It’s that time of year where the annual rankings from every publication start hitting the internet, and Sports Illustrated is first to the plate with its Top 100 players for the 2016-17 season. The top two spots didn’t change from last season. According to SI’s Rob Mahoney and Ben Golliver, LeBron James is the league’s best player and Kevin Durant sits in the No. 2 spot again despite consecutive MVPs collected by his new Golden State Warriors teammate, third-ranked Stephen Curry.
While there is nothing surprising about the league’s top-three players, Draymond Green and Kyrie Irving, numbers 13 and 25, respectively, both stand out because of where they’re ranked versus fan perspective. Both Green and Irving are incredible players who are doing fantastic things on the floor for their respective teams, and their presence is the reason we’ve had a repeat NBA Finals over the last two seasons.
Green, despite being the driving force behind the Warriors’ two-way versatility over the last two seasons, is still criminally underrated by the basketball watching world. Green is a unique big who can defend five positions while creating scoring opportunities for himself and his other four teammates on the floor. Last year, Green led all front court players in assists (598) and passes per game, a byproduct of only six guards moving the ball more frequently than Golden State’s loudmouth star.
What really makes Green so important for the Warriors is that he can create space in multiple ways. Green improved his three-point shooting from 33.7 percent to 38.8 percent last season, forcing defenders to stay within close-out distance when he’s spotted up for catch-and-shoot opportunities. When he’s not the one getting looks, he’s been great at setting screens on and off the ball for both Curry and Klay Thompson to give them the space they need — and it’s never much — to splash from deep or get shots off from behind the arc.
Green’s value to the Warriors can be found with deep dives into the analytics, but everything he does for Golden State can be analyzed with a squinting eye test, too, and the fact he has two teammates listed above him on SI’s player ranking is only going to make him more of a threat on both sides of the ball for this upcoming season.