Once upon a time, I was a big fan of Draymond Green. During his MSU career, he was easily my favorite Spartan. Living in Los Angeles at the time, I traveled to Phoenix for the 2012 Regionals and ended up catching his final game in the Green & White (Louisville beat us in the Sweet 16). I can recall watching his early NBA games for Golden State and seeing his potential for greatness at the highest level, even when he was a bench player on those pre-dynasty Warriors teams. And even in that first championship season, he was still amongst my favorite players in the NBA. But things quickly changed after he earned that first ring. The more success he had personally and that the team had, the more glimpses the public received of a previously unknown ugly nature.
In that 2015-16 season, when the Warriors were defending champions for the first time, Draymond Green started to accumulate technical fouls. The trend continued in those playoffs to the extent that he was suspended for game 5 of the NBA Finals. You know that story. The Warriors, after winning more regular season games than any team in history and taking a 3-1 lead in the Finals, lost game 5 in Draymond’s absence, then lost game 6 back in Cleveland, and finally blew the series in game 7 after Kyrie Irving (who I could write a similar article about) hit the late three-pointer to give Cleveland the lead for good. I don’t think there is a person out there who follows the NBA that wouldn’t say that Green’s one-game suspension cost Golden State the championship.
Shortly after that, there is the story of Draymond getting into a physical altercation with a Spartan football player, Jermaine Edmondson, and allegedly punching the then-college student in the face. Draymond got arrested for this.
At this point, Draymond had pretty much adopted and embraced his role of agitator, the NBA equivalent of the NHL’s enforcers. However, since the 2 leagues have vastly different responses to players getting in fist fights (five minute penalties in one, probably multi-game suspensions in the other), the reputations earned by these players in the NBA, amongst fans and amongst other players, is also vastly different than their NHL counterparts. Accordingly, Draymond’s reputation had morphed from that of being a “Swiss-army knife” type of player to being a sometimes-detrimental player.
In the 2016-17 season, Kevin Durant joined the already dangerous Warriors teams and they, of course, go on to win a pair of championships. But during Durant’s time in the Bay, we hear stories of locker room strife, and at its center were Green and Durant. Now Green is being an agitator to his own teammates; and Durant, a former MVP who at that point was very well-respected by the public, even begins to display some of the antics that Green had become famous for. KD, for the first time really, began trash-talking on the court and trying to get under the skin of his opponents; he no longer was just letting his game do the talking. Eventually, the internal turmoil became too much, and even being a perennial champion (injuries prevented a three-peat) was not enough for Durant to further put up with Draymond as a teammate.
It was during Durant’s final Warriors season that I began saying that they should trade Draymond. His stock was still at its peak and they could have earned a hefty return for him, either picks or players or a combination of both.
Fast forward a bit, through the Curry & Thompson injuries, through the pandemic bubble. Golden State had a couple of down seasons, and Draymond no longer was averaging double-digit scoring. But when the Warriors returned to full strength, and added Andrew Wiggins, they went on to win another championship. Draymond’s biggest contributions were on the defensive end, where he received recognition as an all-defensive team, but he just complained pettily about not being DPOY. He was maybe the fourth or fifth best player on the team at that point, and I wondered if his peak is behind him and if the front office missed on their chance to trade him for anything valuable. But they won a championship, so what do I know?
Well, I do know that at the beginning of the 2022-23 season, he punched his teammate, Jordan Poole, in the face. When I heard this news, I declared that Draymond would never play another game for Golden State. I was wrong, and Draymond remained on the team, but the season turned out to not be up to Warriors’ standards, with the team teetering around .500 for the majority of the season. And along the way, Green earned himself a one-game suspension for accumulating enough technical fouls.
That leads us to this week. After qualifying 6th for the playoffs and drawing 3-seed Sacramento, Golden State would drop the first game when Curry can’t hit a tying shot at the buzzer. In game 2, a game Sacramento led for most of the game after the first quarter, Draymond Green committed his latest, and perhaps most egregious (or at least 2nd most after the Jordan Poole punch) villainous act. Now I know that Shaquille O’Neal tried to claim that Green was not in the wrong, that he would have done the same thing, but that is just a made-for-tv take; Shaq knows he of all people can not stomp on an opposing player.
When I saw the news this morning about the incident, I told a friend that I thought a suspension could be warranted. Naturally, I was wrong, but I have at least a sliver of a suspicion that that decision to not suspend him had more to do with the fact that the Warriors were down two games to zero in their playoff series than it did with the actual incident itself. So while it can’t be said for certain that his ejection from the game cost the Warriors the chance to win it, as they actually got closer than where they were when he got tossed, it certainly had the potential to be the reason they could not complete the comeback, and it most certainly had the potential to end up with more of a consequential result if Commissioner Silver had decided to make him sit for game 3 back at Chase Center.
What is most remarkable about the timeline of Draymond's antics is that they don’t seem to be occurring less frequently or to be less severe in their nature. It is as if he is not learning lessons along the way and not figuring out how to avoid putting his team and his teammates in poor positions. By comparison, another professional athlete who earned his reputation for his disturbing acts on the field and even once stomped on an opponent, Ndamukong Suh has even set aside his antics and has learned to use his powers for good. It is amazing that the amount of success that Draymond has achieved in the NBA has not had a similar effect on him. Quite frankly, I do not know the front office and the coaching staff have not done a better job putting an end to his behavior.
I will go ahead and recycle this prediction. I think this will be the offseason that Golden State finally parts ways with Draymond. Not sure if he is worth much in a trade at this point; he really only is effective when he has Steph Curry as a floormate as their synergy could have books written about it. That offseason could have been guaranteed to arrive very soon if Draymond would have drawn a suspension for his stomp on Sabonis and the Warriors dropped into an 0-3 series hole as a result. But now he does have whatever is left of this series to show his team and his organization if he is worth keeping any longer. At some point, the distractions just can not be worth it any longer. At some point, a general manager and a head coach need to admit that they may just be better without him. The issue now would be, would any other team accept him. If I were a G.M., I would not want to sign him or trade for him.
He was once a favorite of mine. Now I consider him a massive liability to a team. Furthermore, I just think he is not a decent human being. I think he has shown his true colors repeatedly and there just is no hiding from it. Draymond Green is not a good dude.
Edit: It was announced by the NBA after the publishing of this article that Draymond Green has received a 1 game suspension for this incident.