David Lee has logged just seven minutes this season due to a strained left hamstring, and the majority of his vacated playing time has gone to Draymond Green, who is off to a breakout season after the first 25 games. Green has fit like a glove in the motion offense installed by Alvin Gentry and been a vital part of the Warriors’ 22-win, three-loss bottom line.
Green was a very diverse player at Michigan State, where he was used as a point forward towards the end of his college career. He started to show signs his skill-set could be translated to the pro level last season, assisting on 12% of Golden State’s scores in his 1,797 minutes and upping his three-point rate to 36% of his shots.
But Gentry has fully maximized his ball skills this season. Green is utilized as a hub to initiate offense, handling the ball on the break or from the high post so Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson can run around screens off the ball or catch and attack off live dribbles. He is an above average passer for a player his position, thanks to great feel to hit cutters in stride facing the defense from the perimeter. He is currently assisting on 14% of Golden State’s scores when he is on the floor.
Green has also developed into a much more willing three-point shooter, averaging five three-point attempts per 36 minutes and 44.4% of his shots being taken from beyond the arc. But he remains average, hitting his 116 attempts at a 34.5% clip – including only 36.4% of his 107 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts and 33.6% with no defender within four feet. Green sets a wide base in his stance, doesn’t elevate much off the ground and has a long motion. The arc in his shot is pretty good but the low release point and the slow trigger make him strictly an open shot shooter.
When those dribble hand-offs evolve into pick-and-rolls on the fly, Green has been a decent screener who looks to draw contact but whose compact 230-pound frame doesn’t disrupt the defender off his path if he merely chips him. He doesn’t play above the rim as a target for lobs but has good hands to catch the ball on the move and explosion to dive down the lane with some force. That fluidity sprinting in space also translates in transition. Green has shot 64.6% at the rim on 96 attempts, including 75.8% when assisted.
Other areas of his game are not of use to the way Golden State plays offense. He doesn’t spend any time in the low post, taking only four hooks/fadeaway jump-shots in 844 minutes. And while facilitating offense and spotting up in the perimeter, Green spends little time below the rim and has collected just 4% of the Warriors’ misses when he’s been on the floor.
But thanks to his passing and ability to extract the most value out of his average jump-shooting by taking mostly three-pointers rather than long-twos, Green is vital to Golden State’s offensive machine, which actually still struggles with spacing a bit when Curry rests. The Warriors are averaging 110.5 points per 100 possessions with Green on the floor, and only 100.1 when he’s on the bench.
On the other end, he has also been essential to the unit that currently leads the league in scoring allowed per possession. While the Warriors do miss Lee to some extent, for his rebounding, it can be argued that they’ve climbed to the top of the defensive rankings specifically because he is out of the lineup. Golden State has become very flexible switching on screens, in large part because of Green’s versatility. He doesn’t have the foot speed to chase quick guards or small wings around the perimeter and struggles navigating screens due to his frame but has enough lateral mobility to keep the average wing in front in isolation and is able to contain dribble penetration through contact.
Green is coached to guard the pick-and-roll flat; he moves fluidly in space and has an eight-foot-nine wingspan to effectively contest mid-range shots. Opponents have shot just 31.4% from outside 16-feet with him guarding them. He is able to play above the basket as a shot blocking threat, which, combined with his mobility, has translated into average rim protection. Opponents have shot 47.9% at the rim with Green protecting it. That’s not elite but very descent considering his size. Good enough for Steve Kerr to play him as a small-ball center in the fourth quarters of games against other western conference powerhouses like Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City.
Green is an undersized big but one that is not taken advantage of in the post. He has the lower body strength to absorb contact and hold his ground, and it’s also able to use his long arms to net some standstill blocks. He is not as good a rebounder as Lee but has collected 20.5% of opponents’ misses when he’s on the floor – which is an average rate, and the Warriors have protected their glass significantly better than when rests.
Overall, Golden State is allowing just 94.1 points per 100 possessions when he’s in the lineup and 100.1 when he’s off the floor.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.