Draymond Green has likely worked his way into the first round

June 8, 2012 in Cover Story, Division I

By Patrick Hayes

Saginaw High and Michigan State standout Draymond Green has never had the so-called ‘look’ of a NBA prospect. So what he’s simply done over the course of his four-year college career is make himself too productive to be ignored. He played himself into the conversation of late first round/early second round draft prospects this season with his outstanding senior year, summed up nicely here by Drew Cannon of Basketball Prospectus:

Take a look at Michigan State’s roster from last year. Now pretend Draymond Green’s not on it. How do they score? How do they rebound? How do they defend half the players in America? How are they distributing the ball? I barely get how they did all that without (sic) Green, but the fact that they were an entirely deserving No. 1 seed is a credit to how much he did for that program. I’d feel bad ranking him second, except that Anthony Davis is first and he really, really, really deserves to be first.

Green’s rebounding, in particular, was the best indicator that he could have some success as a NBA player. Rebound rate (the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs while on the court) is typically a stat that projects well from college to the NBA, and Green had one of the best rebound rates in the country. Kenneth Faried, one of the top rookies in the league last season, played at a Mid-Major college, but many predicted his outstanding rebounding in college despite being undersized would carry over to the NBA. Green wasn’t quite as dominant as Faried on the glass in college, but he was pretty close.

So, based on what he did on the court alone, Green did enough this year to convince scouts he was worthy of being drafted somewhere. But finally, at this week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, the measurables according to DraftExpress, at one time considered Green’s weakness, boosted his stock. Green’s height — 6-feet-7.5-inches with shoes on — still makes him a bit undersized to play power forward in the NBA, but two other measurements, his standing reach (8-feet-10-inches) and wingspan (7-feet-1.25-inches), were among the biggest pleasant surprises of the combine. North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, for example, finished behind Green in both categories, and he’s a seven-footer. So despite being a little on the short side, Green definitely has the length to play at the four spot in the NBA, something that scouts worried about with him before the combine as most don’t see him as mobile enough defensively to be a full-time small forward. That, combined with the fact that Green has already worked out or has workouts scheduled with many of the teams picking in the 20-30 range, make it a pretty good bet that he will be a first round pick.

When Green was a sophomore at Michigan State, I could see glimpses of a NBA prospect in him because he thoroughly understood how to play the game, he used his body well, he passed well, he rebounded well and he was improving at a rapid rate. I wrote this post around that time, suggesting he had NBA potential, and virtually everyone who read it told me I was crazy. Even last year, when I wrote that if Kyle Singler could get drafted, then Green would certainly be a draft prospect by the time he left college, I still heard from quite a few skeptics. It has to be gratifying for Green to be in this position when four years ago virtually no one thought he’d have a shot at playing in the NBA.