Is Draymond Green Worth a Max Contract?

This story just kind of snuck up out of nowhere:

So apparently Draymond wants a max contract. He’s eligible to sign an extension on August 3rd, but according to this Athletic article, the Warriors aren’t planning on offering him one. Which could potentially lead to a situation where Draymond leaves Golden State and ends up somewhere else. Perhaps the Pistons, who I’m sure still have some cap space? The Pistons suck, but it’s Draymond’s home state of Michigan so who knows.

Sam Quinn of CBS, one of my favorite basketball writers out there, explained the situation:

The Golden State Warriors just won a championship with the highest payroll in NBA history, and things are only going to get pricier from here. While their entire core is locked in for next season, four of the five best players are eligible for extensions this offseason that could launch the Warriors even further into uncharted luxury-tax territory for the next few years. 

First on the docket? Draymond Green, who is eligible for an extension on Aug. 3, and according to Anthony Slater and Marcus Thompson of The Athletic, wants every penny he can get.

Green is slated to make $25.8 million next season, and has a player option for $28.5 million after that. For Green to maximize his earnings on an extension, he would have to turn down that option and re-sign at 120 percent of his current salary. That path would allow the Warriors to pay him over $164 million for the next five seasons. This, according to Slater and Thompson, is what Green wants.

So 5 years, $164 million if he gets a max extension next month.


If the Warriors are unwilling to extend Green, he is reportedly willing to pursue other options to get the contract he wants. What exactly that would entail is less certain. Green can become an unrestricted free agent as soon as next offseason. Would he play out this season expecting to possibly leave? Would he try to force a trade? There is no reason to believe he would at this stage, but if his priority is getting paid and the Warriors won’t meet his demands, almost anything could reasonably be on the table.

The Warriors have frequently vocalized their interest in extending their championship window beyond this current core’s prime. If that is indeed their goal, extending Wiggins (27 years old) and Poole (23) would seemingly be greater priorities than Green (32). With Green under contract for another year, Golden State could potentially keep him while developing Jonathan Kuminga and James Wiseman as front-court replacements should he decide to leave.

At this point, their options are either to do that or face historic salary and luxury-tax payments over the next several years. Had the Warriors retained Otto Porter and Gary Payton II this offseason, they could have wound up spending $500 million on their players in combined salary and taxes next season. Keeping Green, Wiggins and Poole would almost certainly vault them beyond that line and perhaps significantly further. Joe Lacob has shown a greater appetite for spending than any other NBA owner, but that would be a different level entirely. 

Now, before we go any further, the idea of Draymond leaving the Warriors is outlandish. It’s even more outlandish than Steph playing for another team honestly. I would be thoroughly shocked if Draymond leaves and plays for another team.

But I guess it’s indeed possible. If he really wants to maximize his earnings, then he may just have to leave. The Warriors have an outrageously large salary bill when you include luxury tax fees.

Warrior fans get VERY sensitive when anyone talks about how much their team cost—they are still smarting over when Brian Windhorst said one of the games in the finals was a “checkbook win” for the Warriors. They are mad that Brian Windhorst simply pointed out the true, undeniable FACT that the Warriors are a $330 million team, and that that might just be part of the reason they’re so good.

The Warriors have the highest payroll in the league. It’s just the truth.

And they have the highest luxury tax bill, too:

If these figures are correct—or more accurately, if I am looking at the right tables on Spotrac, because the NBA salary cap is extremely confusing and I might have botched this—then the Warriors had a total bill of about $325 million for this 2022 Championship season.

I know it was over $300 million for sure because Brian Windhorst said so. And I trust what Windhorst says. He’s probably my favorite NBA reporter and I trust what he says. He knows his shit.

And after paying a massive bill for this Championship season, Warriors owner Joe Lacob appears to want to take some pressure off of his wallet and shed some salary. It’s why the Warriors didn’t bring back JTA, Otto Porter, Gary Payton II, and Bjelica.

