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Draymond Green Is The Most Efficient Defender In The NBA

USA Today - Jaime Valdez

Draymond Green doesn’t need many steps to stop offenses.

He’s that person that wants to be all things to all people,” Mary Babers-Green says of her son, Warriors star Draymond Green. “His attitude is ‘I can handle it.’”

And he can. Green—karate kicks, technical fouls, and all—is the epitome of position-less basketball, defending point guards through centers with equal guile. He’s a one-man ligature, clogging up lanes and suturing holes in his team’s defense. Ask anyone around Golden State, and they’ll tell you that Dray is the glue that holds the Warriors’ armor together. 

The stats show it, too. Green is averaging 1.9 steals and 2.1 swats per game in the playoffs, and when he’s on the court opponents have scored 16 less points per 100 possessions than when he’s off, per Basketball Reference (yes, you read that correctly). Opposing players Green has guarded have shot 10% worse at the rim when Green checks them, and three percent worse overall: 

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Yet, what separates Green from the rest of the league’s defensive savants (Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gobert, etc.) is the efficiency with which he incessantly protects his hoop. 

Dray has an uncanny knack to be at the right place at the right time while minimizing the amount of movement required to get there. Check out this play, in which he makes a slight jab at a driving offender, spooks him into making a pass, and then rejects a shot:

There’s also this set, in which Dray takes the perfect angle to meet Damien Lillard at the rim:

In the first video, Green completely blows up the play despite displacing about two feet. In the second set, he reads the split perfectly and quickly deciphers where Lillard will end up, ultimately beating him to the spot.

Draymond minimizes energy consumption on the perimeter, too. In this play, he uses one quick lateral hop to dodge Diaw’s slip screen, which puts him in an ideal position to poke the rock out of Joe Johnson’s grasp:

Below, Green travels the length of a pizza slice before deflecting a pass:

While Green certainly passes the eye test as an effective and efficient stopper, actually measuring his defensive efficiency is a trickier endeavor. Luckily, the NBA’s recently released hustle stats shed some light on the question.

According to data provided by the NBA, Green ran only the 74th most feet per game of all eligible players during the regular season. In a vacuum, this means nothing. Yet, almost all the other “elite” defenders, such as Leonard, Gobert, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Avery Bradley, ranked in the top 30. 

Even more interesting, Draymond’s average defensive running speed of 3.49 miles per hour placed him 474th out of all 486 players, right above LeBron (criticized this year for not playing defense), James Harden (no comment), and Dirk Nowitzki (can’t run). Not much has changed in the playoffs; throughout Green’s three series, his defensive speed has been lower than that of all but 14 other players. Right in his vicinity on the list? Jamal Crawford (a notoriously minus defender) and DeAndre Jordan (doesn’t venture too far out of the paint). 

Even though Draymond moves relatively little, and at a sloth-like pace, he continues to stifle offenses. Throughout the playoffs, he’s defended 8.8 field goals per game on average, third in the league behind only Clint Capela and Steven Adams, who both wait at the rim to contest attempts. Capela and Adams also rank one and two in field goals made against, but Dray comes in at 10th. From a more traditional standpoint, Green is approaching two steals and two blocks per game, a collectively accepted marker for defensive elitism. No player accomplished this during the regular season, but even then DG came the closest. 

Late next month, Drake will announce the winner of the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award at the first annual NBA Awards show. Green, along with Leonard and Gobert (the two other finalists), are all transcendent defenders, terrifying opposing offenses in their own unique ways. Hopefully the voters recognize the efficiency with which Green defends his court. In a time when players take possessions off and skip games to rest, Green’s ability to captain his defense while not breaking too much of a sweat should be widely lauded.

Edited by Jazmyn Brown.

Who was drafted right before Draymond Green in the 2012 NBA draft?
Created 5/26/17
  1. Jae Crowder
  2. Perry Jones III
  3. Khris Middleton
  4. Will Barton

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