Draymond Green’s offensive versatility, his ability to sustain and move the Warriors offense from all areas of the floor, particularly the paint and while driving, is frequently applauded. It’s a bounce pass to Klay Thompson. It’s a chest pass to Kevin Durant. It’s a dribble drive and dish to Steph on the elbow. His triple doubles he calls “selfishly being unselfish”. Green is charting new territory for an undersized forward as he takes on and executes more details of the Warriors read and react offensive actions. It’s one of the reasons the Warriors offense is so dynamic. Steph Curry gives up the ball, several passes later Draymond Green gives up the ball, and Kevin Durant scores.
The league has seen other great offenses before. The 1986-87 Lakers were pretty spectacular. So were the ’91-92 Bulls, they had an offensive rating of 115.5. The Mavericks of 2003-04 were pretty special as a scoring bunch. The ’87-88 Celtics were dominant. And the Bulls of 1995-96, the team that won 72 games and who the Warriors chased down last year were off the charts exceptional.
Yes, offense matters. But the reason the 2003-04 Mavericks didn’t win the title, and the reason the 1987-88 Celtics lost to the Pistons was because of defense.
The Warriors defense is embodied in Draymond Green. As good as he is on offense, he is the one irreplaceable piece on a Warriors championship favorite team that ranks 1st in 3-point defense, and 2nd in field goal percentage defense, as Green (and Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant) patrol the perimeter and contest shots. No one defends their man or can defend multiple positions like Draymond Green.
Green’s innate energy makes him an exuberant defender. His footwork that he honed at Michigan State allows him to guard his man before the catch and limit what he can do when he puts a body on him. His intelligence, his watching film and studying technique, puts him in the right place, at the right time. And his confidence married to athleticism means he has already won the matchup before it began.
Kawhi Leonard has a higher offensive rating (122) than Draymond Green but Green has a better defensive rating (102) than Leonard. Green has a higher Defensive Real Plus-Minus at 4.29. The only player who has a higher cumulative DRPM which measures the defensive impact when players are on the floor is Rudy Gobert, the shot blocking seven footer for the Utah Jazz.
Kawhi Leonard isn’t asked to shut down the other team’s best player while at the same time being a point guard, scorer, shooting guard, forward and center. And to do it on a dynamic team that changed their roster, particularly with size up front, (Green has no protection). Every night teams are coming at him hard. And, oh yeah, he is the team’s most vocal leader so a lot of shade is thrown his way.
Green’s 8.4 rebounds ties Kevin Durant with the lead on the Warriors. His Defensive Field Goal Percentage is 40.8%. In contrast, DeAndre Jordan’s DFG Percentage is 46.7%. In effect, Draymond Green is having more of an impact on defense than a shot-blocking, near seven footer.
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Steph Curry gets all the media attention and love (and rightly so) because his game is dynamic. Curry has reversed his injury history and is now the face of the league in his prime. He is on the precipice of Jordan like feats. Kevin Durant is having the best year of his career and is barely being talked about other than how he ruined people’s love of the game because the Warriors are annihilating every team the play. As a unit though, Curry and Durant notwithstanding, the Warriors go because of what Draymond Green can give them every night on defense, after having a triple double, or a 15 point, 9 rebound, 7 assist game. Routinely, he has shut down someone in the front court. LaMarcus Aldridge. LeBron James. Blake Griffin.
They say, toughness is as toughness does. This we know to be true: Draymond Geen does tough.
But that isn’t all there is to him. Draymond is very invested in community work outside of basketball. With that work, he is asking the tough questions. “Are you born a racist or are you taught it.”
Saginaw, Michigan native Green wants to use his exposure and access to raise awareness and to further push a positive dialogue, despite the negative experiences he endured growing up.
“The way we were treated when we went to the movie theater was like- it made you never want to go because of how you were treated when you did go. I remember at the recreation center where I grew up-literally I grew up across the street- me and my friends are walking out one day and a black van came flying in the parking lot. A cop hopped out and put us in handcuffs. Never gave us an explanation. Had us all sitting on the curb in handcuffs. Why?”
Green is part of a select group of athletes who are willing to take a stand for what they believe in and yet at the same time he doesn’t believe athletes should speak out on social issues if it is not something they have a deep commitment for. It comes across as fake and rehearsed, a marketing ploy that will hurt the point they are trying to make. Athletes are humans who live in the world and so they run the gamut of emotions like the rest of us do. Many wish to remain private, though. Green feels a greater responsibility.
“I want to use my platform to raise awareness. To help raise some positive. In our country, you look around and a lot of things that happen- it all stems from that. It’s all stemming from me against you. And like how do you stop it? I just want to do my little part in helping stop it.”
Of course nothing about Green is fake and rehearsed, even his impulse challenged moments on the court that draw technical fouls. He has no room for error with NBA refs who tee him up for behavior other players routinely get away with. It’s the reputation he has built and one he has to live with. But if it is true that playing hard is a skill, than Draymond Green is the most skilled player in the NBA.
photo via llananba