If the 2015-2016 NBA All-Star voting ended last week, Draymond Green will enter his first All-Star game as a starter.
The league released the second returns of the votes and Kobe Bryant led all players in what should be a lock for the Lakers superstar’s swan song in the mid-season special. The usual suspects like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and reigning MVP Stephen Curry are also among the top vote-getters.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Indiana’s Paul George, Detroit’s Andre Drummond, and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving join James as the possible East starters while joining Bryant, Durant, and Curry are OKC’s Russell Westbrook and Golden State’s Green.
Green’s inclusion should be no surprise given how he’s been instrumental in helping the Warriors set the best start in NBA history as well as own the league’s top record that stands at 36-2 as of Tuesday.
Still, it’s a long way to go before voting closes on January 18, and Green has a familiar rival lurking to take that starting spot away from him — San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, who trailed Green in the third and final slot of the West’s starting frontcourt by exactly 1,294 votes as of January 8.
Green and Leonard have figured in a tight battle once before for another individual accolade — last season’s Defensive Player of the Year plum — with the Spurs’ forward edging the Warriors’ big man by just 16 points. This time, both men are battling for votes to start in their first All-Star Game appearance.
Make no mistake, both Green and Leonard are bona fide All-Stars this season. But only one of them will be introduced a starter (Kobe and Durant have huge leads over them in the vote tally) while the other one will undeniably be named a reserve by the coaches especially if you look at their numbers.
To clarify, this is by no means a tool to sway votes for either Green or Leonard. This is merely a statistical comparison of both players’ impact on their team’s success that has garnered them the attention and honor of being the All-Stars they truly deserve.
Spin.ph lays down the case for each men on how they’ve played their way to be an NBA All-Star game starter next month in Toronto. Ultimately, you’re the one who decides using your vote on who will be in that starting unit.
The case for Draymond Green:
The 6-foot-7 burly forward of the defending champs leads the league in triple doubles (8) while only using 19.6 percent of their possessions, which ranks sixth in the team even as he leads the Warriors in minutes played. Meaning, he’s on the floor a lot but he only takes less than 20 percent of the team’s plays and still create a huge impact across the stats sheet.
Consider this: with limited usage, Green still ends up third in the team in scoring and steals (15, 1.3), second in blocks (1.4), and first in rebounds and assists (9.6, 7.4). In fact, he’s the only forward in the NBA’s Top 10 in assists this season. And when he’s on the court, Green anchors the NBA’s seventh best defense based on defensive rating with a team-best defensive box plus/minus of +3.5, good for fifth in the league.
A bump up in usage should bode well for Green’s stats but the Warriors’ top gun is unmistakably Curry. Green, though, is the most valuable teammate behind the league’s MVP, well content in being underrated while running the NBA’s deadliest offense (114.5 points per game, 114.8 offensive rating) to perfection.
The case for Kawhi Leonard:
Leonard is quietly having a career year. Quietly, only because not a lot talk about the Spurs and, particularly, about the 2014 Finals MVP and reigning Defensive Player of the Year’s breakout season especially on offense.
The fifth year stud leads the team in scoring (20.7), which is a personal best. He’s the most efficient three-point shooter in the league (49.3%), while averaging career highs in field goal shooting (51.6), free throw shooting (88.3), and assists (2.7). Leonard is even flirting with an elite 50-50-90 season (FG%-FT%-3PT%), which has only been done by Steve Kerr once. And he’s making a loud statement as the league’s most complete player as he’s the Spurs’ best defensive player (with a defensive rating of 92, tied with Tim Duncan), first in steals (2) and third in blocks (0.9) for the NBA’s stingiest defense that only allows 89.7 points per game.
Leonard’s stellar season is overshadowed by Curry, Green and the Warriors’ historic run. What’s also less talked about: the Spurs are only an arm’s reach away from Golden State’s win-loss record (3.5 games back as of Monday) even as they continue strategically resting some of their stars at times.
By the time the Warriors and Spurs face off for the first time this season on January 25 (January 26, Manila time), the battle between Green and Leonard for the All-Star starting spot has already chosen a victor between them. But trust that the war is not over between these two men and their teams, not until only one of them is still playing in June.
(All stats from www.basketball-reference.com as of Monday, January 11, 2016)