You know what Draymond Green is really freaking good at? Okay, yeah, kicking people in the genitals and getting technical fouls. But aside from that, he’s really good at the whole defense thing. So much so that he should be on the cusp of grasping his third Defensive Player of the Year award in a row. Sorry, Kawhi.
There’s a variety of good to great defenders in the NBA. For example, LeBron James is still a very impactful defender when he wants to be as evidenced by his 5.1 defensive box plus/minus in the 2015 playoffs and his 5.8 DBPM in last year’s playoffs — the two highest marks of his postseason career. The only problem with LeBron is that line in there that reads, “when he wants to be.” Anytime you attach that line with a player they’re almost immediately disqualified from a season-long award.
In addition to LeBron, Kevin Durant is still having nightmares about Tony Allen, Rudy Gobert is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA, Joel Embiid was looking like Hakeem Olajuwon until he got hurt, etc. You get the point: There are a ton of good defenders in the NBA. But, if you ask around in an attempt to find who’s the best on a nightly basis, you’ll come back with two answers: Draymond Green and Kawhi Leonard.
As I mentioned before, Green should be on the verge of being awarded his third DPOY award in a row implying that the voters got it wrong each of the past two years when they opted to choose Leonard as the award winner.
Here are a couple reasons as to why:
It’s undeniable. Leonard is the best one-on-one defender in the NBA. If you need one player to get you a stop in a one-on-one game, Leonard has to be your choice. But, if you need one player to get you a stop in a five-on-five setting, you’ve got to take Green. And last I checked, the NBA still plays five-on-five, right? Can someone call LaVar Ball and ask him? By the way, is everyone aware LaVar Ball has never lost in a game of one-on-one? Could anyone even come close to defending LaVar Ball in a game of one-on-one? Haha, the answer is an emphatic “No.” I bet if we tossed Lavar in shark infested waters and told him to go score, he’d have a bucket within one-tenth of a second.
Moving forward, Draymond Green is the NBA’s supreme team defender. Just watch this play:
Okay, just a simple block, right? Not so much. This play is perhaps the best representation of Green’s defensive prowess floating through the Internet.
Why’s it so great you ask?
- Andre Iguodala funnels LeBron towards Green. What a freaking luxury. Does anyone know much of a luxury it is to be a teammate of Green’s knowing that if you get beat, he’ll most likely be there to save your a**?
- Green uses the verticality rule to the best of his ability during this play. The NBA’s verticality rule is as follows:
“On a block-charge type play, a secondary defensive player cannot be in a legal guarding position, even if stationary, inside the “Restricted Area” if the offensive player receives the ball outside the lower defensive box — unless he jumps vertically in an attempt to defend the shot. Therefore, even if positioned inside the Restricted Area, a secondary defender does not commit a blocking foul if contact is made while he is jumping vertically in an attempt to defend. The defender must, however, establish legal guarding position prior to the start of the offensive player’s upward motion.”
When watching Warriors games I often find myself asking if Green made up this rule himself. Green is exceptional at protecting the lane due to his ability to use this rule to his advantage.
- He does this against LeBron freaking James. It’s not like I’m showing Green blocking T.J. McConnell. This is against the best player in the world, in overtime of an NBA Finals game. That’s ridiculous.
Green’s ability to dominate the paint and its surrounding area speaks volumes to how great of a team defender he is. I’m not going to say Leonard doesn’t possess the ability to pull off a play similar to this one, but Green does this every single game multiple times per game. It’s just such a huge advantage for his team.
Oh, hey, here’s another video of Green dominating the interior!
While Green and Leonard are similarly great on defense, they have contrasting styles. Green is a hybrid between an interior defender and a perimeter defender. Leonard spends most of his time on the perimeter and only comes in the lane when he’s forced to do so.
Green is only marginally worse on the perimeter than Leonard whereas Leonard is a much weaker interior defender than Green.
If we had to rate Green’s perimeter defense both on-ball and off-ball he’d probably get a 9/10 overall. Leonard would receive a 10/10. But it’s Green’s aforementioned exceptional interior defense that sets him apart from Leonard.
If we had to rate Green’s interior defense he’d receive a 10/10. As for Leonard, he’d probably get something more along the lines of a 5/10 or 6/10.
This is not to belittle Leonard. Green is just the all around better defender.
Here’s a video of Green stealing the ball from one of the best players in the world near the perimeter — they’re about 15 feet away from the basket:
And another steal on the perimeter by Green:
Now I know what you’re saying, “Kawhi does that too!” And you’re not wrong. But like I said before, take into account Green’s perimeter defense combined with his interior defense and you have yourself the best defender in the world.
When comparing two defenders, most of the discussion is admittedly arbitrary. Although, there are some quality statistics that help to paint the defensive picture.
One of these is DBPM, which is defined as:
“A box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league-average player, translate to an average team.”
Green’s DBPM each of the past three years: 4.0 (2014-2015), 3.9 (2015-2016), 5.0 (2016-2017)
Leonard’s DBPM each of the past three years: 3.5, 2.8, 1.6
As you can see, per DBPM, Leonard has actually regressed as a defender. Does anyone think carrying a larger load on offense contributed to this? Me too, but that’s a whole different discussion.
On top of these DBPM statistics, it should also be noted that the San Antonio Spurs defensive rating is 7.9 points worse this season when Leonard is on the court rather than off. That may not mean much but it’s something to chew on.
The bottom line is this: Both Leonard and Green are superb defensive players, but the DPOY award can only end up in one man’s trophy case. The numbers favor Green and so does the tape. The voters made a mistake each of the last two years. Hopefully this year they right their wrongs by giving Green what he’s earned.
Does Nick Wright from FS1 get a vote?
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