With the Golden State Warriors starting 19-0, Stephen Curry is running away with his quest for a second consecutive MVP award. And there can be little question that, this season at least, the second best and next most important Golden State player has been Draymond Green. At his current level of play, Green is in the running for All-NBA selection, and in fact has an argument to make the first team. As a center.
This is a far cry from the player who entered the league as a second round tweener, not quick enough to play the three, not quite big enough to be a front line four. But through his own development, the league’s increasing devotion to mobility and shooting from all spots on the floor, and his unduplicatable fit within Golden State’s fast and furious system, he has gone beyond smallball power forward to become arguably the most dominant big man in the NBA this season.
While Green’s traditional stats might seem pedestrian at first glance, that is mostly a result of his relatively low 13.2 points per game. Add in the 8.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists (good for 7th in the league), 2.5 combined steals and blocks, and 40 percent three-point shooting and the raw numbers become more impressive. Further taking into account his role as the fulcrum of the Warriors’ fifth-rated defense, a rating which quite possibly understates their defensive chops given the sheer amount of garbage time played a team outscoring opponents by nearly 17 points per 100 possessions and his play becomes even more laudable. But all that has been achieved with Green playing a mix of power forward and center.
With Green at the four, the Warriors are percolating along perfectly well, with a net point differential of +14.3 points per 48 minutes played. Green himself is contributing stupendously alongside whichever center interim coach Luke Walton has paired him:
For comparison’s sake, the only three seasons previously recorded of a player averaging at least seven rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block per game were recorded by LeBron James in the three years prior to his first departure from Cleveland.
Turning Green loose at center as part of the Golden State’s lineup turns him into a sort of modern day Oscar Robertson. This combination of defense, rebounding and playmaking is completely unprecedented. No player in NBA history has averaged more than 5.5 assists while also averaging as many as even two blocks per game. Even playing nearly 80 percent of his minutes at power forward (and thus spending more time away from the hoop), Green is 12th in per game rim protection value. He is second to only James in playmaking usage among non-point guards, with teammates shooting at an effective 69.7 percent clip on his assist chances.
Among players with at least 100 minutes spent at center this season, Green’s production sums to plus-10.8 points per 36 according to Daily RAPM Estimate, or DRE, a weighted measure of box score stats. To put that number in context, Curry is the overall league leader (by a wide margin) in DRE with a plus-11.1 rating. As the biggest Warrior on the floor, on this measure of primarily offensive production, Green has contributed at a similar rate to Curry.
And this wondrous individual statistical accumulation has been in service of absolutely lethal play by the Warriors, as lineups with Green at center are outscoring the opposition by 50.6 points per 48. That is to say, by more than a point every minute on the floor.
While this level of success simply can not be sustainable over a full season, there is more than enough cushion for some natural regression to still allow Green to be having not just a career year, but a season worthy of discussion for MVP in the non-Curry division.
In addition to contributing to Fancy Stats, Seth Partnow is the managing editor of The Nylon Calculus, a basketball analytics website. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife and daughter. Follow Seth on twitter@SethPartnow.