The Warriors prioritized bringing back Kevon Looney and had to let all those other guys go in order to do so. They signed Donte Divincenzo to add depth on the perimeter.

But if Lacob was willing to spend big for this upcoming season, then I think we would have seen the Warriors bring back more players than just Looney.

And so based on this—the Warriors clearly making moves to shed salary and lower their luxury tax bill—it does seem like the odds of Draymond Green getting a max extension are pretty low.

Then again, maybe the Warriors were shedding role players specifically in preparation for Draymond’s extension. They knew this was coming and wanted to make sure it didn’t completely break the bank.

I just find it so difficult to envision the Warriors playing hardball with Draymond Green, and telling him to go pound sand when he asks for a big extension. I just don’t think the Warriors are that type of organization; they have traditionally been extremely generous and loyal to their stars.

I simply can’t see them burning that bridge with Draymond. He has been there a decade now and won four championships. They are going to do whatever they can to take care of him and make things right. I would be shocked if they didn’t.

But this leads me to a subject I’ve wanted to write about for a long time: just how good is Draymond Green really? Like, beyond the box score numbers.

Is he actually worth a max deal?

In my mind, yes.

If you just look at his box score numbers, you’d say no way in hell, not a chance. But it’s about more than that. His impact on winning is tremendous, and although it’s not obvious in the box score, it’s apparent in other numbers. Starting with this one highlighted by Jason Timpf:

This is a good launching point for the Draymond discussion. You have to look at the advanced stats in order to begin to quantify his impact on the game. Because you won’t be able to with just the box score.

I understand why a lot of people are skeptical of advanced stats. They are seen as the reason Nikola Jokic has won the past two MVPs, and Jokic has been one of the most polarizing MVPs in recent memory. Also, advanced stats are seen as the reason the league thinks Rudy Gobert is so good despite the fact that most of NBA Twitter thinks he’s a bum.

But I also think people are getting the wrong idea about advanced stats. They’re not based off of imaginary numbers—they’re still ultimately based off of the simple box score numbers, they’re just applied differently and in more detail-oriented ways. For instance, usage rate is seen as this complicated and imaginary advanced stat number, but in reality it’s just based off of field goal attempts and turnovers. Usage rate is essentially a player’s combined proportion of his team’s shot attempts and turnovers while he’s on the floor. That’s it.

Advanced stats really are a product of the fact that we simply have so many more metrics and datapoints to work with today than we did even just 25-30 years ago. We can easily see what percentage of a player’s total three pointers he was assisted on, or his team’s plus minus when he was on the court vs. when he was off it. Box Plus/Minus (both offensive and defensive) is a derivative of plus/minus.

There are certain advanced numbers that I don’t fully understand and thus I tend to stay away from. Win shares, for instance. I don’t understand how “win shares” work and so I don’t really put much stock into them. I’ve read articles to try and understand the concept better but I still don’t get it:

Another stat that I don’t really place a ton of stock into since I don’t understand it: PER. It’s a very complicated and long formula, although it’s ultimately just derived from simple box score figures and weighted, but since I don’t fully understand how it’s calculated, I don’t really place a lot of stock into it, either. And I think it often spits out ridiculous results. It has Michael Jordan ranked #1 all time in efficiency at 27.91. But how is he ahead of LeBron (#2 all time at 27.34)?

In no way, shape or form is Michael Jordan more efficient than LeBron. It’s a simple and verifiable fact that LeBron is a more efficient basketball player than Michael Jordan. He has a higher career field goal percentage. He has a way higher effective field goal percentage, a way higher true shooting percentage, he has a higher points-per-shot attempt average. He generates more points for his teammates than Michael Jordan does, he grabs more rebounds. His shot selection in general—mostly layups and threes—is way more efficient than Jordan’s (mid range jumpers). In fact the modern NBA player is by design more efficient than ever before.

