Draymond: Defender of the Universe

Noah Graham/Getty Images

Following a fan vote which understandably, if unjustly, selected Kobe Bryant to the start for the Western Conference All-Star team, Draymond Green was the odd man out. His all-existence teammate Steph Curry was an easy choice; Klay Thompson was likely to make the cut anyway, having been an All-Star in 2015 and the acknowledged second-choice weapon of the Golden State Warriors’ attack.

But what of Green? Indeed, he was an almost unanimous selection of pundits and the like to make this year’s squad, and sure enough, Thursday’s edition of NBA on TNT made room for the announcement of All-Star reserves, with Green among the most prominent. The man who once favorably compared himself to Al Gore is, finally and deservedly, an NBA All-Star.

The Mike Malone quote – you know the one, in which Steph is the MVP of the league, but Draymond is the MVP of the Warriors – has reached a point of near-mantra, as if it’s something we all knew before but never openly acknowledged until now. Curry’s supernova explodes so brightly that Green, along with the rest of the Warriors, sometimes gets caught in the afterglow.

If you’re reading this, you probably have some remote idea of the Draymond Green timeline. After winning a state championship as a heralded Saginaw high school prospect, Green went to Michigan State. Under Tom Izzo, Green stayed all four years, earning consensus All-American honors, a Big Ten championship, two Final Four appearances, a conference Player of the Year award and an NABC National Player of the Year Award in 2012. During the 2012 NCAA Tournament, Green became only the third player ever to notch a triple-double in tournament play, after Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson°.

In the 2012 NBA Draft, the one that yielded Anthony Davis, Golden State selected Green in the second round, viewing him as a versatile mold of clay. Not to gloss over his development, but the noticeable strides he has made since then boil down largely to two things: David Lee’s hamstring injury prior to the season opener last season, and Steve Kerr’s decision to insert Green into the lineup in Lee’s place.

From that point, Draymond Green’s improvement has been nothing short of meteoric. Green is the key to the Warriors’ rapid-fire defensive switches, and his ongoing offensive refinement serves only to make Golden State even more dangerous. As of this writing, Green is posting career highs in points (14.5), assists (7.2), rebounds (9.4), three-point field goal percentage (.414) and effective field goal percentage (.542), all while anchoring an uncompromisingly efficient defensive attack at 6’7″. Lest we forget, as if we could given his raw statistics, he also leads the league in triple-doubles.

As the vocal point of the otherwise humble, happy-go-lucky Warriors, Green gives his side an edge. He’s the guy you can admit to hating, if only because the rest of the team is so damn likable. When opponents talk, he talks back; when people tweet, he tweets back, or his mom does¹. Ever the beacon of efficiency, he is.

In last week’s clinical dismantling of the nuclear weapon that is the San Antonio Spurs, Green reached into his pocket, felt around a bit, picked out some lint and pitched in 11 points, 9 rebounds and six assists. It’s this kind of negative space-filling in which Green thrives: if you forget he’s there, he’ll dunk on you. If you sag off, he’ll shoot. If you think he can’t, well, cross your heart and hope to die, because he will, with a gigantic smile on his face.

Because of that Malone quote, it’s become almost fashionable to argue that Green is more important to the Warriors than even Curry. Firstly, “value” and “importance” can be two different things, and to any of us they almost certainly are. Either of Green or Curry isn’t more or less important or valuable than the other; they provide value in different capacities, sustaining the common good with their own individual brilliance.

Keeping in mind the billions of pixels people spill about this team, we get lost in the simple fact that it is fascinating to watch the Warriors. This is what the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns aspired to, and what the Spurs have been poking around for the last decade or so. If the Warriors are the pinnacle of what we understand basketball to be in 2016, given its parameters and the culture it engenders, then Draymond Green is its zeitgeist, the Nietzschean übermensch who can bend without breaking and fit whatever void necessary, all without losing his essence.

°Way to go, Sparty.

¹The Draymond System: It Works

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