The Pistons are obviously the pro team that I follow most closely, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m probably more excited to watch former Saginaw High and Michigan State star Draymond Green play for the Warriors at the Palace tonight than any other aspect of this game. Nate Parham at Golden State of Mind asked me to answer a few questions about the game and matchups, but I was more than happy to field a Green question:
2. In our offseason Q&A about Green shortly after summer league, you mentioned that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo compared him to Shane Battier and we’re starting to see a bit of that – he’s obviously a smart player and has been in at the end of quarters/games as part of our defensive unit, which is extremely impressive given that the rap was that he might not be able to defend at the next level. Even as a MSU fan, does his transition as a NBA defender surprise you or is this moreso the byproduct of him being on a team that has been historically terrible defensively?
PH: I thought it would take him longer to adjust to the speed of NBA wings, but I’m not surprised that he’s been sound defensively so far. Even Battier is not the quickest or most athletic guy (though he is smaller than Green, so that helps). He’s defended well throughout his career because he’s intelligent, he understands defensive concepts and he’s able to anticipate where offensive players are going sometimes even before they know where they are going. Green has all of those same characteristics.
One of the things that is irritating about some who evaluate NBA prospects is their seeming disregard of intelligence. Athleticism, size, etc. are all important qualities — I’m certainly not saying any schlub with a high IQ can make it in the NBA. But time and time again it has been proven that there is a needed supply of smart players to fill specific roles in this league. Green has always been in that mold and I never bought that he was going to be a defensive liability simply because he doesn’t look like a prototypical NBA three or four. He’s never going to be a dominant player at each position, but he’s also smart enough to figure out how to accentuate his positive attributes at either position. And to his credit, Mark Jackson seems to be doing a great job of finding minutes to develop not only Green, but all three of his rookies while also winning games, something I wish the Pistons would take a lesson from.