Draymond Green has blossomed into one of the NBA’s most versatile players, elite defenders and has become a crucial part of what has made Golden State so successful this season, a 67-win, franchise-record season that lead the team to its 1st NBA Finals trip in 40 years (1975).
Green is more than just highlight plays, though. He is a large product of hard work, dedication, determination and what happens when you go about doing things the right way. Him, along with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut have helped change the entire culture of the Warriors organization in just three years — shout out to Mark Jackson and Steve Kerr for helping along the way, too.
Here else is what you need to know about Green before Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals.
1. Green Attended Michigan State & Was a Successful Spartan
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo is a future Hall of Famer, and although he will say he’s loved every player he’s ever coached equally, he must have some type of soft spot for Green.
Why? Because Green’s string of success from 2008-2012 as a Spartan is one of the best stretches by any Michigan State player outside of say, Magic Johnson or Mateev Cleeves (2000 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player). In those four years, Michigan State went to two Final Fours (2009 and 2010), made a National Championship Game (2009) and lost in the Elite Eight once (2012). He was named 2012 Big Ten Player of the Year and Associated Press First Team All-American in his senior season.
Green improved his scoring average in each season and became a team leader. His presence was always felt. One could make the argument that a Green appearance during a February game this past season is the turning point for the entire Michigan State season that ended in Izzo’s 7th Final Four trip as a No. 7 seed out of the East Region.
2. There Were Questions About His Position & Overall Skill-set Coming Out of College
As Green left Michigan State and declared for the NBA Draft, there were legitimate questions about what kind of player he would be at the next level. For starters, besides players here and there like a Zach Randolph, not many of Tom Izzo’s star players have gone on to have good-to-great NBA careers.
Several players such as Josh Smith had Green’s problems, primarily, what position he would play in the NBA. There were concerns that if Green couldn’t play the small forward because he lacked ideal athleticism that he might have to play out of position at power forward, although he is just 6-foot-7, which is slightly on the smaller side for the position. Those positional concerns also questioned exactly what type of offensive game Green could develop at the next level.
3. Green Uses His Draft Selection As Motivation
It was because of these concerns that Green slipped in the 2012 NBA Draft. The Golden State Warriors made him the 35th overall selection — the 5th pick of the 2nd Round. Despite being drafted in the 2nd Round, most NBA talent scouts, sports writers and management for several teams knew that Green profiled more of a mid-to-late 1st Round pick rather than where he was drafted, and was an absolute steal.
Green has learned to become an elite NBA player on the fly. He didn’t make his high school
s varsity team, he wasn’t an Izzo favorite at first, he wasn’t playing at a strong-enough weight once he was first drafted, and he basically relied on natural talent and didn’t quite put in the work-ethic at first. He eventually learned to work hard, and it has been woven into the fabric of who he is.
Green exudes confidence, personality and has become an enormous fan-favorite for the Warriors. So much so that “Everybody Loves Draymond” — a play off of the TV sitcom ‘Everybody Loves Raymond — has become a thing in Warriorland.
4. Green Had a Breakout Season in 2014-15
After being a solid bench swingman through his first two NBA seasons, the light bulb came on this season and Green became a mainstay in the Warriors lineup. An injury to former two-time NBA All-Star power forward David Lee helped that a bit, but Green developed into one of the NBA’s most important swing players.
Green adds a dimension of shooting and defensive versatility that Steve Kerr’s system needs. He nearly doubled his scoring average from 6.2 points-per-game to 11.7 points-per-game and took an exponential leap forward on the defensive end. In 2014-15, Green was named to his 1st NBA All-Defensive 1st Team, a rare accomplishment for a former 2nd-round pick just three years removed from college.
Green also appeared in the Beats By Dre commercial above.
5. The Warrior Is About to Enter Restricted Free Agency
Due to the NBA Draft pay scale from the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Green was only making $915,243 this season on the final year of his three-year rookie contract. It’s not a question if Green is going to be handsomely rewarded with a raise on his next deal, but a matter of when.
Green is already one of the best and most important players on an NBA Finals contending team, a valuable commodity in the NBA. It is because of his existing ability and the potential for him to be even better than he is now — possibly a 20-10 player down the line — that most NBA analysts believe some team will offer Green a maximum contract in Restricted Free Agency. That is, unless the Warriors choose to extend Green and offer him the max.
A max contract for Draymond Green would start at $15 million and escalate up each season. It seems almost a certainty that the Warriors would pay Green and find some way to move Igoudala or Lee in a trade for cap purposes later. Still, teammate Harrison Barnes also presents an interesting situation as he has emerged as a big-time playoff performer for the Warriors this season, too. It’s plausible the Ws keep Barnes and Green, but have to get creative to do it.