Draymond Green is a top-10 player in the N.B.A. but not for the reasons you’ve been told

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May 1, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) celebrates with guard Klay Thompson (11) during the third quarter in game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Trail Blazers 118-106. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

…Here’s what Draymond did during game 2 vs. Portland to set him on a path to greatness.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

Draymond Green is a strange kind of budding superstar in a league that has defined itself over the past three decades as a cohort of superstars. Reason being: Draymond Green may be the first superstar role player of all time. Think of it as Paul Giamatti playing Captain Jack Sparrow or Ron Wood fronting the Stones or Tim Cook running Apple. <- ‘K, not all great examples there.

Green, a second-rounder in 2012, one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a five-year-and-out journeyman before tucking tail back to Saginaw to open a healthy sandwich cannabis shop called Draymond’s Green and becoming a cog in the AAU wheel for talented but wayward souls on the come up.

Instead, as a rookie, he unseated David Lee, All-Star and cornerstone of the Warriors’ rebuild. From those first minutes, he strode confidently yapping onto the floor. He plays point guard and two and three and four and center. He plays defense even when he has the ball. He has the swagger of a contest winner.

Regardless of who he’s guarding, in Steph Curry’s absence, Draymond brings the ball up. Most of the medias have taken the narrative of Green in the N.B.A.—the ‘glue guy’ the ‘spirit of a spirited team’ and upcycled it like a Mid-century modern credenza. And now the endorsements are starting to come and now the coach is starting to talk about him as among the league’s ten best—and none of the pundits questioning him on it.

Even Charles Mutherfuckin’ Barkley, who continues to maintain his party line that the Warriors are the franchise of record to represent the present-day N.B.A. softness, still coos over Green as if he created him with his own 3-D printer.

Last night, against the Portland Trail Blazers—those young Turks; a pre-IPO N.B.A. team if there is one presided over by the thin-lipped Aspergerian Dark Lord himself—played three of the best quarters of basketball this season. The coming out of Damian Lillard, one of the denizens of the #nextgen, who is hustling every minute like it’s revenge for getting jobbed out of his first All-Star appearance by King Kobe. Tuesday, Lillard onboarded his fearless Blazers into Oracle as if to say, “We don’t give a fuck about your MVP or your VC money or your NYT mag cover.” And for three quarters it worked.

Then, Draymond.

For 10 of the final 12, the Warriors outscored the Blazers 34-12 to force TNT to cut away to the streams of yellow Tees making their way to the lot in the final two minutes. This is the same Warriors who trailed by 17 in the second and at the end of the third, coach Steve Kerr had nothing to say other than that the team was “playing dumb” during the obligatory in-game q&a.

This is from a coach who is always more than obliged to humor his former employer—so you know it was some kind of bad.

A loss at Oracle would have taken the presumptive champions up to Rip City knotted at one. An unenviable position traveling to a ravenous PDX—one that saw its team of N.B.A. almost-weres shipped out last year in favor of a youth movement starring tomorrow’s bobbleheads with local handyman names like C.J. McCollum and Mason Plumlee.

“Game 2s always scare me, especially if you won the first one relatively easily like we did,” Kerr said. “It just happens. It’s human nature. The other team comes out angry and maybe you let your guard down a little bit.”

In the third, the home team looked cooked—like maybe everything since October had finally caught up. Having an off night already, Klay Thompson picked up a technical foul. Lillard made the free throw and Maurice Harkless twisted the dagger with a three to go up 63-56.

The usually springy and sometimes overwrought Green did something that superstars do at that point. He quit his jawing. He gingerly made his way over as if it was a high school dance and gave Thompson a pat on the chest and the two whispered in a collusive way on the way back to the huddle.

He was calming. He was the voice of reason. He was it.

And from that moment on, Green as quiet leader and his troupe of deep defenders and massively capable passers and shooters, took over. It was Festus Ezeli owning the paint, Green getting himself to the line, Andre Iguodala muscling everyone, and in all this Thompson finally getting the space he needed to start hitting from beyond the arc.

Role players have been in positions of prominence on championship teams before. Robert Parish labored in the coal mines for the Celtics. Dennis Rodman tattooed his place in the league annals for the Bulls. Even Dirk Nowitzki shot his way into the stratosphere that no seven-footer had known prior.

But if there’s one man who has barged down the doors of  the conference room, swept off all the donuts and said, “I may talk good, but I can ball better” it’s Draymond. And the rest of us are just lucky enough to witness.

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