Green, who was still in his game jersey, wreaked havoc on the Hawks defensively with four blocks. None were bigger than his two rejections on back-to-back possessions in the final 45 seconds of regulation.
To put it modestly, Green has been playing like he has something to prove. One would think that two straight years of second place finishes behind the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard for Defensive Player of the Year would push him to new levels of defensive greatness.
However, that is actually not quite the case.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I have something to prove for that award,” Green said after the Warriors’ 12th straight win. “More so because people have counted our defense out with Bogut leaving and that kind of pisses me off.”
That’s right, Draymond Green is pissed off. And that is great news for the Warriors’ defense.
Green understands that the Warriors must defend at an elite level to win another championship, which is the team’s ultimate goal. However, the Dubs’ perceived lack of rim protection has led critics to be wary of their chances of returning to a third straight NBA Finals.
“The world says we traded our defense away when we got KD [Kevin Durant],” Green continued. “I disagree. I think our defense actually has the upside to be better with our length that we have, the speed, the athleticism. So that pissed me off more than anything, and that our defense was going to suck now.”
It’s hard to believe that a team can lose two strong, athletic seven-foot shot blockers and yet return the next year with more upside on the defensive end.
But let’s dissect Green’s assertion.
Durant, the Warriors’ newest addition, is as versatile a defender that there is in the league. He is quick enough to stay with guards and long enough to battle with big men.
Factor Durant’s intangibles into Golden State’s switch-everything defensive scheme and you essentially have a perfect match.
As Green pointed out after last night’s game, Durant’s weak-side help defense and ability to block shots went relatively unnoticed in Oklahoma City, thanks in part to players like Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook.
As mentioned previously, many believe the Warriors’ biggest flaw to be interior defense and rim protection. This may be true. And even though the team is averaging about the same amount of blocks per game as they did last season, that doesn’t exactly equate to the same level of interior defense.
But does this team really need an elite rim defender to win a championship?
As the old adage goes — the best defense, is a good offense. The 2016-17 Warriors are making a case as one of the most potent and efficient offenses in recent league history.
Golden State currently averages 117.6 points per game, the highest in the NBA since the Run TMC Warriors averaged 118.6 in 1991. That’s potent. They also have the league’s highest Offensive Efficiency rating at 114.6 (three points higher than the next closest team) and currently shoot 50 percent from the field as a team. Now, that’s efficient.
This, in turn, makes their defense better because the more the Warriors score, the more the opposing team is forced to take the ball out from under the basket. This limits transition opportunities for opponents and allows the Dubs to get their defense set up to lock down in the half court.
Take into account the Warriors’ athleticism, quickness and length. Then, factor in the outstanding individual defensive abilities of Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Green, Durant and so on. Lastly, add in a historically dominant offense, and this team might be more complete than we could have ever hoped for.