When you play on the same team as one of the best players on the planet, it’s easy to get lost.
But after his recent streak of record-setting play, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is starting to get a share of the recognition that Steph Curry, the NBA's reigning MVP, has enjoyed.
On Monday, the fourth-year player was named Western Conference Player of the Week after posting back-to-back triple-doubles (hitting double figures in three different statistical categories -- points, assists and rebounds, for instance).
Later that night against the Charlotte Hornets, Green did it again, posting his third triple-double in a row.
Triple-doubles are rare. Before Thursday, 535 NBA games had been played this season. There have been just 22 triple-doubles.
Green currently leads the league with seven eight. That’s one more than the two closest players, the Sacramento Kings' Rajon Rondo and Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook, combined.
A triple-double embodies versatility. To score at least 10 points, collect at least 10 rebounds and dish out at least 10 assists in a game, a player needs to excel in many aspects of the sport. He has to do the dirty work, not just the sexy things that show up on SportsCenter.
In his first three seasons, Green had only one such game. Now, his eight career triple-doubles tie him for fourth most in Warriors franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Who’s he tied with? Someone named Wilt Chamberlain.
Green is just the second player in team history to record three straight triple-doubles. The other is Tom Gola, who played with the Warriors from 1955 to 1962. For a scouting report on Gola, let’s turn to famed UCLA coach John Wooden, who called him the "greatest all-round basketball player."
High praise and stellar company for Draymond Green.
This recent productivity is even more impressive when you consider the timing — it has come while the Warriors are suffering through a stretch of injuries, most notably to MVP Stephen Curry.
Sure, the injuries have given Green more opportunities to fill up the stat sheet. But it has also meant a significant increase in the team’s reliance on Green in all phases of the game: scoring, defending and setting up his teammates.
And so far this season, he is a big reason the team is 33-2 -- the best record ever for an NBA team after 35 games.
Not only has Green been dependable — he is the only Warrior to have started every game this season and one of only two players to have played in every game (Andre Iguodala is the other) — but he is also productive, currently ranking in the league's top 20 in assists, rebounds, blocks and plus/minus.
“When the team needs him, when we’re down and when we’ve got injuries up and down the line, he does whatever it takes,” Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton said after an overtime victory last Saturday over the Denver Nuggets. “We needed his rebounding, his playmaking and his scoring, and he did all three of them. You come to expect whatever’s needed.”
In addition to playing all five positions and doing all the little things on the court, Green brings something just as important to this Warriors team: heart and soul.
And he does it with his own special brand of Draymond-ness.
“Green has been great without needing to fit old standards. He’s approaching stardom in his own idiosyncratic way. It doesn’t come in the form of an isolation, step-back game winner. It comes in the form of stopping that game winner. It comes in the form of screening for the guy hitting that game winner.”
A few months ago, Hall of Famer (and Warriors' executive) Jerry West called Green one of the NBA's top 10 players -- and the most underrated player in the league.
But not everyone agrees. Green has been criticized for being a “system player” — someone who excels because of those around him.
This week, ESPN's Strauss asked him about those criticisms:
In his answer, Green let shine another important characteristic, something Strauss calls his “unique iteration of stardom.”
Draymond Green seemed to have more fun than anyone else in attendance. As other players rode on double-decker buses and waved to the masses, Green hopped off his bus and ran down the street high-fiving anyone he could reach. Most players wore their white championship T-Shirts. Green wore all black.
At the ceremony following the parade, Green sprayed champagne and talked about partying all night. Then he grabbed the team's coach, Steve Kerr, pulling him out of his seat and throwing an arm around him. Green joked that "from the start of training camp, he hated me, and that's no lie. He probably still hates me, and that's no lie. But we're going to keep winning these championships -- and that's no lie."
The point is: Draymond Green does things differently. And in doing so, he gives this team a personality.
For all of the amazing performances on the court by Curry and Klay Thompson -- the Warriors' Splash Brothers -- they both can be dull interviews. With his grin, goofy charm and relentless energy on the court, Green makes this team even easier to root for.
This offseason, the Warriors signed him to a five-year $85 million contract, making him the second-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Thompson. With that new contract came increased expectations, which so far, Green is living up to.
On Thursday, the league released the latest round of All-Star voting results. Green is currently third in the Western Conference voting for frontcourt players, ahead of NBA stars like the L.A. Clippers' Blake Griffin, New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis and San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan. If the voting closed today, Green would be starting in that game.
Such an accomplishment would be further recognition of Green’s star status and his contribution to the Warriors’ incredible season so far.
As good as Curry is, as good as the Warriors are, they would not be champions without Draymond Green.
The Golden State Warriors are back in action on Friday night at 7 p.m. when they take on the Trailblazers in Portland.