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How to Train a "Tweener"

Why Greg Gard and Nigel Hayes need to hunker down together and take note of all the things Draymond Green does for the Warriors and implement them immediately.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It occurred to me this morning -- while I was somewhat enjoying my morning Keurig coffee and reading up on some previews for tonight's Game 1 of the NBA Finals -- that Draymond Green's overall game has a lot to offer to someone who just recently learned that he should go back to school for his senior year for some more collegiate seasoning. Someone that at his best, is being viewed as a future NBA "tweener".

That someone? Nigel #NigelBack Hayes.

I'm not foolish. I do know that this literally can be said of any "tweener" with actual hopes and aspirations of becoming an NBA talent -- especially for those that also have Big Ten ties -- but if Hayes wants to become that "end of the first round draft pick" in 2017 like he was expected to be this past year, improving himself -- even if that means becoming somewhat of a niche player -- is 100% at the top of his priority list this off season.

Now, before I dive in any further, I do realize that there are TOO many comps to the former Spartan floating around the interwebs and Twitter. It's easy. It's lame. It's low hanging fruit.

And for the majority of them, they are absolutely ridiculous. There will not be another Draymond Green. There may be players that can do what he can do as a whole, but Draymond Green is a beast unto himself. The arms flexed straight down, skipping while trash talking mad man is a basketball anomaly.

He's an energetic psychopath that I can't take my eyes off of and there's nobody else like that in basketball except for maybe Russell Westbrook. But those two are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

So for those of you headed to the comments section to rip this apart, I want you all to know that this is not that type of piece. I don't think Nigel Hayes can be one of the most influential and important cogs in today's version of the NBA. He doesn't have the same temperament -- in fact it's probably the exact opposite. And making the leap and saying that Nigel Hayes can be the next Draymond Green is irresponsible.

The bottom line is that these two are very different types of players.

But I do think that if Hayes puts a big focus on the nuances that have made the Warriors forward successful from when he entered the NBA to now -- rebounding, perfecting his ability to crash the hoop with reckless abandon after setting a screen for a shooter and raising his outside shooting touch from last seasons abysmal number (29.3%) -- during the off season, he has the potential to make a name for himself in the league (and for a playoff contender at that) as a hyper athletic, do everything hybrid.

At this point, we know the struggles that Hayes had during the tournament (9-39 from the field and 2-15 from long distance), which was just a microcosm of the regular season with his field goal percentage dropping from 50% to 37% and 40% to 29% from three. Like it or not, this probably left a sour taste in the mouths to some scouts. Without the protection of having Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky, Hayes was left on an island by himself for a good part of the season.

And it wasn't pretty. I felt like I was watching a weird Adam Sandler movie.

Like most of the past ten years of the Sandler cannon, there were glimpses of the kid that stole our hearts earlier in his career (as Hayes did during the Badgers NCAA Tournament run from two years ago). While a lot of the Netflix movies aren't something to write home about, Sandler is still able to string some jokes together that reminds you of the why he was a cosmic class clown turned comedy star (much like Hayes' play during their seven game win streak where he averaged 20.4 points on 45% shooting inside the arch and 40% outside and nearly five rebounds a game).

But there was/is still something missing.

Luckily for Hayes, there's plenty of time to turn this bad boy around. This can be his version of Little Nicky, which means there is still plenty of time for Funny People and Spanglish.

But for that to happen, the Wisconsin forward needs to prove that he can be the guy during the 2016-17 season. He has to show scouts and GM's that he can handle the pressure of being the best player on a championship contender -- something the Badgers are going to be. He has to prove that he has enough tools in his shed that when a team clamps down on him, he can still effect each and every game positively in other ways.

Call it what you want. But to me, that's the Draymond-factor.

So, Mr. Hayes, while you undoubtedly tune into the NBA Finals, I hope you set out to watch your Big Ten brother intently. When you see something you like, I advise you to take it. Steal it. Make it your own. Basketball is just like any other profession at the end of the day, those that become successful take bits and pieces from those that have come before them.

Who better to take those things from than someone that has been in this exact spot before?

Oh, and before I go, I just want you to take a quick look at what wrote about Green before the draft in 2012:

That guy... the one they compared to Luke Harangody and Jared Dudley is now pulling in a smooth $82 million dollars over the next five years, he's an NBA Champion, an NBA All-Star and a two time NBA All-Defensive first teamer.

And he too was a "tweener" that was "undersized for a physical forward". Let him be your spirit animal, Nigel. Let him guide you to the NBA.