December 9, 2023

Arguably the best part of any NBA Draft season is the typhoon of reckless player comps that induce equal parts disgust and laughter. Whether it’s saying a second-round pick has similar traits to Giannis Antetokounmpo or comparing two players because they have a similar, um, skin tone, we tend to see some lazy hot takes when it comes to player comps.

On the surface, it looks like Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green could be guilty of the same indiscretion.

During a recent episode of his podcast, “The Draymond Green Show,” Green was asked which current player reminds him of himself. He began his answer by stating the obvious: There is nobody in the NBA, and maybe nobody who has ever played the game, with a similar skill set, basketball IQ and personality as Draymond Green. He listed all of his qualities, saying that it’s hard to find a player with his unique blend of passing, defense, leadership and IQ. 

“I’m one of one, baby,” Green said. “Ain’t no carbon copies.”

Ultimately he came to a conclusion, but probably not one you’d expect: Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant.

When you first hear it, the comparison seems spurious at best. Morant is a freak athlete and high flier, while Green’s game has always been lower to the ground. Green is one of the best defenders in NBA history, while Morant’s defense is one of his lone weaknesses on the court. Morant scored over 27 points per game last season — Green has never averaged more than 14. Not to mention the difference in size.

Once Green explained himself, however, the rationale became clear.

“I ain’t bowing down to none of y’all. I don’t care what you’ve accomplished before I got here. That has absolutely nothing to do with me. I believe in myself and my abilities and I’m going to show you that. I’m going to lead. I’mma talk to you, and let you know about it while I’m doing it. I’m going to carry others with me. And most importantly, I’m going to do it my way. And all those things that I just named, I see Ja Morant do.”

Green also conceded the obvious dissimilarities in the way they play the game.

“Does that mean Ja Morant and me are the same player? We’re nowhere near the same player,” Green said. “But that’s who reminds me a lot of me.”

Adding to the intrigue of Green’s comparison is the ongoing beef (well, maybe closer to a veggie burger) between the Warriors and Grizzlies during and after their Western Conference semifinal matchup this spring, which Golden State won in six games. Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks said the Warriors are getting old, and Memphis is “coming every single year.” Steph Curry responded by saying that Brooks “called himself a dynasty already,” quickly dismissing that notion. Klay Thompson called Jaren Jackson Jr. a “freaking bum” following the Warriors’ title victory in June, referring to Jackson’s facetious “Strength in Numbers” tweet after a regular-season win over the Warriors.

Morant then entered the mix to defend Jackson, suggesting the Grizzlies had “a lot of real estate” in the Warriors’ minds. Of course, Green couldn’t sit out the verbal sparring entirely, so he responded to Morant with a quick barb about how Golden State had made it to the Finals.

It all seems to be in good fun, and Morant’s reaction to Green’s comparison backs up the idea that there’s nothing but respect between the two franchises. Morant tweeted out, “woo das real shiii,” punctuated with a “100” emoji in response to Green’s comments. Unless I’m not fully updated on the way 23-year-olds communicate these days (which is entirely possible), that seems like a positive reaction.

As much as young stars tend to talk trash as they attempt to claim their place in the league, they generally relish these types of compliments from older players. Green could have easily said, “There’s nobody like me,” and moved on. Instead, he thought about it and realized that, in his mind, Morant plays the game with the same passion, intelligence and fire that has made Green a future Hall of Famer.

Despite the comparison being a bit confusing at first glance, once you get below the surface and look at the rest of the iceberg, it actually makes a lot of sense.

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