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Draymond Green, Game Changer

by Brian Witt

In an effort to bring our fans closer to the action on the court, the Warriors and MOCAP Analytics have teamed up to produce an ongoing analytical blog series, featuring insights and analyses not previously made available to the public.

He may not make many headlines, and his stat line certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, he doesn’t even get 20 minutes a game. But where would the Warriors be this season without Draymond Green? That’s a hypothetical anyone affiliated with the team, fan or otherwise, is thankful isn’t a reality. You see him box out his man, fight through screens, and guard nearly every position on the floor. You hear the appreciation when he leaves the court to a raucous ovation. Our full spectrum of senses tells us that Draymond Green is a game-changer.

There’s that term again. Game-changer. It’s a phrase that’s probably thrown around too often in sports, particularly because it’s a vague description that offers little insight into a player’s specific contributions. And typically, your seventh or eighth man doesn’t fit the bill. But thanks to the evolution of player tracking data and MOCAP’s analytics platform, we’re now able to pick apart specific ways in which Green changes the game, particularly on the defensive end.

The Warriors currently rank as the fourth-best defensive team in the league with a defensive rating of 99.7, meaning they allow 99.7 points per 100 possessions against. Their success can in large part be attributed to two of the top eight players in the league in terms of individual defensive rating in rim-protector Andrew Bogut (95.5) and the aforementioned Green (97.8). We recently delved into Bogut’s proficiency on the defensive end. Now we take a closer look at Green, a versatile defender who makes a significant impact in a multitude of situations, especially in the post and on perimeter closeouts.

We start at the highest level, considering all of the Warriors defensive possessions where Green is a post defender or closeout defender, regardless of how the play results (i.e., shot, pass, foul, turnover). The visuals below show that, in each case, the Warriors allow fewer points per possession (PPP) than the NBA average for similar play types (Post: 0.71 PPP v 0.90 PPP; Closeout: 0.95 PPP v 0.98 PPP), suggesting Green is, in general, a plus-defender in those situations.


Next, let’s take a closer look at Green’s defensive play in specific situations. As you can see in the figure below, opponents attempt to shoot more often off post touches when guarded by Green than they do against the rest of the league (49% v 43%), but they are also less effective (indicated by blue coloring). Hovering over each circle reveals further detail on Green’s post-defense effectiveness, compared to the league average. A similar defensive breakdown is shown beneath for Green’s closeouts on perimeter players.


Looking at the “Shot” outcome above, we see that Green’s defensive prowess lowers the opponents’ PPP on shots off post touches (0.82 PPP v 0.90 PPP) and closeouts (0.78 PPP v 1.03 PPP). However, the number of shots defended wasn’t large, so it’s important to consider the possibility that the lower PPP could be due to luck to some degree. To quantify just how much is due to luck, MOCAP used Bayesian statistics to estimate how likely Green is to lower opponents’ PPP in the future, and by how much. Pertinently, the methods also account for the skill of every individual offensive player that Green defended, making the predictions more precise.

The results indicate that Green is most likely to lower the opponents’ PPP on shots off post touches and closeouts by 0.09 PPP and 0.10 PPP, respectively. The statistical significance of each result is shown by the blue and white regions in the probability density function (PDF) - the more blue and less white beneath the curve, the more likely it is that Green is better than average. As the season progresses and Green continues his defensive dominance, the PDF will shift to the left, and be covered by even more blue.


At a glance, Green’s predicted PPP reductions of 0.09 and 0.10 may not jump off the page, but in fact these are big-time defensive numbers. A team full of players with similar defensive impacts as Green would certainly rank at or near the very top in the NBA, regardless of the year. In fact, it should come as no surprise that after ranking no higher than 26th in the previous four years, the Warriors made the jump to the 14th-ranked defense a season ago, non-coincidentally Green’s first with the team. Clearly, Green is a serious defensive weapon.

So where would the Warriors be without Draymond Green? It’s impossible to know for sure, but judging by the data, it’s readily apparent that he’s a significant cog in their stifling defensive machine. His defensive proficiency both in the post and on perimeter closeouts is further evidence of his bountiful versatility, as both skill sets are necessary for someone who is called upon to defend various types of players across multiple positions. By harassing his opponents all over the court, Green has solidified his niche within the Warriors star-studded lineup as both an energy catalyst and a lockdown defender. He may never be a superstar, but he doesn’t have to be to be a game-changer. He’s proven that much already.

Feel free to let us know what else you’d like to see in the comments below, and stay tuned for more exclusive data-driven content very soon. For all MOCAP-related blogs, click here. You can also follow MOCAP Analytics on Twitter @mocapanalytics.

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Golden State Warriors.

 

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