The front of this season’s MVP race is occupied by the usual big-name suspects: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid. DeMar DeRozan is a bit of a party crasher and definitely fits somewhere up front. Rudy Gobert has long been peripherally discussed as an overlooked MVP candidate based on elite encompassing metrics, on/off splits and defensive dominance, but he has never been a true contender and likely won’t be again this season.
On Saturday, prior to the Jazz-Warriors game, Utah coach Quin Snyder was asked, rather rhetorically, what makes Gobert and Curry so important to their respective teams, and instead of stating the obvious, Snyder switched gears to Draymond Green, pegging the Warriors‘ defensive stalwart and offensive orchestrator as one of the league’s most unique players and another forgotten but worthy MVP candidate.
Here’s Snyder’s full comment:
Snyder is right in two senses: Green is one of the most valuable players in the league, and his numbers don’t match up to the guys that are true contenders for this award. Dating back to the start of the 3-point era, 1979-80, only one player has won MVP despite scoring fewer than 20 points per game: Steve Nash, who did it twice, averaging 15.5 in 2004-05 and 18.8 in 2005-06.
Green enters play on Monday averaging 8.8 PPG.
Green’s presence, so long as he’s healthy and engaged, which he has been for most of his career and certainly this season, almost assures you of having an elite defense, but there’s a reason there’s a Defensive Player of the Year award but no offensive player of the year. Because the MVP, in essence, is the offensive player of the year. If it’s a close call, defense might break the tie. But it’s an offensive award.
Green’s offensive impact, of course, has very little to do with his own scoring. The Warriors are better when he’s pushing for coast-to-coast layups and not turning down wide-open 3s, but it’s his passing and impromptu screening that’s elite. He has a sixth sense for Curry’s random movement and an unteachable feel for when and how to get the ball to the most tracked shooter in history with sliver of space and split second he needs get shots off.
It wasn’t a coincidence that the Warriors were held to 86 points when Green didn’t play against Denver last Tuesday. If you think he’s a one-way player who can’t shoot, you are painfully wrong. He conducts almost everything the Warriors do in the half court. Vital isn’t a strong enough word.
Still, that’s not winning an MVP award. The highest Green has ever finished in the voting is seventh, in 2015-16, when the Warriors won 73 games and he averaged 14 points on 39-percent 3-point shooting, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Save for assists, each of those numbers surpass Green’s statistical output so far this season (he’s averaging the same 7.5 assists). For my money, Green should be on track for All-NBA and the leading candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, but an eight-point scorer winning MVP, or even getting honest consideration, is a bridge too far for voters.