Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Draymond Green’s reputation took a hit in many ways in the last six months, be it for slapping people who were acting like pricks or kicking other players in them. But let’s not let that cause us to lose focus of what he does as a player, which is just about everything.
He also has a new teammate, as you may have heard, with Kevin Durant joining the team (SPOILER ALERT!), giving the Warriors three players in the top 10. With that, there’s a question of who sacrifices what kind of numbers. While he’s not a volume scorer, Green could still be impacted by Durant’s arrival, but how?
Green is an incredible all-around player. Last year, he became the sixth player to average 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists per 100 possessions (narrowly missing 20/10/10 by half a point):
Notice the difference between Green and the others on that list is the offense went through them; they all dominated the ball. Factor in the defense, and he’s with Jason Kidd and LeBron James as players with complete games. That’s why he’s in the top 10.
The problem is, with Durant coming on board, it’s hard to see where he improves here. He’s about as high in the rankings as he’s going to get.
On the other hand, he’s not likely to see his scoring drop a whole lot. And he’s not dependent on scoring or having the ball in his hands to be productive.
Green is also the linchpin of the defense. While the Dubs’ D may be hurt a little by the departure of Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes, Durant is a better defender than advertised and his length offers certain advantages. Regardless, it always has been Green who makes things work, and it still will be.
In other words, the things that make Green special aren’t impacted that much by the change. So of the Warriors’ stars, he’s the least likely to see much drop in his accrued numbers.
Green is a decent scorer. His true shooting percentage was a very solid 58.7 percent last year, and his effective field goal percentage was 55.1 percent. His 69.6 percent free throw percentage could be a little better. It’s odd to see a guy hitting 38.8 percent from three not able to hit on 75 percent of his freebies, but it’s not like he’s DeAndre Jordan from the stripe.
That’s not a concern, though. With Green, his scoring isn’t the aspect of his offense you want to focus on.
He has an almost transcendent court awareness that makes him an unbelievable passer. He often knows where he’s going to deliver the ball before it’s even in his hands. The NBA tracking stats do log “secondary assists,” but they don’t log “assisted assists, ” i.e., how often a player is a middle man in that (i.e. credited with the assist but didn’t dribble the ball after catching it). If they did, I’m fairly certain Green would lead the league by a mile.
There is a way of using the tracking data to illustrate this, though. Using the passing data, we can find the points they generated with their assists. Using the touch data, we can calculate how many times a player dribbled the ball. This is what happens when you put those two numbers in a chart.
These are all the players who assisted on at least 1,000 points and how many times they bounced the ball. The number below the name is the ratio of dribbles per assisted point.
Ricky Rubio, known as a magical passer with great vision, bounced the ball more than four times as much as Green, and it produced fewer points. Westbrook had nearly six times as many dribbles per assist point. Being fair, there are some apples and oranges here; Green isn’t bringing the ball up the court, for example.
But it’s also true that he’s not bringing the ball up the court because he’s not the primary ball handler on the team, which makes the sheer volume of the assists he contributes spectacular. With the shooters Golden State has, that’s a virtue that isn’t going to get worse with the addition of Durant; it should get better.
As valuable an asset as Green is on offense, it’s his defense that really sets him apart. He and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard are on a different level than the rest of the league.
In fact, based on ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus, we can estimate how many points a player “saved” by being on the court over an average defender last season. And no player in the league saved more points:
Opponents shot 6.1 percent worse when he was the closest defender on the play, which seems to be almost always. His 1,332 DFGA were 153 more than Serge Ibaka, who had the second-most in the league. And those contests came from every range.
He defended 343 threes; opponents shot 29.4 percent. He defended 447 shots within six feet of the rim; opponents shot just 51.9 percent, 8.7 points below their normal mark.
Green covered the whole court and defended above the league average from all five ranges the tracking data covers.
He also defended the different play types well, per Synergy stats at NBA.com.
Want to take advantage of him and post him up when the Dubs are playing small ball? Good luck with that. He gave up just .65 points per possession when that happened, ranking in the 89.3 percentile on 175 possessions. Only two other players defended that many post-ups: Al Horford defended 177, giving up .80 PPP, and Mason Plumlee also defended 175 while giving up 1.03 PPP.
OK, so maybe you try stretching him out with a shooter. Only five players defended more spot-ups than Green — all of them perimeter players. And of those five (.86 PPP), only Paul George defended the spot-up better than Green (.91 PPP).
The only thing that Green doesn’t do spectacularly well is score, and the Dubs have that covered with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant.
There’s a chance that Green is even better this year than last, but without the scoring, it’s hard to see him climbing over the guys ahead of him.