Mar 18, 2012

Michigan State's Draymond Green is a worthy Naismith finalist because of well-rounded game

Classic photo of a young Draymond Green found on an Internet search.

By Adam Biggers

Michigan State senior forward Draymond Green has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's one of the most valuable players in all of college basketball.

The Big Ten Player of the Year is having a monstrous 2012 NCAA Tournament, evidenced by a 24-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist showing in the Spartans' 89-67 win Friday over LIU-Brooklyn and a 16-point, 13-rebound and six-assist performance Sunday in the Spartans' hard-fought 65-61 win over the ninth-seeded St. Louis Billikens.

Michigan State's unquestioned, heart-and-soul leader has his team primed for a run to the Final Four in New Orleans, but Green and the Spartans must first oust coach Rick Pitino's fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals on Thursday in a Sweet 16 pairing in Phoenix.

Green is the first player since former Wake Forest star Tim Duncan to average 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game. He is widely considered one of the most versatile players in the nation.

He's certainly worthy of the Naismith Award—which is given annually to college hoops' top player—and his efforts were recognized Sunday night by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, which named Green as a finalist for the coveted honor along with Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Creighton's Doug McDermott and Kansas' Thomas Robinson.

One could argue the idea of Green being more important to his team than the aforementioned finalists. But Creighton probably wouldn't have made the tournament without McDermott, and Kansas wouldn't be as dangerous without Robinson.

Kentucky, full of blue-chip athletes, would likely still be a national title contender—at least a Final Four-worthy team—without Davis, in all likelihood. The Wildcats are stacked with four- and five-star recruits that most schools would drool over.

But who is the most valuable out of the bunch?

Davis is averaging about 15 points, 10 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game in the tournament. His block average is a bit skewed, though, since he had seven in the Wildcats' 81-66 second-round tournament win over 16th-seeded Western Kentucky.

Davis, who has an astonishing 166 blocks this season, is a menace in the paint. The 6-foot-10 freshman is almost impossible to contain and is a nightmare to match up with. He's the most dominant player in the game by far.

But like NCAA football's Heisman Trophy, the Naismith Award doesn't always go to the "best" player. And one could argue that Davis' game is limited compared to the likes of Green, who contributes in a vast variety of ways each and every game. When is the last time you saw Davis mop the floor during a game? Green really does it all.

Robinson is averaging about 15 points and 11 rebounds per game. He's a bit more versatile than Davis, who is a blocking machine, but his game is more of the post variety. He's a bruising scorer—getting to the rim and living in the paint is his bread and butter. Robinson doesn't routinely run the break like Green, nor does he have the knack for delivering Magic Johnson-like assists (a skill Green has flashed now and then).

If the Naismith Award was designated for the most valuable and most versatile player, Green would be the logical choice to win it. Maybe the Naismith committee will reward Green for his Swiss Army Knife-like skill set. Duncan was a jack of all trades for the most part, and he won the Naismith in 1997.

Follow Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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