Appearing on NBC Sports’ Golden State Warriors podcast Dubs Talk earlier this week, the always candid Draymond Green said he considers himself “the best defender to ever play this game.” The claim immediately caused a firestorm throughout the NBA community.
Had Green said something like that earlier in his career, it would’ve been a lot easier to disregard — his peers and pundits could’ve just tossed it in with all of the power forward’s other eyebrow-raising sound bites. After all, there’s always been a trollish, performative element to Green’s press conferences; he came into the league eager and willing to chirp everyone from LeBron to Drake.
But he’s a nine-year vet at this point, a three-time All-Star and a former Defensive Player of the Year. He seems to really mean this, and it has fellow players (both active and retired) absolutely apoplectic.
On a Bleacher Report Instagram post alone, the great J.R. Smith commented the cap emoji (“you capping” is a young person’s term for “you’re lying”), Los Angeles Clippers guard Pat Beverley replied “I would like a word,” and the Memphis Grizzlies account invoked “The Grindfather,” also known as Tony Allen, who was a six-time All Defensive selection during his 14-year stint in the NBA.
Somewhat predictably, this resulted in a direct Twitter battle between Green and Allen, where Allen wrote, “Who stamped you? … In the words of Jay Z! ‘We don’t believe u, u need more people!”” Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem also weighed in, posting laughing/crying emojis over a screenshot of Green’s quote, while Kendrick Perkins invoked the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett as better than Green.
There is one former NBA player who supports Green’s bid for the throne — sort of. That would be Metta Sandiford-Artest, formerly known as Metta World Peace (and Ron Artest before that). Metta has Green “top 5 all-time,” and appreciates that the undersized Warriors star (Green is only 6’6″) can cover both quick guards who hang around the perimeter and seven-footers who post up in the paint.
Is Draymond Green the best defender ever? Probably not. Defensive metrics don’t quite tell the whole story (who cares if Green averages 0.2 more blocks a game than Beverley?) and besides, the game has evolved so much. It’s difficult to compare eras — not because one era was “better,” but because the styles and rules are just so different. In the ’90s, for instance, defenders could get away with hand checks. It undoubtedly led to more turnovers for the offense. But did that mean the defense was more impressive?
Meanwhile, Green benefits from the opposite — a less violent game, with less stressful possessions. (Offense runs down the floor, chucks up a three, Green adds another defensive rebound to his count.) As always, with cross-generation sporting debates, there is A) no right answer here and B) no one wants to change their mind. All power to Green though, with the Warriors struggling to stay in playoff contention, for keeping himself in the conversation.