The Spartan Warrior.
Michigan State has been a powerhouse in basketball since I started watching basketball at the turn of the century. I remember Mateen Cleaves very well.
They were fun to watch, energetic, and Tom Izzo was/is a true genius and seems like a guy that could whip your ass if you said the wrong thing to him.
Surprisingly, unlike Duke or Kansas or Kentucky or UNC, they have not produced that many great NBA players.
Sure, lately they have produced Gary Harris, Denzel Valentine, Miles Bridges, and Jaren Jackson Jr., who are all solid, but no top 20 or even top 40 players in the last six seasons. Outside of Draymond Green...but wait how good is he?
Is he the best Spartan ever, besides Magic Johnson?
Or was a man drafted in 2001 better? Will his career end up being better?
The Spartan dichotomy- Green vs. Zach Randolph.
One man is well known, loved and hated, has 3 rings and a defensive player of year award. The other man casual fans know little about, and people on the street have never heard of. He has zero rings and only two all star appearances, despite great stats over a long career.
Let me 'low key' (can't believe I am using that term) let y'all know why ZBo (Zach) is super under-rated and actually is the best Spartan in the NBA.
First off, let's talk about ZBo's numbers. A NINE year prime of 20ppg and 10ppg. In that stretch, his worst campaign was in 2008 with the shitty Knicks averaging 18/10.
Not only have maybe twenty big men done that for a few years in a row, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe a dozen have done this for a nine year stretch. He has made 2 all star games, and just ONE All-NBA team in his 16 year career. This is mainly due to having to compete against: KG, Duncan, Dirk, Amare, Melo, Durant, CWebb early on, and even the likes of Lamar Odom, Griffin and Deandre Jordan. He is overshadowed because of what these other men can do and are known for: flashy 3s, posterizing dunks and blocks. Duncan is the only one on the list considered boring, but he is a top 8 player ever and overshadowed basically the entire league from 2002-2008 except Kobe and Lebron.
His career stats per game, and career stats per 36 minutes, as well as Career totals and their rankings:
16.6ppg/9.1rpg on 47% shooting. This includes weak first and second seasons of 3/2 and 8/4...
Per 36 mins: 19.3/10.6 and 2.1 assists.
Career totals: 1116 games, 10,208 rebs, 18,578 points
Rankings: 63rd all time in games. 38th in rebs (only 300 away from David Robinson at 32nd), 62nd in points (800 away from 50th Tony Parker).
He has yet to play this season in 50 games, but if he could play maybe ten games and another 70 next season, he would grab 300 more rebounds, and score 800 more points and be # 50 in scoring and #32 in rebs.
Please compare Tim Duncan's career stats to his:
19/10.8/3 assists on 50% shooting. And mind you, unlike Randolph he did have a great first two seasons, averaging 21.5/11.5 on 52% shooting!
Per 36 minutes: 20.1/11.5/3.2 assists.
Career totals: 1392 games (10th), 15,091 rebs (7th), 26496 points (14th)
So yes, Tim was definitely better (top 12 easy ever) and played more games and won 5 rings, etc.
But per 36 minutes in their CAREERS, Timmy averaged 0.8 more points, 0.9 more rebounds, and 1.1 more assists. That is shockingly similar.
So was ZBo put in a bad situation? Not awful, no. Not perfect. Was he put in a position that Duncan was? With Pop and Kerr and Robinson? No.
Or a position like Draymond?
When Green was drafted, the Warriors had just won only 35% of their games, going 23-43 the season prior. But, they had Curry, Klay, David Lee, and Richard Jefferson on the roster and a solid head coach.
His Rookie year, they took the Spurs to 6 games in the second round, and the Spurs went on to almost win the Finals, if not for Ray Allen's shot...meaning they took a very good team to six hard fought games.
Did Green really make a huge impact? Eh 3 points 3 rebounds in 13 mpg, and 6 and 4 in the playoffs...
But we can't just talk rookie seasons. ZBo also had a bad one.
The point is, Draymond was set up for success and while he has averaged 7 assists per game over the last last 4 seasons, how much of it is him being a stellar passer vs. him passing to Curry, Klay, Durant, Iggy, etc.? Probably some combination, but you have to think 2-3 assists per game for him are to those stellar shooters. If he was on the say, Magic, he likely would be averaging closer to 4 assists per game.
After two weak seasons- six year stretch of 11/5.5/4.5 on over 50% FG. After weak rookie season- 10/7.5/5.7 on less than 44% FG.
The first stat line is Boris Diaw. With very similar (less rebounds but better shooting).
The other is Draymond Green, who some consider a top 15 player of the decade...Hmm...this is getting interesting.
Some argue that Green doesn't need to score. That he doesn't have the chance. Okay, let's look at shooting. And he is open a ton. People focus on the other 3-4 stars on the court and he still shoots well under 50%. In fact he is averaging less than 42% FG this season, something he has done in four of his seven NBA seasons...That is very bad. Like lower 20% in league bad.
From 5-9 feet, he is a 35% shooter. From 10-14, he is 42%, from 15-19, he is 40%, from 20-24 he is only 21%! Wow. And finally, 27% from 25-29 feet, which is awful.
Let's look at Curry and also someone like Demar Derozan.
Curry- 52/44/49/50/42. 9% better from 15-19, nearly 30% better from 20-24 feet...
Demar- 48/39/41/32/6. Literally 50% better at long shots 20-24 feet.
Let's look at Zach Randolph nine seasons ago, when he was in his prime...
39/40/38/36/34. WOW! So, better at every area except a bit worse at 10-14 feet and 15-19. But beyond 20 feet, as a power forward/center, he was hitting 35% of his shots. Draymond is closer to 25%...and of course ZBo was hitting 63% of his 0-5 feet shots, which was he was shooting 7 of per game.
So, he is bad at shooting despite being open quite a bit, gets 6-8 rebounds per game, though he does play center or power forward almost exclusively, and gets at least a chunk of his assists to the best shooters ever.
I'll admit he's a great defender. Maybe top 10 since MJ.
But that is about it. And his steal numbers are impressive, but then again, James Harden is high up there in steals this season and has been for a few seasons now, so you can't just look at steal stats.
So if you switch 28 year old Boris Diaw into the role Draymond had and has, do the Warriors not have 3 rings still? Do they even have 4, since Boris would not have been suspended for his attitude and ball kicking, in 2016? Would the band be breaking up, with a Draymond vs. KD rift? Would Diaw have problems?
Would Zbo have or cause problems? Would Zbo play well with Curry and Klay? I feel like he's a sort of combo between David Lee and Andrew Bogut, so I would think so.
My final thought. Wilt is the best Jayhawk turned NBA star, followed by Pierce and maybe eventually Embid. Grant Hill for Duke, followed by Kyrie.
Jordan for UNC, followed by Worthy. High school- Lebron then Kobe.
Michigan State? Magic, then Zbo.
The man who averaged basically the same stats as Tim Duncan.
The man who is secretly top 100 ever, if not higher.
The legend. The real Spartan Warrior of the 2000s.