Michigan State arguably lost as much as any college basketball team in the NBA Draft last June. No, they did not lose the biggest talent of any team. They did not lose multiply important members, only one in fact. But, the one player they lost was the heart and soul of the team. His name, Draymond Green.
I believe that at times writers and talking heads like to overvalue the effect of leadership and “locker-room guys”. In the NBA, for example, the likes of Brian Scalabrine are overvalued and are a waste of a roster spot. (He was not offered a contract this off-season) In professional sports you go out and do your job. A veteran player who has seen it all is helpful, but at the end of the day you either make shots and defend well or you don’t. Leadership does not win games or championships, talent and cohesion do.
However, college basketball is different. Leadership can matter on the right team. Draymond Green was one of those leaders at Michigan State. He was a terrific player on the court, but just as importantly, he showed the younger players how it is done and was the emotional leader of the team. These days in college basketball it is rare to have a talented senior. Most really good players get drafted before they finish their four years of eligibility. Green had a full college basketball career of experience, and showed his teammates how to play well and play smart.
Remember, Michigan State did not have a good start to the season last year, losing to North Carolina and then Duke. Many teams would collapse and lose focus on the rest of the season. Not Michigan State, who won the next fifteen games and 24 of their next 27 games. A big part of the team sticking together was Green. They ended up making it to the Sweet 16 and after sharing the Big Ten regular season title and the Big Ten Tournament. Tom Izzo, after the Spartans were eliminated form the NCAA Tournament stated “Draymond didn’t have the veterans around him or the talent around him, and still found a way to get us some incredible things this year.”
The man many people expected to be the senior leader of this year’s team was Derrick Nix. However, after his April arrest for possession of drugs in his vehicle as well as previous issues I don’t believe he is the right guy. He will also likely be suspended atleast the first couple games of the season. They have young talented players including Junior Kieth Appling and Freshman Gary Harris, but they could be missing what Green was, besides being the team leader in points, minutes, rebounds, steals and blocks, and that is a true leader.
As I stated before, only truly dynamic leaders actually make a difference. It doesn’t hurt that green was also Big Ten Player of The Year and an All American First Team member. Appling and Harris should be a terrific players this coming season, but they won’t be able to step into Green’s shoes, no one can do that.
Draymond Green is now a Golden State Warrior, but as long as Michigan State has Izzo as coach they should be able to compete for a Big Ten title. In college basketball, just like great leaders, great coaches are invaluable for success. They have their great coach and plenty of talent, but it will be interesting to see exactly how much Michigan State misses their former leader Draymond Green this year.