The Houston Rockets are in the midst of a rebuild with the central focus being the development of Jalen Green and their selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. However, it's essential to develop complementary players around them.
Usman Garuba, who was selected with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is vying to be one of the Rockets' long-term pieces. He appeared in 24 games in his rookie campaign with averages of 2.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in 10.0 minutes per game.
Garuba did not receive a regular opportunity at the NBA level until the final seven games of the regular season. He averaged 3.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks in 17.7 minutes per game during this stretch. What Garuba displayed was he's best as a small five that can provide energy and defensive versatility.
In a recent interview with HoopsHype, Garuba expressed how Draymond Green is a player he studies as he continues to develop his game. Green is another player who thrives sliding over to the small-ball five role.
"I like to watch Draymond Green a lot. There are tons of clips of him on my iPad. I learn a lot from him — how he plays defense, constantly setting picks… his offensive game, too. Also, the way he communicates with his teammates all the time, and his leadership on the court. He makes everything easier for the Warriors."
Green presents a lot of problems for opposing offenses and one of the many reasons is that he can guard 1-5 — making him the consummate small-ball five to switch everything. He is also a highly cerebral team defender, whether making a low-man rotation, doubling the ball, or in pick-and-roll coverage.
While Green is listed at just 6-foot-6, he has a lot of great physical tools to make him such an impactful defender. He has the quickness to contain dribble penetration and be active in pick-and-roll coverage while also having the length to protect the paint and contest shots tightly.
It's rare to find a time when the Warriors are on defense that Green isn't communicating frequently as the anchor of the unit. Even when he's injured, he serves as an extra assistant coach due to his hands-on leadership.
On offense, Green is a highly unselfish player that makes it a point to embrace the strengths of the key offensive threats he's playing with. He knows when to engage in a dribble handoff with Stephen Curry, or where to get the ball to as a short-roll playmaker after the defense blitzes the ball.
If Garuba studies Green closely, there's a lot of value that can be had from doing so. There's a lot of value in a player finding his niche and embracing it in the NBA. Green has done it just as well as any role player in recent memory.
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