The Portland Trail Blazers remain at the center of NBA trade speculation as they await the May 16th draft lottery drawing that will determine what kind of capital they bring into this summer’s market (and whether there’s a need in the first place). Golden State Warriors forward/center Draymond Green ranks among the most-mentioned trade/free-agent candidates for the Summer of 2023. With the Blazers needing frontcourt help, Green is on the wish list of plenty of Blazers fans. Thus the question for today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
I heard you say on the podcast that you wouldn’t take Draymond Green. Bruh. He’s the player besides Steph who’s made the Warriors into champs all these years. We have another Steph. We might have another Klay and Jordan Poole too. We have bigs as good as them. The only thing we don’t have is a Draymond. Nasty attitude. Defense. Come on, man. You can’t be serious.
All appropriate honors to Draymond Green. He has done exactly what you have described. The Warriors would not have won their titles—or at least not as many—without him. He is one of the most disruptive defenders in the league, a jawbreaker to opposing teams. No matter how they try to chew him up, he ends up breaking them instead. I agree with that 100%. He’s the right player in the perfect situation.
Note, though, that those are two separate assertions. You’re arguing the “right player” side of the equation. The “perfect situation” part is where I have doubts. The Trail Blazers are not the Warriors. Changing the environment will also change the effect of the player. In Portland’s case, several factors make this a potentially uneasy fit.
Green is 33 years old. That in itself is not a sin. Damian Lillard is right in his age bracket. But age narrows the window on effectiveness. If the miracle doesn’t happen in two years, it’s not going to happen.
Absorbing a player like Green requires adjustments. Were he and Lillard 26, they’d have all the time in the world to make those. As it is, this is an all-or-nothing gamble. Ergo, I’m asking whether Draymond Green is the player I want to risk my all-or-nothing chips on. That’s much different than asking whether, in theory, he could help this team.
The matter intensifies when you consider Green’s contract status. He has a player option for $27 million next season. I’m assuming part of the rationale for him moving is wanting more dollars. That leaves one of two situations in play:
- He opts out of his final year, seeking a longer-term deal. The Blazers will not have cap space to sign him outright. They’d need to sign-and-trade with the Warriors, which means invoking the hard cap this year plus absorbing all the future years of his contract.
- He stays in, which means trading for him outright, then depending on him re-signing in the future. Either the Blazers pay extra to keep him (presumably $27 million per year extended, at least) or they risk him walking at the end of the season.
Both scenarios involve outgoing assets to Golden State. Both involve significant cap expense, which turns rapidly into cap restrictions. The Blazers would be suffering those for a player exiting his prime, not dwelling in it.
No matter how you slice it, Portland would be paying top-shelf expenses for diminishing returns. That’s in addition to paying Jerami Grant and the ultra-expensive Damian Lillard extension.
After all that expense, the Blazers probably wouldn’t have any big moves left. Yet they’d still have holes in their roster, plus the unaddressed divide between the youthful two-thirds of their lineup and the rapidly-aging remainder.
Green’s impact cannot be measured by size or height alone. He’s proven that repeatedly. His individual effect cannot be measured by height.
But Green will be joining a team already lacking size and height. He won’t be playing at power forward if Grant remains on the roster. That probably means he’ll shift to center.
He’s proven capable of filling that role. But that leaves Portland fielding a 6’6 center, a 6’8 power forward, and uncertain at small forward. Their front line might be feisty and multi-talented, but they’re not big. Eventually, they’re going to run up against taller lineups they’re not equipped to handle. During the regular season they can ignore that issue, but in the NBA Playoffs, that usually means elimination. The whole point of the Big Trade is to get the Blazers through the playoffs, not just to them. A Green move alone probably won’t do that.
Green is not a stat-producer, but he’s a deceptively, sometimes incredibly, effective hub to the offense. Here’s the catch: he needs touches—lots of them—to fill that role.
The Blazers already have two players who would be best-used as offensive initiators in Lillard and Anfernee Simons. They have a third in the wings with Shaedon Sharpe. Even if one of the trio moved in a Green deal, they’re still negotiating an uneasy truce in the backcourt. Even though they need some play facilitation in the frontcourt, adding another major hub is going to muddy those waters. Yet if you don’t do it, Green loses half of his strength, becoming just another player you can’t pass the ball to at the end of plays.
That list also reveals another key difference between the Blazers and Warriors. Curry and Thompson are veterans. Simons and Sharpe are not. The younger players are going to have a harder time working around the disruption than the World Champs do. Can it work? Sure. But it’s not a certainty...another question mark added to the deal.
The same claim holds on defense. Curry and Thompson didn’t start out as world-beaters defensively, but they evolved. Curry is decent, Thompson turned downright good. That evolution took years. Lillard doesn’t have years left, while his backcourt mates have their whole defensive learning curve in front of them.
Green will definitely make all three guards look better on defense than they do currently. Whether he’ll have the full effect he has in Golden State remains to be seen. Personally, I’m not convinced. Green takes up as much defensive space in the infrastructure as anyone in modern memory, but his Portland teammates would also leave a much wider gap around him than his Warriors teammates do.
At best, we can say that the Blazers would need Green every night, on all the critical plays, to keep up the defensive benefit. I’m not sure that’s possible with a player at his career stage.
The question isn’t whether the Blazers would be good, or better, with Green in tow. They surely would. Would it be enough, though? And if it isn’t, what else does he bring to the table to make up for it?
It’s become evident over the past few years that Green is a double-edged sword. The Warriors benefit from him, but they also put up with him. Suspensions, antics, stomps, punches...he’s continually leaking out the edges, and that’s with one of the best structured, veteran-cultured, championship-tested organizations in the league.
The Blazers are a puddle of ambiguity right now. They don’t have veteran leadership running through the organization. They have Damian Lillard, a first-time coach, a first-time GM, an owner who inherited the franchise from her brother, and a whole raft of young players.
In Portland, there aren’t even edges for Green to leak out of. Culturally, he’s bigger than the Blazers are. If he’s all but uncontrollable in Golden State, I shudder to think what would happen in Portland. He’d be like a meteor hitting the franchise, for better or worse.
Steve Kerr—who has every reason to appreciate and be beholden to Green—was correct in his assessment that when Draymond starts going sideways, nobody in the universe is going to stop him. If Kerr can’t, Lillard can’t either. And there’s literally nobody else to do it.
Let’s face it...this is one of the main reasons the Warriors would consider letting Green go instead of prizing him as a franchise cornerstone like Curry. If they’re giving out those warning signs, the Blazers would do well to heed them.
In the podcast, I summed it up like this: The Blazers would probably receive many of the good facets of Green, but they’d definitely inherit the problematic ones. All the positives depend on age, health, and roster construction. The negatives will go with him every step of the way, no matter what.
Given that, Portland would do well to think twice before risking it all on the Golden State phenom. Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.
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