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'21 Season Review: Draymond Green can do almost anything
But it's the "almost" part that people keep talking about
No player is perfect.
No one exemplifies this truth more than Golden State Warriors’ do-it-all-except score cog, Draymond Green. In a league where the truism “points get paid” exists, Green is unfortunately the most deficient in the NBA’s highest profile stat. An anachronism, he’s a defensive mastermind and offensive facilitator combined in a way the league has really never seen before.
Sure, we’ve seen Ben Wallace transform the game with defense as an under-sized center. We’ve also seen players like John Stockton and Muggsy Bogues eschew their own offense in favor of facilitating for their teammates. But never in Don Nelson’s wildest dreams have we seen a player with the same package as Green - a point-Forward that also anchors a defense (while being one of the worst scorers in the league).
It’s not hyperbole either. Green’s stat line from the 2020-2021 season has literally never occurred before!
His value in every other facet of the game is one of the dichotomies that allows this Warriors core to thrive, despite his well documented limitations. Though he and Curry are opposites in many ways - one known for offense, the other for defense - one cool and easy going, the other hot and lacking an emotional volume-control nob - their combined basketball mastery is at the center of what makes Golden State so intriguing moving forward.
Back when I was doing hippy work in the Redwood trees educating Bay Area youths, we had a saying: “nobody has it all together; but together, we have it all.”
(bonus points if you bring your hands together and look up earnestly on that last bit)
Draymond Green doesn’t have it all together, but his strongest areas are also those that are most needed alongside Superstar Stephen Curry. It's a Yin-Yang balance I wrote about early in the season, and one that was still able to shine through amidst a season heavily overshadowed by injuries and missing players.
When he’s on, Green is a stat-stuffing, game destroying monster on both ends of the court.
Green led the team in both assists (8.9 per game) and rebounds (7.1) and his overall impact on the team was a team-best +15.1 points per 100 possessions - yes, even greater than Curry’s +13.4. It’s a cliché, but Green really does do all of the little things, from stymying an entire team’s offense, to knowing where to bounce a pass to a cutter, he’s got an almost prescient basketball IQ.
And perhaps most importantly, it’s Green that helped unlock Curry. Curry was struggling (along with most of the team) in the first handful of games before Green showed up and started flinging the ball around and yelling at players to move. The Green/Curry connection was the most fecund of all assist relationships in the entire NBA, linking up a league-best 194 times on the season.
There’s a causal link there. It’s not a coincidence that Green was sixth in the league in total assists this season while helping Curry uncork one of largest cans of…well, one of the most spectacular singular performances I’ve ever seen in the NBA. That probably doesn’t happen without Green - a guy that has been in the top-10 of the NBA assist leaderboards four of the last five seasons. Not surprisingly, the one year he missed that mark was last year, playing without the bulk of the team’s firepower.
And just as he helped smooth out the offensive wrinkles for Curry to fly free, so too was his imprint all over a team defense that somehow managed to finish as the fifth stingiest in the league, allowing 109.4 points per 100 possessions. As Green so eloquently put earlier this season, what his presence does to an entire team is reminiscent of what a dominant on-ball defender can do to snuff out a possession.
"One thing I am certain of is that I can f--k up an entire team’s offense. And so, when you look at the impact that I have on the defensive side of the ball, it’s not always going to show up in blocked shots. It’s not always going to show up in steals.”
He does this not just as an individual defender, but he does that stuff too. Here’s a quick sample of Green putting in work against the Lakers recently. Watch, in particular, how he plays free safety until his man catches the ball, and then locks in, clearly predicting moves:
It’s a series of images that is bound to be seared on fan’s minds. As the Warriors’ season came to a close, there was Green. Wide open at the free throw line, Green drove towards the undefended basket…
As the defense rotated over, the season on the line, Green lofted up a floater from inside paint… airball.
It was a pattern that has been seen more and more often in recent years. Green, the potent facilitator that awakens the Warriors offense is given the Tony Allen treatment, left alone and dared to shoot.
More often than not, it’s become an increasingly wise gamble. From his height of the 2015-16 season, there is a disturbingly consistent shape to the trend of Green’s outside shooting and scoring.
It’s an issue.
The only question in dispute is: “how big of an issue?”
Green’s positives vastly outweigh the negatives, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a concern to be aware of. Especially alongside some of the Warriors best defenders (that also don’t score) like Looney and Juan Toscano-Anderson, the lack of scoring punch can cause problematic dead zones where the defense doesn’t need to - or even want to extend into.
Of course, how much you think this all matters is a personal questions.
He’s been big in playoffs often enough to know that there’s something there when needed, but the lack of scoring is definitely the area of concern for Green right now.
Looking ahead, the concerns get a bit more macro. Does he age okay, as a 6'6" guy with a declining shot? What's his next contract like, and can the franchise afford another near-max player, regardless of merit?
I've also heard from two different people in my life that we should include Green's temper in his list of weaknesses. He talked himself out of a critical game at least once during this season. How much does it hurt the team when a key player throws a tantrum and ends up on the bench in critical moment? If you're laying money on who lands on that list, Green is definitely near the top.
Love him or hate him, Green matters
They say that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference - a complete lack of emotion. Green, is a visceral part of these Warriors teams, and his game is truly one of the main pillars on which the Golden State empire has been built. Aging now but still structurally sound, Green has become one of the team’s elder statesmen. But the next generation isn’t ready to take over just yet, this is still Green’s team, and definitely his defense.