ATLANTA — Versatility is quickly becoming the most coveted skill set in the NBA.
The Oklahoma City Thunder exemplify this best with a lineup that includes Russell Westbrook as a combo point scorer, a 6-foot-10 three-point shooter at small forward in Kevin Durant and James Harden playing every role in between.
Draymond Green hopes the trend toward versatility benefits his draft stock in July. Green was a dominant big man at Michigan State, joining two point guards — Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson — as the only players to earn multiple triple-doubles in the NCAA tournament. Green racked up so many assists because he often brought the ball up court for the Spartans, becoming the player Ken Pomeroy described as the “best point-forward in the nation.”
Green won’t be playing much point guard in the NBA, but his diverse skills should help the transition from college.
“I think he’s going to be a terrific NBA player,” Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew said Tuesday after the team put several prospects through pre-draft workouts. “I don’t think there’s enough players like him that bring a little bit of everything to the game. But he certainly is that type of player, that caliber of player.”
Green’s diverse skill set came after four years with coach Tom Izzo, when he went from third-team All-Big Ten in 2010 to the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2012.
“Over the years, I’ve learned how to use my body more against guys with more length, just figuring out the little niches and things that you have to do,” Green said. “I think that comes along with more experience, just playing more and more.”
Green certainly gained experience at Michigan State, playing all four seasons and improving his numbers each year to the point where he led the Spartans in scoring, rebounding, steals, field goals and three-pointers in his senior season. The question now is where he best fits on an NBA court.
“I think he can develop into a three. I think he has that versatility where you can move him around. A lot of it depends on matchups. But I think he has the foot speed and the size to play the four, and I think that’s just going to be a plus for him and his game to move from the three to the four,” Drew said after watching Green work out. “As I said before, this league is really starting to move more toward that versatile player, a guy who can play multiple positions. And he certainly fits that profile.”
“Some teams have told me three, some teams have told me four,” Green added. “At the end of the day, I’m still a player. So regardless of what it is, I’m going to make the adjustment to make sure I’m able to play that position.”
Drew seemed to be describing Green when discussing the Hawks’ draft strategy.
“[The] bottom line is we look for the NBA skill — if they can do the things necessary to compete and play at this level. Obviously, you hope to get a guy who can make shots, a guy who can defend. There are a lot of tangibles that a player has to have to play on this level. We bring these guys in here and take a very, very close look at them.”
If Green is still available after 22 other players are selected, the Hawks should be glad they did.