Examining Draymond Green's Case as a Top-5 NBA Player

Green said he sees himself as a top player in the NBA. Do the numbers support this?

So, Golden State Warriors forward/center  Draymond Green thinks he's one of the top five players in the NBA.

Some people, upon hearing this, might channel their inner Mrs. Blue. But is Green really that far off?

Let’s take a look at the numbers and see how he stacks up.

Here’s where Green ranks in select traditional stat categories (per game):

Category Stats Rank
Points 13.8 79
Total Rebounds 9.7 14
Blocks 1.2 29
Steals 1.5 25
Assists 7.4 6

And here’s where he ranks in select advanced stat categories:

Category Stats Rank
nERD 9.7 12
Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) 3.9 9
Player Efficiency Rating (PER) 19.13 50
ESPN's Real Plus-Minus 8.7 4
Total Rebound Percentage    15.2 33
Assist Percentage 29.2 21
Offensive Win Shares 4.2 18
Defensive Win Shares 3.7 6
Win Shares 7.9 10
Win Shares Per 48 Minutes 0.19 14
Box Plus/Minus 5.7 9

Green's PER doesn't look like much, but he's a top-12 (or close to it) player in a number of other marks, such as our nERD metric, which indicates how many wins above or below .500 an average team would be with Green as a starter. 

The Case for Inclusion

Putting this all together, does Green have a case for inclusion in the NBA’s top five?

On one hand, Green is a vital cog for -- and a committed leader of (setting aside a halftime tirade or two) -- a team flirting with 73 wins. Plus, his rankings toward the top of several categories mentioned above certainly lend merit to his claims, especially when you consider what Golden State is asking Green to do. Yes, his PER ranking is relatively low, but that statistic notoriously underrates defensive performance. 

Looking at Green's role relative to his statistics might provide a better outlook. He is primarily a defender, rebounder, and facilitator who helps keep the Warriors' well-oiled machine running. This is reflected in not only his rebound and assist statistics but also, most drastically, in his Win Shares. 

Also, fun fact: As of January 13, Adam Fromal’s FATS projection model even projected the Dubs to win more games if Stephen Curry had been out than they would have without Green.

But, C’mon, Dray … Top 5?

On the other hand, Green isn’t being relied upon to carry his team, as many other high-caliber players are, which might make his case weaker. And when you have the adjective-transcending (and probable back-to-back MVP) Curry as your nearly full-time running mate, your stats -- yes, even advanced stats -- may end up being somewhat padded.

For a fun little exercise, head over to Basketball-Reference’s stat leader page and spend some time perusing. Then, do the ol’ CTRL+F (or Apple+F or whatever it is you Mac folks do) and search for Draymond. His name comes up 17 times, meaning he’s on 17 of the 50 top-20 lists. (Let’s call it 15, though, because two of those categories are turnovers and personal fouls.)

Below is a list of other relevant NBA names that show up several times, along with the number of leaderboards on which they appear (not counting turnovers and fouls):

Stephen Curry 32Andre Drummond 21
LeBron James 25Kawhi Leonard 21
Russell Westbrook 27Hassan Whiteside 19
James Harden 26Anthony Davis 18
Kevin Durant 26Karl-Anthony Towns 17
Kyle Lowry 25DeMarcus Cousins 16
Paul George 22Pau Gasol 16
DeAndre Jordan 23Chris Paul 15
Damian Lillard 21Draymond Green15

So you can see that, using this non scientific exercise, Green is situated firmly toward the top of the NBA’s best but isn’t in the top five even after his overall statistical impact.

So Is He a Top-5 Player in the NBA?

We’re not here to give you #hottakes. The answer lies in the eye of the beholder: Your reaction to Green’s comments probably depends on which stats you think matter most when measuring who is among the NBA’s best.

But Green can definitely make a strong case for being included in this esteemed list, which, considering the relative lack of hype surrounding him just two years ago, is pretty remarkable.