The Golden State Warriors’ emergence as the premiere team of this generation have left everyone wanting to emulate them. It’s a noble goal, but probably an unrealistic one because of just how amazing and unlikely the Warriors’ own journey was.
Still, it hasn’t stopped players from trying. The Los Angeles Lakers hiring former Warriors interim head coach/assistant Luke Walton has only intensified cries for the purple-and-gold to take a few cues from the Dubs.
Larry Nance, Jr. was the last to do so, saying that he wants to play the Draymond Green role for the Lakers. In an interview with Mike Bresnahan of Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, Julius Randle revealed that Nance, Jr. isn’t the only Laker who wants to do so.
“[Green] does all the things on the defensive end technique-wise that a lot of guys don’t see,” said Randle (as transcribed by Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation). “Offensively, he really just knows how to play the game. He doesn’t really force anything, he just takes what is given to him. He plays with great passion and energy. Those are things that I can definitely take from his game and put them into my game.”
Those are all laudable goals, but can Randle get accomplish them? There are reasons to believe the answer is yes, but probably more evidence to believe it’s no.
The main bullet point in the “no” column is simple: there has never been a Draymond Green before, so it’s hard to believe the Lakers have one (much less two) on their roster. Whether or not there is reason to hope Randle can become Green mostly depends on how optimistic one is.
Randle played in less than 14 minutes during his first NBA season, and Green only averaged about that many minutes per game, so let’s compare their per-36 minutes averages as sophomores (all stats courtesy of Basketball Reference):
So Randle is definitely better, case closed, right? Not exactly, hypothetical straw-man!
Randle was the better player offensively as a sophomore, but Green was a better defender who used a lower percentage of possessions on the other end. Also worth noting is how poorly Green shot threes during his second season (33.3 percent), although that’s still better than Randle’s 27.8 percent success rate from behind the arc.
I guess the major point to be taken from this is that no one could have projected Draymond Green would become the player he is today after his second season, so trying to do so for anyone else is a fool’s errand.
Green was of course a better defender than Randle and in all likelihood will always be, but no one guessed he would develop the ability to deftly make plays as the roll man out of pick-and-rolls or be a part-time point forward. No one expected he’d become a 38.8 percent three-point shooter who happened to be able to guard centers as well. The Warriors would have started David Lee over Green two seasons ago if Lee hadn’t gotten injured.
Also of note: Randle is still younger today than Green was in his rookie season. Players take time to develop, and while it’s unlikely Randle will take the leap Green did offensively, it’s not impossible. It’s just impossible to project, based on his youth. It also shouldn’t be expected, especially because beyond the surface level their tools are different.
Green and Randle may be a similar heights, but Green has the longer wingspan and more lateral quickness. Coupled with his low center of gravity, these skills allow Green to capably defend any position from 1-5 on a given possession.
Randle is not the T-Rex some make him out to be, but the reality is his average wingspan will likely keep him from ever being able to credibly protect the rim. He can (and needs to) still improve other aspects of his defense such as switching onto smaller players and being attentive away from the ball, but he just doesn’t have the raw tools to become Green defensively.
That’s totally okay, because Randle very well might already be a better rebounder (let’s see what his percentages look like without playing next to Roy Hibbert), which combined with a bit of defensive improvement could still allow him to be a plus on that end. He’ll probably never be a Green-level plus, but that is also okay, because Green should not be the goal here.
This is probably over-analyzing a throwaway comment from Randle, but it’s also addressing the increasingly common act of comparing the two by Lakers fans on social media. Looking for Randle to be the next Draymond Green is a waste of time, because the Warriors will freely admit they didn’t see Draymond Green becoming Draymond Green. Randle should be focused on becoming the best version of himself, not trying to become a mirror image of one of the best player’s in the NBA.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.