Green has never averaged more than 15 points or double-digit rebounds, but his do-it-all skill set has translated into two NBA championships, two All-Star appearances, two All-NBA Team selections, three All-Defensive first-team honors, a Defensive Player of the Year award and an Olympic gold medal.
It’s been quite an illustrious career already for the tweener who was the 35th pick in the draft.
In a Q&A with ESPN, Green discussed what it has taken for him to become a top-10 player in the league, his aspirations for the remainder of his career and his thoughts on Carmelo Anthony‘s highly debated place in the rankings.
Chris Haynes: When you entered the league, did you believe that someday you might be considered one of the 10 best players in the NBA?
Draymond Green: I can’t say that when I stepped into the league I thought that. I think coming into the league, you just want to figure it out after being a second-round pick. My whole mindset is just to prove everyone wrong. I just wanted to show that I belonged and tried to have a good career. I can’t say that I foresaw this, but it’s a special thing with all the hard work.
I can remember as my years went on, people close to me let me see that I could really be good in this league. I used to say to my Nike rep Adrian Stelly, I said, “Stells, man, I think I can be an All-Star in this league.” He was like, ‘Man, do it. I think you can, too,” and I became an All-Star.
But it was a progression. It wasn’t like coming to the league and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m going to be an All-Star” or yes, “Someday people are going to view me as a top-10 player in this league.” You just want to be good and let the rest kind of handle itself.
How did you put yourself in position to be mentioned among the best in the game?
Like I said, first you come into this league and you just want to be good. Then you start to set new goals. You hit goals, you start reaching goals and then you have to set new and higher ones. For me, one of my goals ended up becoming wanting to create a lane in the NBA. And what I mean by that is, not to only create my own lane, but for other guys, to where you don’t have to come into the league and score 20 points, grab 15 rebounds and get 12 assists.
My goal was to show you don’t have to put up those numbers to be considered a great player, and I think I’ve helped carve out that lane. So, I think it’s really being true to who you are and then creating value around whatever that is. For me, it’s doing all the little things. Being one of the best passing forwards in the game, defending like crazy, knocking down open shots when they are there. But really, understanding that at the end of the day, the most important thing is winning, so what are you going to do to help your team win? And I think when I looked at the entire situation, that’s just what it was for me. It was never about, “Man, I want to become a 20-point-a-night scorer.” Somebody has to do something to help. Everyone can’t be the 20-point-a-night scorer, and so I just said I want to be something different, but I wanted to master that and take it to another level.
Do you feel people are coming around to appreciating the beauty of dominating other aspects of the game?
I think people are starting to realize that there is more to the game than just scoring. You always hear you’ve got to score, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. Like Uncle Drew, this game is and always will be about buckets. You always hear these things. Or taking it all the way back to, ‘I want to be like Mike [Jordan]. I want to fly like Mike.’ All this stuff that you’ve always heard, we’re programmed as human beings to believe that.
But I think people are starting to realize that there’s more to it than just scoring the basketball. You can be great without scoring the basketball and doing other things. And so, I think that’s amazing for not only myself, but for a lot of guys that’s going to come behind. It should help give more guys a shot. It shows guys that, hey, you don’t have to score 20, 25 or 30. You’ve got to have a niche. You create your niche, you add value and you help your team and you’re just as important as anyone else.
You often mention how integral your agent B.J. Armstrong and Travis Walton (a former Michigan State teammate and current assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers’ G League team, the Agua Caliente Clippers) have been in your progression as a professional. How exactly?
B.J. has been huge for me. He’s someone I can talk to. As we all hit slumps throughout the course of the season, he’s not one to really call and talk about that because he gets it. But then if he sees you get to a certain point, then he’ll check on you. He always knows what to say. He gives some of the best advice being that he’s played in the league.
But also because he’s seen it from every side possible. He’s been in the front office, he’s obviously an agent, he’s played, he’s seen it from every side and he gets it. And so, he’s been key in my development as a basketball player but more so as a person in really understanding this business. He’s really helped me understand this business, which in turn helps me become a better basketball player.
And also, working out with Travis Walton each and every summer. Travis dissects my game and watches every clip that I was in for a whole year and then puts together a plan. Then we get into the gym, we work on it, we try to get better at the things he feels I need to improve at. If you look at my career, I think every year I’ve gotten better, which is the key. I honestly don’t think there’s many guys in this league that work as hard as we do.
OK, in regard to our rankings, some are not too pleased with where Carmelo Anthony is slotted. What’s your take?
I think when you look at Melo, Melo has been a great player in this league for some time now. Obviously, I think no one thinks that he’s the Melo he was five years ago, and that happens to everyone. That’s just the nature of the career that we’ve all chosen. At some point, you start to slow down and you’re not who you once were. So, I’m not going to sit here and lie and act like he is the Melo he was five years ago, but the 64th-best player in the NBA? All right, five years ago he was maybe sixth. He ain’t f—ing 64 [now].
I’m a firm believer in guys earning what they get, and I know he’s earned more than a 64. And when you see rookies coming in who haven’t played a game, that’s just clear-cut disrespect. You’ve got guys who have given everything they had into this game and has proved s— year in and year out and then people just walk in and are ranked higher than someone? Let them get out there and prove something first. I’m a firm believer in that. Maybe I’m that way because I’ve never been given anything. Everything I’ve gotten in this league I’ve worked for and earned. So maybe I see it a little differently. That will never change for me. I can’t put you above guys who have done this year in and year out with the best of them and say you’re better. That’s just not me. I think it’s clear disrespect.
And like I said to start it off, I know Melo isn’t the Melo he was five or seven years ago, but he’s for damn sure not the 64th-best player in the league. I know that. There aren’t 63 players better than Carmelo Anthony.
No one expected you to do what you’ve done thus far, and some would argue that you’ve probably reached your ceiling. Where do you go from here?
I’ve heard I’ve reached my ceiling since I was a sophomore in high school. Every year. It never fails. But the one thing I’ve never understood is how someone can say I’ve reached my ceiling when I know I’m one of the hardest-working players in the NBA.
And I’ll continue to hear that for the rest of my career. Reached a ceiling, reached a ceiling. And one day I will. Like I said about Melo, one day we all just slow down, and that’s happened to Kobe Bryant, that’s happened to Michael Jordan. One day we all slow down, and Father Time is undefeated, as they say. Eventually I will reach my ceiling, but I know I’m nowhere near that right now.
I think I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the player that I can be. I know I’ll continue to get better. There’s a lot of things that I want to accomplish. I want to continue to win championships. That’s always the No. 1 goal for myself, is to try to win championships. Continuing to try to be an All-Star, especially in this stacked Western Conference. Continue to be an All-NBA performer and, most importantly, trying to build a résumé to one day that I can possibly enter into the Hall of Fame.