This article is part of the “Take Notice” Column. View other Take Notice pieces here.
Playing the Los Angeles Clippers in a divisional matchup that everybody clearly was aware of as a divisional matchup, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green notched his eleventh triple-double of the season, and it took the announcers a minute to even acknowledge the accomplishment.
You see, Green’s tenth assist was to an otherwise cold Steph Curry for a 26-foot three-pointer, and during this season, everything commendable Curry does is magnified (and legitimately so). It’s a testament to how stupidly good the Warriors are that Green’s league-leading triple-double total was introduced as commonplace. But for all the deserving analyses written about Curry’s historic campaign, Green’s 2015-2016 has been overlooked, and needs to be given its own historical context.
First, a caveat. When compared to all of the players named below, Draymond Green will have put up a significantly lower amount of win shares. This becomes evident when understanding that all of said players were the featured players on their teams; Green, on the other hand, could be argued as the third player whom the Warriors want to get the ball (behind Curry and Klay Thompson). In addition, in all but two of the seasons that will be discussed, Green has averaged at least ten minutes less than the other players.
Thanks to Basketball-Reference’s Play Index, I ran the numbers Green’s currently putting up – 14 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game, and 7.2 assists per game – and found that only seven additional such seasons have occurred in NBA history: two by Wilt Chamberlain, four by Oscar Robertson, and one by Magic Johnson. Green has the lowest number in all three statistical categories, but he’s still inserted himself into this aspect of the canon. This can be attributed to the fewer minutes he’s played along with not being the focus of the team’s offense: compared to those seven seasons, Green is attempting an average of 8.5 fewer field goals per game in 9.7 fewer minutes. Looking at true shooting percentage, then, has him tied for third among these seasons at .588.
Per 100 possessions, he’s averaging well over a triple-double (20.1 pts., 13.5 reb., and 10.3 ast. & 1.8 stls and 1.7 blks), and since the per 100 possessions stats have been calculated, only one other player has put up these numbers: Grant Hill in the 96-97 season; again, the team’s primary player. That season, Hill posted the league’s highest VORP at 7.9, while Green currently sits ninth with 3.6. As Curry leads the league, only Oklahoma City joins the Warriors with two players in the top-ten. But, to hammer this point fully, the strategy of OKC is to get Westbrook and Durant the ball. Golden State isn’t built around getting Draymond Green the ball at all times. As his assists, which have nearly doubled since last season per game, show, even when he gets the ball, the concern is to feed one of the Splash Brothers. This makes the numbers he’s putting up all the more impressive, and why Green’s improvement over the last season has been so exponential.
Steph Curry will probably win the MVP unanimously, and this piece certainly wasn’t written to argue otherwise. Instead, as the spotlight shines on the absurd paradigm shift that is the Warriors and the three-pointer, Draymond Green has quietly played his way into a season as statistically interesting as Curry’s. When you ascend into a place where the only other names are Wilt, Oscar, and Magic, you’ve done something special. And unlike any of Robertson’s seasons, Green looks poised to use these numbers to propel his team to a championship.