By Matt Norlander
No matter who you think should be college basketball's player of the year, if you're a fan of the game, I think it's undeniable: Draymond Green is so, so much fun to watch. When you stop and think about it, isn't he the best big man with the most diverse weaponry in his game to wear a Michigan State jersey since Magic Johnson?
Green is a point forward, essentially. He does things for this team, and has skills at the 1/2/3/4/5 that nobody -- nobody -- in college basketball has. That inherently makes him unique, and I suspect Tom Izzo is thankful for every second he has remaining with Green at his disposal. He's not only reliable, he's impossible to gameplan against because you can take away what he does best, or second-best, or third-best, and he'll still be able to help his team in five or six other ways. It's because of this that he's even in the conversation for Player of the Year.
But should he be? At first reaction, I thought so. Jeff Eisenberg put up a comparison post using traditional, tempo stats on The Dagger Wednesday. It was only between Thomas Robinson and Anthony Davis. "Where's Day-Day?" I asked upon seeing the piece. Chris Vannini, who has spent the past four years covering Michigan State, thought the same. And then I realized I was automatically judging Green's value to Michigan State vs. his ability as a player. Without him, is Michigan State an NCAA tournament team? I question that it is.
That's the ever-lasting argument: value to a team vs. actual ability/talent and achievement that's been displayed in a given year. Without Anthony Davis, Kentucky is still very good. It doesn't make him nearly as valuable to the Wildcats as Green is to Michigan State and Thomas Robinson is to Kansas.
In talking Player of the Year, we're talking the latter part of that debate above. I hope voters are aware of that. It's not a valuable award, it's a talent+achievement award. From that combination's standpoint, unfortunately, Green is not in the same class with the two men who are a virtual length-of-a-nose race for Player of the Year. I'm talking numbers here; from a visual perspective, again, it's a blast to watch Draymond. I think when he scores 29 and his team is still not even sniffing a win against Indiana, that's a double-edged result.
The following data was used compiling as-of-today statistics at Statsheet.com (Player Efficiency Ratings and KenPom.com. And fortunately, all statistics are measured through exactly 30 games for each player. Stats need to be judged against schedule strength too, in my opinion. As a backdrop, here's the KenPom.com overall SOS for each player:
Robinson: No. 3
Green: No. 4
Davis: No. 60
Davis' O Rating is absolutely absurd. And take note that I'm using one grid as a background for all data comparisons, so Davis' lofty PER and block numbers look small here, but in fact are nearly as stupid as his adjusted offensive rating.
Here's how it spreadsheets out. Notice how frequently Green is third in these dozens valuable categoriges. His only advantage is when it comes to passing, wher he is clearly as far ahead in that category as any other player is in any other. He makes teammates better, which speaks more to value than his overall achievement profile, but it's still plenty noteworthy.
Green's had a great, great year so far, but he's going up against an all-time shot-block/freak in Davis and a relentless, superior rebounder and scorer in Robinson. I think, at this point, POY is out of Green's reach, even if he's deserving to be in the conversation. From a numbers standpoint, he's a notch below. It's not his fault. If he put up these numbers last year, against Jimmer, it would actually be a really intriguing race.
No matter. Green's still incredible to watch, just as valuable to his team as Robinson, and more diversified in his game -- even though his ceiling are lower -- than Davis. Michigan State won't get to the Final Four without him, and while any coach would love/marry/kill to have Robinson or Davis on their roster, Green is woven into the fabric of his team's scheme as much as any player in the country.