Five Reasons Draymond Green Should Have Won the 2016 DPOY
Written by: Keith Alex II
There is not a single player in the NBA who displays the defensive flexibility of Draymond Green for the Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leonard is a remarkable perimeter defender – quite arguably the best of this era – but he does not provide help defense to protect against the area with the highest rate of success on the floor, the paint, nor do the Spurs rely upon him much to play above his position and subject him to defending bruising post players. Rarely is he asked to play a role outside of the customs of his position defensively.
Green on the other hand, more than any other player in this league, is asked to succeed outside of the positional norms of a power forward, regularly finding himself isolated against a perimeter player. In these scenarios that would typically be considered a mismatch, he is brilliant holding his man to only 30% shooting from the field on average – a slightly better figure than Kawhi Leonard who holds opponents to 31% from the field in isolation per NBA.com. When Green is defending a player on the perimeter, even if that player is James Harden or Kevin Durant, he fares remarkably well against them.
This would be the equivalent of asking Kawhi Leonard to protect the rim and ward off slashers with elite help defense – something he relies upon Tim Duncan to do. On any given night, Green will fulfill the role of a perimeter defender guarding against isolation/off screen/spot up possessions (ranking top 5 in opposing field goal percentage in each category), then morph back into an elite paint protector, then defend the post where he’s one of the leagues very best, and when the Warriors go small he has the ability to play center and anchor an elite defensive unit despite having to bang with centers that tower over him. He legitimately defends every single position of basketball. He isn’t just more versatile than Kawhi Leonard, one of the greatest multi-tool defenders this league has ever seen with impact that surpasses anyone of today.
2. Insane Impact
As great as Leonard is, the Spurs would still rank among the best defensive units in the league sans his contributions. Without him on the court, San Antonio surrenders 101.8 points per 100 possessions – good enough to rank 2nd in the NBA behind the Atlanta Hawks, no doubt in thanks to the acumen of Greg Popovich and the still remarkable defensive brilliance of Tim Duncan, who on a per minute basis can be argued as the Spurs most impactful defender.
In the 1169 minutes the Warriors have played without Green on the court, the opposition scored 112.3 points per 100 possessions – nearly 12 points worse than their defense with him on the floor. That margin is the difference between the best ranked defense in the association to the very worst. This is the type of transformational impact expected from a defensive player of the year, and it was Green who exuded this best, not Leonard.
3. Huge volume of defended possessions with strong results
1318 was the total number of shots defended by Draymond Green this season per NBA.com. To put that number into context – it is more than the number of shots defended by Kawhi (676) and LeBron (641) combined. Part of that is his activity as a help defender, something the latter two do not provide nearly as much of, but he still manages to drop his opponents field goal percentage by an incredible -6.2%, a greater figure than Leonard’s -5.7% and comparable to anyone in the league on a much greater sample size of attempts against him.
4. More games, more minutes
Simply put: The more you play – the more value contributed to your team. Green stayed on the floor more throughout the season, missing nine less games and playing over 400 more minutes. This should be valued more when determining the best defensive seasons in the NBA, regardless of the circumstances that may cause a player to miss games.
5. The argument of best defender on best defensive team is flawed
The top ranked defensive team in the NBA last season was the Golden State Warriors. The best defender on that team was Draymond Green. He didn’t win the award, and was inexcusably forgotten by several voters on the ballot entirely. In reality what got Leonard this award was his greater cache and more being aware of what makes him a great defender. It’s easy to find highlights of Leonard being a pest to an offensive superstar, while Green doesn’t get nearly as much exposure for his containment skills on the perimeter or reflex like rotations. There are also many people under the impression that the Warriors aren’t a great defensive team or can be easily destroyed inside, when they had one of the greatest defenses of the modern era last year and are still top 5 this season.
None of this is meant to be a knock against Kawhi – he’s a great player who will be in the running for this award for years to come. Its just that he – nor anyone else in the league today – does more to help their defense than Draymond Green and that’s a fact supported strongly by the evidence above.