June 9, 2016
Draymond Green: From Second-Rounder To NBA Superstar

If it was somehow possible to combine the on-court talents and personalities of Anthony Mason, Kevin Garnett, Chris Mullin, Robert Horry, and Charles Oakley, you'd have Golden State Warriors' super-forward Draymond Green.

Throughout Golden State's current playoff run, Green has been everything to his Warriors. Floor general, defensive specialist, leading-scorer, muscle, LeBron-stopper, outside threat, offensive table-setter, even the team's public relations guru.

In fact, the former Michigan State Spartan has proven to be the most well-rounded weapon of this year's playoffs, and his star has ascended accordingly.

Granted, with the exception of his dunk-denying stuff of King James, Wednesday night's six-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist effort in Golden State's somewhat surprising, 30-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the NBA Finals wasn't exactly a prime example of what Green has contributed to his team this season.

However, in the opening game of Golden State's NBA Finals rematch with Cleveland, it was Green who led the Warriors to a 104-89, tone-setting victory with 16 points, 11 boards, and seven assists—all team-highs on a night when the long-distance duo of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to score just 20 points.

Three days later, it was Green who again provided the fuel for Golden State's offensive fire by finishing with a 28-point performance in one of the best games of his career that included hitting 5 of 8 from long-range in the Warriors' 33-point destruction of the Cavs in Game 2.

But even with Golden State's proverbial foot rapidly approaching Cleveland's throat, Green wasn't ready to crown his Warriors ahead of their then-upcoming visit to the land of LeBron while speaking to the media following Game 2.

''I think our focus has been there,'' said Green. ''We've really locked in on the game plan. The intensity level has been there, and most importantly we've gotten it done on the defensive side of the basketball. To hold this team to 77 points, that's a very good ball club, that's not something that's easy to do. But we really locked in. We stuck to the game plan, and we've been able to do that. So that's great and all.''

''But it doesn't matter any more,'' Green continued. ''Like if we won those three games by a combined three points, that's three wins. So those wins are gone. I mean, obviously it's good to be up 2-0, but we've got to go to Cleveland.''

As you may have heard, Green doesn't hesitate to employ the type of limb-flailing physicality that angers every opponent in his pursuit of a win—a habit that's recently become expensive. Oklahoma City's Steven Adams learned that painful fact on at least two occasions, and in many ways, the media's attempt to dissect and constantly discuss Green's rugged style of play immediately following the last Adams' incident only provided further proof of his stock's ascension.

Relatively new-found fame, fortune, and league-wide respect aside, Green has also struggled at times throughout this post-season. After dropping 23 points on Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, he averaged just over eight points a night during the final six games of the series.

When you consider that he'd never even averaged north of the all-important, 10 point-per-game plateau until last season, Green's current status as one of the league's most feared forwards is truly amazing. For the first two years of his career, Green was rarely more than a low-minute member of Golden State's bench whose statistical output reflected his place on the team's totem poll.

Fortunately for both Green and his employers, life significantly improved during the 2014-15 campaign. No longer was Green a sub-starter with the offensive numbers to match. Suddenly, the Warriors had been blessed by the presence of a dynamic young forward averaging 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, and in a recent interview with the OC Register, Green gave an example of the competitive nature that's obviously played a key role in his on-court development.

''Anything I do, I'm trying to win,'' said Green. ''I've always been the same way. That's me. I stopped playing video games because I hate losing. I wasn't very good, so I stopped.''

On the court, versatility on both sides of the ball is only part of Green's identity. Twenty years ago, he's the player who would've verbally battled Michael Jordan for 48 minutes, the one who would've stuck to a red-hot Reggie Miller like glue, and the type of athlete who would've driven smaller guys insane with his ability to knock down long-distance daggers.

As a testament to how well he's been playing, Green is an early favorite to win this year's NBA Finals M.V.P. award. But if you ask Curry, it doesn't matter who earns the honor—as long as it's one of his teammates.

''That's obviously a highly-touted award, deservedly so, when a guy steps up in the biggest moments,'' Curry told the media prior to Wednesday's Game 3.''But as long as it's somebody from our team, means we won.''

Do the 14 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 7.4 assists he averaged during the regular season, or his recent selection to the All-NBA second team make Green irreplaceable? Not on their own. But when added to his growing arsenal of on-court weaponry and all the intangibles he brings to the table, it's easy to understand how Green went from being a forgotten, second-round draft pick to one of the game's more intriguing superstars.

[Photo By-Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]