Draymond Green is in a nice spot. His Golden St, Warriors are in the NBA finals and are darlings not only to their own fans but also to many general NBA fans because of their small ball style of play led by the splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson,
Green himself has carved out a nice niche as a premier defender, capable of defending a wide variety of player types, which culminated in his being named to the 2015 NBA All Defensive Team. Green’s value at the offensive end also merits kudos as a nice piece in the Warriors’ ensemble. He runs and stretches the floor with his shooting and passing, making him a perfect fit in Golden St.’s offensive scheme.
Now, flashback to Dec. 3, 2008 at Ford Field in Detroit for the ACC/Big Ten challenge game hosted by then freshman Green’s Michigan St. Spartans against the North Carolina Tar Heels. I was assigned to scout many MSU games those days, including this one.
To be brief, NC, the eventual NCAA champion that season, rocked MSU 98-63. That Tar Heel squad eventually had 6 players chosen in an NBA first round-Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Zeller and Deon Thompson and a seventh, Danny Green, was chosen in a 2nd Round.
Somewhere in the middle of that game, MSU Coach Tom Izzo inserted this overweight 6-6 kid from Saginaw H.S. Even though Draymond Green had a great HS career and was considered a top flight recruit, he clearly didn’t belong in this game; in 6 minutes, Green had 0 points, 1 rebound and 5 fouls. He was overweight, slow, looked like an undersized interior #4 and was clearly overmatched by Hansbrough, Davis, Thompson and Zeller
As bad as that was, in my mind I never let him fully recover. I managed to punish him the rest of his college career for that performance even as he steadily improved-as early as later that season when these same two teams met again at Ford Field for the National Championship. NC beat MSU again, 89-72 but this time Green played 12 minutes and had 7 points and 7 rebounds-clearly proving he did belong.
But the damage was done (in my mind) and although I never verbalized it, I had him trivialized as “the overweight kid from Saginaw”. No matter what he did from that point on, I never gave him full credit. I always prided myself when I scouted teams on always giving them 20% credit more than how they played and always giving them a fresh slate each time I saw them. I neglected this principle with Green. In addition to missing on his talent, I missed on his intangibles-competitiveness, leadership and ability to blend, among others.
Now, to be honest, a lot has happened in the years since. Green played four years in a great system at MSU against great comp. He systematically developed a face up game. Always a very good passer, he steadily improved his ball handling and perimeter shooting and got into much better shape.
Still, after 4 years he was considered by most a 2nd round draft prospect and NBA Draft.Net, one of the better draft prospect websites, said, ‘he could use to lose some weight.” I wondered aloud whom he’d be able to guard. His rookie year he averaged 2.9 pts a game with no real role but that off-season he lost twenty lbs and his 2nd year playing time and importance increased in kind. Then this season David Lee went down with a hamstring injury and missed 24 of the first 25 Warrior games Green seized the opportunity and the rest is history.