1% compared to Green’s 17.2%. Green also has Carroll beat in terms of opponent field goal percentage, as he holds opponents below their season averages from every single spot on the floor. Overall, Green holds opponents 6.5% below their season averages, while Carroll hinders them by just 0.2%. From behind the arc, Green holds opponents 7.2% below their average and within six feet of the rim holds them 11.8% below their average. On the other hand, Carroll’s opponents actually shoot 4% better from within six feet, and are only held 4.8% below their season average from trey.
*All statistics provided by stats.NBA.com*