Warriors forward Draymond Green makes quick impact beyond the arc
Within basketball-crazed circles, Draymond Green has reached a certain level of acclaim. At this moment he could be the quiet front-runner to be named Defensive Player of the Year. His coach, Steve Kerr, can't seem to say enough about what Green brings to his team both in measurable impact and unquantifiable influence. Green's teammates seem to rally through his energy as a means to build leads and cut deficits. In fact, the third-year forward's play has made coach-turned-analyst Jeff Van Gundy into a true believer, as he advocated for Green's All-Star candidacy on national television.
Already there's talk that Green, selected with the 35th pick in the 2012 draft, might demand such a salary in free agency that the Warriors would have to wade deep into luxury tax territory to keep him. The speculation is both real and deserved; Green will indeed draw some hefty offers this summer as a byproduct of the league's increasing appreciation of his rich skill set.
The broad strokes of Green's success should be obvious. His defense is worthy of All-NBA billing, if not the top individual honor. His passing (he averages 4.1 assists per 36 minutes) makes him a perfect component of Golden State's fluid offense. Green's improvement as a perimeter shooter, too, stands out in a league that so values spacing.
It's deep within those skills and others, though, that Green crystallizes his on-court import. That Green is an excellent defender, for example, matters only so much as the specifics (his versatility, ability to cover space, etc.) that make it happen. Also, to say Green is a good three-point shooter is accurate, but insufficient. Clearly he is willing to take and make threes, as the Hawks—whom the Warriors ran off the floor Wednesday—can attest:
Yet those clips tell far more than the outcome of a particular shot. Whether Green makes his threes is obviously important; no competent defense will respect the range of a shooter who can't shoot. Accuracy, though, is not the only variable to consider. Many stretch bigs have a problem with the speed of their release. While perimeter players have been trained through a lifetime of practice to quickly fire off shots in minimal space, range-shooting power forwards and centers often move to the perimeter later in their careers and in their transition bring more deliberate shooting forms.
This is fine so long as the form is functional. A stretch four is only useful in the case that his shooting is actually a threat. If his form needs to be pulled back and centered like a rickety catapult, that threat is contingent on a defense giving him ample time to line up and fire.
That this isn't an issue for Green makes a profound difference in the kinds of shots he is able to take and make. Every one of Green's three-point attempts in the clips above goes contested by a player taller than him. Were the mechanics of his shot slower, his shot could have been blocked, altered or prevented outright. Instead, he lets loose a three in swift, fluid motion: a slight dip, a quick rise and a flick of a release.
Elite NBA offenses are able to operate at a speed faster than defensive rotation in part because of players like Green. When he intends to shoot, no beat is wasted. The ball comes to him and is gone—sent on its way without hesitation. The way Green shoots also breeds confidence; make or miss, Green knows that he can beat the defender scrambling to close out on his shot in most cases. It's because of this that Green averages about as many three-point attempts per minute as wings such as LeBron James, Gordon Hayward, and Carmelo Anthony.
All of which is to say that shooting range is not always equal. There are concrete, understood differences between the three-point work of pull-up maestros like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard and catch-and-shoot types like J.J. Redick and Kevin Martin. Less immediately obvious is the distinction between those who can put up composed looks against pressure true to their usual shooting motion and those with more leisurely releases. The devil of title contention—a course through which even minor weaknesses can become issues—lies in such details.
If the ball comes to Green in position to launch up a three, odds are that he was open. What separates Green from other range-shooting bigs around the league is that by the time he lines up and sends his shot flying, he still is.