Is Draymond Green a Hall of Famer?

ByKevin Pelton ESPN logo
Thursday, June 7, 2018

After the Golden State Warriors finished off the New Orleans Pelicans last month to reach the Western Conference finals, coach Steve Kerr slipped an interesting comment into his postgame interview.

Discussing the importance of Warriors big man Draymond Green, Kerr called him "a future Hall of Famer." While much of Green's story remains to be written at age 28, he already has racked up individual accomplishments and team success that make him a contender for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. So is Green on track for enshrinement?

Limited HOF precedent for Green

There aren't a lot of players like Green in the Hall of Fame. If we look at players who were elected on the strength of their NBA career and retired after 1960, just two others averaged fewer points per game in their highest-scoring seasons than Green's 14.0 points per game in 2015-16: K.C. Jones (9.2 PPG) and Dennis Rodman (11.6 PPG). Everyone else meeting those criteria averaged a minimum of 15 PPG at least once.

Jones and Rodman collectively showcase what's necessary for a low-scoring player like Green to reach the Hall of Fame. First, he must be recognized as an elite defender. Jones played before any modern defensive awards (he retired two years before the All-Defensive team was first selected) but is regarded as one of the greatest perimeter defenders ever; Rodman was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and made the All-Defensive first team seven times.

Consider this box checked for Green, the Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17 and already a three-time All-Defensive first-team pick with a second-team selection this season.

Additionally, to make the Hall of Fame, a low-scoring player probably has to be part of multiple NBA champions. Jones won eight championships in nine seasons with the Celtics as part of their Bill Russell-led dynasty. Rodman picked up five championship rings as part of two legendary teams, winning back-to-back with the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990 and three in a row as part of the Chicago Bulls' second three-peat.

That kind of team success in the playoffs has helped separate Jones and Rodman from other low-scoring ace defenders, most notably four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace, who was part of a single championship team (the 2004 Detroit Pistons) and has yet to be selected as even a Hall of Fame finalist in two years of eligibility. (Fellow four-time Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo is in without a ring, but he doesn't technically qualify for the low-scoring list because he averaged 16.6 PPG as a rookie for a fast-paced Denver Nuggets team coached by Paul Westhead.)

In terms of this criterion, Green is well on his way, with two championships to date and potentially a third this year. The surest way for Green to lock in his place in Springfield is to keep racking up titles.

What else can Green add to his résumé?

At 28, Green has plenty of time to add to his list of individual accomplishments as well as championship rings. Wallace's example shows that Defensive Player of the Year awards and All-Defensive team nods alone may not be enough to win over the Hall of Fame selection committee. All-Star appearances and All-NBA berths have been more reliable indicators.

So far, Green has played in three All-Star Games, which puts him on the low end for a Hall of Famer. Just 15 players have been inducted with three or fewer All-Star appearances, many of them due primarily to their international careers, or college careers back when the electorate put more emphasis on pre-NBA contributions.

Rodman made the Hall of Fame with just two All-Star appearances, however, so even if Green never makes the All-Star Game again there's precedent for his selection. And both defense-minded big men made a pair of All-NBA teams -- two third-team nods for Rodman, while Green has made a second and a third team.

While the Naismith Hall of Fame doesn't reward career totals quite as much as its baseball and football counterparts, longevity also will be an important consideration in Green's candidacy. It remains to be seen how long Green can remain productive as an undersized post player at a listed 6-foot-7. Already this year, we saw Green's play decline from the previous two regular seasons, which dropped him to the All-Defensive second team and knocked him off the All-NBA teams altogether.

Given Green was a four-year collegian who turned 23 during his rookie season and was nearly 25 by the time he became a full-time starter, it's unlikely he'll finish among the all-time leaders in any statistical category.

Verdict: Green on track, but work to do

With all due respect to Kerr, it's early to call Green a future Hall of Famer. He has yet to play 500 games or start 350, putting Green at a point where only truly transcendent players have been able to reach the Hall of Fame.

That's natural for a player who still has a couple of seasons left in his 20s. Assuming Green continues to perform at a similar level for the next couple of years, and especially if Golden State can firmly establish itself as one of the NBA's historic dynasties, his case will look better with time.

A couple of other factors may work in Green's favor. First, as Kerr also noted in the same quote, Green is perhaps the finest example of the modern versatile big man, having started his career as a small forward and now playing frequently as an undersized center. Green's impact on the evolution of frontcourt play will work to his benefit in terms of historical legacy.

Second, growing acceptance of statistical analysis should help Green's candidacy. As modest as his per-game stats are, particularly in the scoring category, Green ranked among the top 10 players in ESPN's real plus-minus three seasons in a row from 2014-15 through 2016-17. If advanced stats that appropriately value defense continue to supplant their box-score counterparts in the public consciousness, that will bolster Green's résumé.

As a result of those factors, I'd bet that Green will prove Kerr right. He's currently on a Hall of Fame path.

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