By Rahul Sharma
Seven years: that is how long it has been since a non-center has won the coveted Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award in the NBA. That is about to change this season, due to a highly energetic and driven player on the Golden State Warriors known as Draymond Green.
It is midway through the current NBA season, and so far, Draymond is the runaway winner for the Defensive Player of the Year award and one of the most unlikely candidates the league has seen in years.
Standing six foot seven inches tall, Draymond is too undersized to play the power forward and center positions, but an average height to play the small forward position. However, this season, the Golden State Warriors have seen a majority of their success due to their ability to employ a smaller starting lineup consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Andrew Bogut.
This “small-ball” lineup that head coach Steve Kerr has enacted has proven to be highly successful: the Warriors are currently atop a historically talented and brutal Western Conference. This season Draymond has played a majority of his minutes at the power forward position, where he is generally undersized, but his 230-pound frame and longer-than-average wingspan allows him to switch between the small and power forward positions with ease.
This ability to switch between multiple positions is one of the biggest reasons that makes Draymond so great: versatility. According to BasketballReference.com, Green is averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 assists, 8 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks a game, all while averaging at least 1.5 three-pointers made per game as well.
While these aren’t eye-popping, “LeBron James-esque” numbers, these statistics help show how versatile of a player Draymond Green is. Draymond’s style of play is reminiscent of other forwards in the past such as Lamar Odom and Rasheed Wallace, extremely versatile players who could shoot the three as well as defend multiple positions.
He can stretch opposing defenses by being a competent three-point shooter, he’s an elite passer and rebounder, and most importantly, he can steal and block the ball at an elite rate. It is extremely rare for a player to average 1.5 steals along with 1.5 blocks a game simultaneously, and the only players who have achieved this accomplishment were elite defensive players in their prime, such as Dwight Howard, Shawn Marion, Josh Smith, Ben Wallace and Andrei Kirilenko.
This being said, Draymond is in good company. Draymond’s defensive versatility spans far beyond his ability to steal and block shots; he’s undersized and quick enough on his feet to defend smaller guards and small forwards, while being bulky and strong enough to guard larger power forwards and even some centers in the league.
To give an idea of how impactful Draymond Green is defensively, the Golden State Warriors are currently at the top of the league in overall defensive efficiency, Green’s plus-minus rating falls in the top 88th percentile further indicating his value to the Warriors.
Basketball is a team sport, and the Golden State Warriors’ defensive success cannot be solely attributed to Draymond Green, but he essentially serves as the backbone to the best defensive team in the NBA.
Many would point to the success of the Warriors being attributed mainly towards Andrew Bogut, but he has been injured and has only played a total of twenty-five games this season compared to Green’s forty games.
Even when Andrew Bogut was injured and the Warriors were left without a true center and rim protector, Draymond Green was able to elevate himself to fill any defensive void that the team had. During this stretch, the Warriors remained atop the defensive efficiency rankings without Andrew Bogut, helping demonstrate Draymond’s undying reliability.
Draymond Green is the lightning rod that fuels the Golden State Warriors, and as we approach the half-way mark in the NBA Season, he is the 2014-2015 Defensive Player of the Year.