If you’re unaware of Draymond Green’s backstory, it’s pretty tremendous: a 3-star recruit who wasn’t labeled a Top 100 player in high school turned into the Big 10 Player of the Year as a senior at Michigan State. He was the only player in the Top 10 in the conference in points, assists and rebounds.
The NBA had its doubts, and he fell to the 2nd round of the NBA draft, selected 35th overall after the likes of Arnett Moultrie (27th), Tomáš Satoranský (32nd) and Bernard James (33rd). As a rookie, Green playing sparingly, shooting just 32 percent from the field and 20 percent on 3-pointers. In his 2nd year, Green improved a bit, but it wasn’t until the following year that heads began to turn.
The starter, David Lee – who had previously been an all-star – had a hamstring injury early in the season, and the Warriors new coach (Steve Kerr) made Green the starter. He never lost his starting job, and the rest is history.
He’s probably going to be the Defensive Player of the Year, and there’s a chance he’s 3rd team All-NBA. I’ve argued he’s the most indispensable player on the Warriors.
So where can NBA teams find the next Draymond Green in the 2017 draft?
Here are a few names:
TJ Leaf, F, UCLA. He only turns 20 later this month, and didn’t shoot the 3-pointer as often as Green did in his final two years at Michigan State. Still, Leaf did make 27-of-58 (46 percent) this year (Green made twice as many as a senior). Green got the “glue guy” label at the draft, because his intangibles were off-the-charts. Leaf is actually three inches taller than Green, and it’s unlikely he’ll be able to defend every position the way Green can. But offensively? He’ll be better. What makes Green great is his effort on defense.
Semi Ojeleye, F, SMU. May still return to school, but his pedigree is there – was the Parade Player of the Year as a senior in high school, and went to Duke. He’s got a high basketball IQ, and plays above the rim. Can score in many ways. After making just eight 3-pointers in two years at Duke, he made 73 last season. Has a similar frame to Green (6-foot-7, 235 pounds), but not nearly the wingspan.
Justin Jackson, F, UNC. I know, he’s too thin (210 pounds, according to the Tar Heels). The argument for Jackson-as-Draymond is because he can capably defend several positions. Doesn’t have the bulk to bang with the heavyweights at PF/C in the NBA, but the ACC Player of the Year is already a proficient 3-point shooter. Checks some intangibles boxes, too.
The key to finding the next Draymond Green? Beyond measureables and intangibles, it just might be this: Finding a guy with a chip on his shoulder all his life, then falling to the 2nd ground, then sitting on the bench, and having to fight for everything, with nothing earned. Part of what makes Draymond Green special? The trash talk part, which also can bubble over into disaster if not kept in check.