I don’t understand how any metric can say Michael Jordan is more efficient than LeBron when it’s flatly not true. The only thing I can think of is that it’s little more than a points per game metric. Plus, and I don’t know if this is true because I haven’t found any way to verify it, but I’ve heard that the PER formula was changed to make sure Michael Jordan was ahead of LeBron. Because apparently years ago LeBron was well ahead of MJ. Until I see some proof of that it’s just a theory in my eyes. But there are some accounts I follow on social media that I consider respectable and credible that have said this is the case.

ANYWAY, I digress. I was just trying to illustrate a point here about advanced stats before I launch into my Draymond Appreciation Post. Draymond is best understood with advanced stats, pure and simple. It’s impossible to fully quantify his impact on the game. You’d have to be an NBA coach to truly understand how much he impacts the game. But since neither you nor I are an NBA head coach, we’ll have to just rely on advanced stats. That’s the best we can do.

But I think by the end of this you will be at the same place I am: despite the humble stats, Draymond Green is undoubtedly the second most important player behind Steph in this Warriors dynasty run (third when KD was there). He is the anchor of that defense, which has been criminally underrated and overlooked for 8 years now. The Warriors would not be nearly as good as they are without Draymond and he might not be all that far behind Steph in importance as far as winning goes.

Let’s go back to Jason’s original tweet that kicked this off. The team was +117 when Draymond was on the floor in the playoffs and -6 when he was off.

That’s a total on/off split of +123 for the playoffs, or +5.6 a game over 22 playoff games. The Warriors were on average 5.6 points better than their opponents with Draymond on the court compared to when he was off it.

For his career in the regular season, his team is 9.6 points better with him on the court.

Look at that number in 2016: the Warriors were 26 points better with Draymond on the court than with him off the court. Notice the fact that they were +18.5 with him on the court and his total on/off average was +26.3 a game. That means the 2016 Warriors—the greatest regular season team ever—were -7.8 points per game when Draymond wasn’t on the floor.

That was even better than Steph Curry that year:

The Warriors that year were -4.6ppg when Steph went to the bench, but -7.8 when Draymond went out.

I’m not saying Draymond should have won MVP over Steph that year! I’m just saying he had a better on/off plus minus split than any other player did on a 73-win team.

The best part is that Draymond is even better in the playoffs:

It’s always a tough situation to use p/m figure when you have all-time great teams that have so many great players, like the Warriors. It’s hard to tell whether a guy has great p/m numbers because of his own impact, or because he just on a stacked team. But thanks to the on/off numbers we can really isolate how impactful that one specific player was.

(Obviously you can poke holes in this statistic, but I think it’s pretty credible overall.)

When we look at overall plus/minus since the 2013 season (Draymond’s rookie year), he ranks #5 in the league in cumulative plus/minus. This is just on court, by the way.

Now, you will notice that the top players (other than Chris Paul) are Draymond’s teammates (or in KD’s case former teammates), and that’s not a coincidence. The Warriors have been the most successful team in the NBA over the past decade, so this make a lot of sense.

Okay, but we haven’t actually discussed why Draymond is so impactful. We’ve only established that he is extremely impactful. But we don’t know how he does it.

For starters, he’s a playmaker. He’s generated 8800 points for teammates off assists in his career 685 games, or 12.8 a game. In the playoffs that number goes up to 14.4.

That’s not quite elite point guard-level output (generally 17 PGA per game and above is elite playmaker territory), but then again Draymond doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much as those point guards.

Draymond plays power forward. To get that level of playmaking out of your power forward is rare.

Another point is that Draymond is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber defender. He won the award in 2017, and probably should have won at least another DPOTY.

So what I did was compare him not to the elite point guards, but to his DPOTY peers since 2015. That list includes Kawhi, Giannis, Rudy Gobert and Marcus Smart.

When compared to them, Draymond is in a class of his own as a playmaker.

He’s got the highest PGA per game of the 5, the highest Assist ratio, yet the lowest usage rate.

