With apologies to Rudy Gobert and Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green is the best defender in the NBA. The NBA rewarded Green with the Defensive Player of the Year award at the NBA Awards Show, and it’s a well-deserved honor after he finished second to Leonard in each of the last two years.
He won Defensive Player of the Year because his versatility makes the Warriors’ unique style possible. You might find people who disagree with those statements, and I understand.
But the reason why Draymond Green is the best defender in the NBA is due to a trait we don’t normally associate with great defenders. He’s not a shutdown wing or a dominant big man. He’s not the quickest, nor is he necessarily the strongest. His greatest trait is that he’s all of those things wrapped in a highly intelligent package. He is a defensive genius unlike any in NBA history.
Green knows your plays before you do. He thinks several steps ahead, directing teammates to spots to cover up threats before they exist. He manipulates the floor like a middle linebacker because he knows where the other team ultimately wants to go. He’s like those Precogs in Minority Report who have a vision of the other team’s play and the means to know how to stop it.
Just watch him on this sequence in the Warriors’ Game 1 NBA Finals victory:
Green knows that the Cavaliers are trying to get Stephen Curry to switch onto LeBron James. Look at him directing his teammates to change assignments before the play happens. He moves Curry into the corner and out of the pick-and-roll, erasing Cleveland’s first option.
And when the Cavaliers inevitably try to take advantage by moving Kevin Love inside for a lob pass, Green lays in the weeds and picks it off. Not only did he know Cleveland’s initial plan, but he knew its backup plan. He had the awareness to diagram the court to take both away.
It takes a revolutionary player to do all of those things in one three-second sequence. Combine that into one package, and that makes Green the most complete defender in NBA history. Others have been more dominant at any one quality — shot-blocking, post defense, man-to-man defense, speed off the ball, etc. — but nobody else puts them all together in one package.
That’s why he has this honor.