With their improved offensive capabilities, the Golden State Warriors don’t need too much offense from Draymond Green to remain superior against most NBA teams. However, his superb defensive ability comes in handy, maybe more than ever this season.
The Warriors picked up a 12th consecutive win by beating the Atlanta Hawks 105-100. It’s hard to say Green saved them when Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combined to score 75 points. However, in the closing minute of the game, with the Warriors up by four points, Green came up with two huge blocks on Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore. It didn’t decide the game, but the work he did all over the floor in the minutes before, when the Warriors took the lead and made it a two possession game, stood out even beyond the stat sheet.
It wasn’t a good offensive game for Green. Only 4 points on 2-for-9 from the field, grabbing 3 rebounds and adding 7 assists. However, he did finish with 1 steal and more importantly 4 blocks, including 3 in the final 3 minutes of the fourth quarter, which makes him the first player to accomplish that. And that’s Green this season: Inconsistent or even somewhat forgotten on the offensive side of the ball for understandable reasons, but maybe more important than ever on defense, especially since Andrew Bogut left.
While the Warriors have become the perfect team on offense, they had to make concessions to make it happen. Trading Bogut to the Mavericks and making Harrison Barnes a free agent were two of them. Adding Durant obviously looked like the better thing to do, and it probably was, but using Zaza Pachulia meant having an inferior rim protector and pick & roll defender compared to previous years. And Green is suddenly playing more center than before (28% of the time, career-high) so the Warriors can cover their new shortcomings on defense. Individually, Green makes the Warriors better by 9.1 points per 100 possessions when he plays, although that’s significantly lower than last season. His net rating isn’t different by much: It’s 16.8 this season, 18.3 last season.
Draymond Green is allowing a combined 30% shooting defending one-on-one on the perimeter and in the post early on this season.
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) November 29, 2016
So far, the doom & gloom expectations for Green to somehow be frustrated with a new role aren’t coming to life. He’s playing slightly less than last season, touching the ball less than last season, and shooting less than last season. That was always going to be part of the new equation, which includes Durant, maybe the best player in the NBA. Green likes being someone who gets to be the star from time to time, but it’s harder to stand out or get the opportunity to do so in such a crowded room. So far Green has handled it very well.
Is Green the best defensive player in the NBA? Probably right up there with Kawhi Leonard. His timing on blocks and steals is perfect, and one quality is his tendency to talk up the refs nicely so he doesn’t get technicals when he deserves them. That’s not a bad trait to have. And unless he suddenly becomes unhappy with his current situation, the Warriors can continue to rely on Green providing the kind of game-altering defense he’s capable of, when there’s actually a need for it.