Now of course he’s not nearly as good a scorer as any of those other guys, but the point here is to illustrate his value as a defender and a playmaker. There might not be a better combination of just defense and playmaking in the league.

Obviously you get way better scoring output from guys like Giannis and Kawhi, but I’m just talking about defense and playmaking here.

I would also put LeBron in that category, but LeBron has never won a DPOTY because he got robbed in 2013. But at his peak, LeBron was a DPOTY-level defender and one of the top playmakers in the league. In fact he still is one of the top playmakers in the league.

Now let’s shift to Draymond’s defense.

The simplest way to measure defense is to just take a players blocks and steals into account, but that often doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why I like to look at DBPM, which just tells you how many fewer points (per 100 possessions) a player’s team allows per game while that player is on the floor compared to when he is off the floor.

DBPM shows that basically since he came into the league, Draymond has been one of the very best defenders in the NBA, without question.

He would have ranked #1 in the league in DBPM ahead of Jokic this year had he met the threshold to qualify in terms of games played (he only played 46 games).

In 2021, he ranked second in the league behind Nerlens Noel.

2020 he barely played, that was just a throw-away year for the Warriors.

Draymond has never finished lower than 8th in DBPM since 2014, and he has been tops in the league in DBPM twice, officially, over that span (three times unofficially).

The only other player over that time frame who has topped the league in DBPM more than once is Giannis. Not Kawhi, who people often consider the best defender in the league–it’s Draymond and Giannis who have consistently ranked the highest here.

(Honestly, there’s a case to be made that Kawhi is somewhat overrated as a defender, and maybe his reputation as an elite defender was a result of playing in that San Antonio system alongside Tim Duncan. Look at his DBPM numbers, they’ve fallen off pretty significantly since he left San Antonio. And they fell off from 2016 to 2017, which is when Tim Duncan retired.)

Okay, so we’ve established that Draymond is an elite defender and a stellar playmaker. We’ve also established that he has one of the best plus/minus ratings of any player ever. In fact, his 2016 is the single best cumulative plus/minus on record dating back to 1997–he was a +1071 for the whole season. No player over the past 25 seasons has had a better plus minus in a single year.

So is he max contract-worthy?

I think so, just because of how crucial he is to the Warriors system. That team would suffer greatly without him, especially defensively. Klay Thompson is not the defender he once was, and Steph Curry has never been an elite defender. The Warriors do have Andrew Wiggins, but I don’t think you can count on him to be the team’s primary defensive anchor. I don’t think he’s That Dude.

The Warriors would lose the heart and soul of their defense if Draymond Green went elsewhere.

I bring this up all the time when I talk about the Warriors but it bears repeating: the most underrated aspect of their dynasty run these past 8 years has been their defense. It’s consistently great, and nobody ever talks about it. People only talk about Steph’s threes and Jordan Poole’s heat checks.

The Warriors had the #1 D-Rating in the NBA this past season. The best defense in the league. And nobody talks about it! We heard about how great the Celtics defense was, and the Miami Heat’s defense–but Golden State had the #1 ranked defense in the NBA last season.

The Warriors have been elite on defense for 8 years now, and Draymond is is the main reason why. He’s the anchor of that defense.

The Warriors would not be the Warriors without Draymond Green.

Now, he is incredibly challenged offensively. People say his shooting form looks like he’s wearing a backpack, and it kinda does.

He has a Russell Westbrook-esque compilation of lowlights and hilarious screw-ups on YouTube that emphasizes how many headaches he can cause his coach on the offensive side of the ball:

He has lost a ton of confidence in his shot, it seems.

Over the past three seasons, he’s averaged the Triple Single: 7.5ppg, 6.9rpg and 7.5apg. He has shot 27.8% from three during that span.

I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say he’s a liability on the offensive end, but teams just don’t respect his shot at all. He’s like Ben Simmons, only instead of being afraid to play basketball, he just can’t hit the broad side of a barn with his shot.

