By: Scott Levine
Caleb Swanigan scored many points and grabbed many rebounds in Summer League. It’s hard to deduce much from this, but many agree he will be able find a role in the NBA because of his shooting ability and toughness. Some are not satisfied with that. Blazers Summer League coach Jim Moran wants to see him become Draymond Green.
I get it from Moran’s perspective. You want your players to shoot for the moon. But it reminded me how ubiquitous Draymond Green comparisons have become. Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, Bobby Portis, Julius Randle, and Aaron Gordon have all been measured against the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Draymond comparisons never dominate assessments of these players, but they always seem to pop up. The comps often include disclaimers that the player in question will likely not be an All-Star. Green is an All-Star because he can defend multiple positions, protect the rim, shoot, rebound, pass, and has an overclocked motor. When you say a prospect could be a non-All-Star Draymond Green, what are you saying? That he can shoot, can rebound, plays hard, but can’t defend? That he does everything Draymond can do, but worse? That he has a stocky 6’9 frame and can guard multiple positions, but can’t shoot? That he was picked outside of the lottery?
For Swanigan, the comparisons lie in his shooting and motor. For Yabusele, the comparisons come from his shooting and playmaking potential. For Ojeleye, the comparisons come from his defensive versatility and shooting. These are all very different players.
To put in context how ridiculous this is, let’s stay on the topic of Summer League. Phoenix’s rookie guard Davon Reed shot the ball well in Vegas and has defensive potential. After watching him, you might say, “Davon Reed could be a fifteen-minute-a-game 3 and D player in the NBA.”
You probably wouldn’t say, “Davon Reed could be Klay Thompson lite.” That could mean, “Reed could be an elite shooter but not a good defender,” or, “He could be able to create off the dribble but be an average shooter,” etc. Furthermore, Klay Thompson is not a conduit for evaluating every player who fits the mold of a 3 and D shooting guard.
However, unlike Thompson, we don’t have a definitive term for Green’s archetype. You could call him a playmaking four, but that would underscore his defense. You could call him a defensive specialist or a stretch four, but that would ignore his vital role in the Warriors’ offense.
This is all very new. Green’s rise to stardom reshaped how we think about the power forward position, and we haven’t had much time to think of mainstream categorizations for where the position is heading. I propose we start thinking of new terms instead of harkening back to Green every time a versatile 4 emerges.
The 2018 draft class has a lot of modern day 4s, including Miles Bridges, Michael Porter, and players I don’t know much about yet. Bridges plays for Michigan State, so the Draymond comparisons will be unavoidable. But for everyone else, let’s get more creative. We’re only going to see more of these guys as the power forward position gets smaller and more versatile.