And so from this perspective, it would be hard to justify giving him a max contract.

The weird thing is, he has not always been bad offensively. In 2016, he averaged 14 points a game on 55.1% eFG, and shot 38.8% from three! He was actually a threat on offense.

And in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, he had probably the greatest game of his career: 32 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists on 11-15 shooting (6-8 from three). He almost singlehandedly won that game for the Warriors even though Steph and Klay were a combined 12-36 from the floor for a combined 31 points. He outscored Steph and Klay by himself.

Draymond used to be a real threat on offense. If the Warriors would’ve won that Game 7 in 2016, Draymond would have gone down in history alongside James Worthy and LeBron for the best Finals Game 7 performances ever.

But he is not that player on the offensive end anymore. Not even close.

People call him Backpack now:

I think from the standpoint of what he brings to the table defensively, and with playmaking, and with his leadership, the Warriors should do everything they can to keep him around. He is one of those players who just makes your team better. He’s a glue guy, he’s a hustle guy, he’s a dirty-work kind of guy. He’s a blue collar player.

In my view, if you exclude KD, Draymond has been the second-best player on the Warriors these past 8 years. No disrespect to Klay at all, but I just think Draymond has been a bit more important for that team overall than Klay. I really do believe Draymond is the next-most important player on Golden State behind Steph Curry. Klay is close, but I have Draymond ahead of him slightly.

Draymond should end up in the Hall of Fame, he will have his number retired in the Chase Center, and the Warriors would not have won 4 rings without him around. He is unquestionably one of the greatest Warriors ever.

That said, he is 32 years old. He will be 33 in March. Do the Warriors really want to be paying him max money when he’s 38? His offensive game has fallen off a ton over the past few years–God only knows how much worse will it be 3, 4 and 5 years down the road.

He’s not far off from being borderline unplayable in crunch time. Teams just won’t defend him, and you can’t have that. It will wreck the Warriors’ floor spacing.

So if the Warriors give him the max contract, it’ll be more because of what Draymond has done for them in the past, not what he’s going to do for them in the future.

The Warriors are one of the smartest and best-run teams in the league. I am sure they will figure this out and handle it perfectly, like they do with almost everything.

But this is why it’s hard to maintain a dynasty over a long period of time.

You can win a lot while all your best players are in their primes and young, but what about when they start getting older?

I keep going back to what Quinn wrote above: the Warriors want to extend their championship window and keep winning even after Steph, Klay and Draymond are gone. They want to be good for a really, really long time–like the Patriots from 2001-2019, or the Spurs from 1999-2017.

But that inevitably entails making some difficult decisions. Bill Belichick had to cut lots of great and beloved players because it didn’t make sense to pay them. Think of all the great players the Bill has basically kicked to the curb–Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour, Jamie Collins, Logan Mankins, etc.

Once emotion factors into the equation, and you start paying players for what they accomplished in the past, you won’t be able to maintain that dynasty any longer.

You have to be ruthless. Sentimentality is a weakness, as cruel as it sounds.

And that’s why it’s so rare for teams to be multi-decade dynasties. The Warriors are on year 8 right now. The Patriots went 19 years. The Spurs went about the same.

In order for Golden State to squeeze another 10-12 years out of this thing, they are going to have to make some very difficult decisions–force out the older guys and make room for the younger guys.

What they do with Draymond Green will be the indication of just how serious they are about being a multi-decade dynasty. If they stand firm and say, “We can’t give you a max contract,” then there’s a chance Draymond will move on and go to a team that is willing to pay him.

If he becomes a free agent next offseason, he might end up playing with LeBron. He’s a Klutch client and he’s been singing LeBron’s praises any chance he can get lately.

It’s still hard for me to envision the Warriors playing hardball with Draymond and letting him walk, or trading him to at least get something in return for him.

But if they want to be great for years to come, they might just have to.

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