It’s going to be an interesting season for the Golden State Warriors this year, and one that could easily see Draymond Green winning 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He may not be our starting center, but he will be our most effective one. This in itself isn’t really news, so I’d like to look into HOW he does what he does.
It’s been clear since the news broke about Kevin Durant that the center position was going to be our weak spot. In order to land Durant, the Warriors had to release both of our centers leaving a gaping hole in the frontcourt, that has only been haphazardly fixed with the bargain additions of Zaza Pachulia and David West. After a record-breaking season last year, the Dubs are faced with the unusual situation of being better, but also more vulnerable defensively, especially at the rim - where the recently released Bogut (ranked #1 in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM)) and Ezeli (ranked #1 in Nylon Calculus’ “points saved per 36” stat) used to be the answer.
Although Zaza and West can help, neither is especially known for their defense nor their ability to get up above the rim to challenge shots. This is a little extra concerning for those of us still trying to erase images of LeBron James schooling Festus Ezeli on the perimeter and brushing past all of our defenders like they were paparazzi.
Fret not fellow Warriors fans, because there is an answer. It’s been here the whole time. And that answer is Draymond Green, all six foot seven inches of him. The ideal “point center” that Nellie always dreamed of. In the words of Ethan Sherwood Strauss,
What he does do is play defense better than just about anyone else. He was a legitimate candidate for defensive player of the year last year, but after losing out to Leonard Kawhi, this upcoming season could be his year. Because of his first team all-NBA level defense this guy has become arguably as important as Steph Curry, if not more so now that the Warriors have Durant to help shoulder the burden of driving the offense. It was this way last season, and now, with a 7 foot Australian sized hole at center I think Green is poised to make another big leap.
Sure, we all know that Draymond is exceptional on defense. But again, how exactly does he do this all the time? It goes beyond having remarkably long arms...Even last year, he was tied for 2nd place in the NBA in defensive post possessions but I have been wondering lately what he will look like now that he’s going to be even more important to our post presence. And I think the answer is “even better.”
These thoughts were already at the forefront of my mind, and when I was browsing reddit the other day, a post caught my attention so much that I’d like to share it here, while offering my take on the four key characteristics identified about Dray .
“How 6'7 Draymond Green manages to protect the rim at an elite level (with gifs)” Reddit user AwakenedAM does an amazing job of outlining how and where Green impacts the game. I strongly suggest clicking through that link and reading their take (with additional gifs and the entire source video)...With their permission, I want to
steal all of their hard work highlight some of the ways that this works. As you’ll see, what Draymond does best is mostly a function of his mind rather than his body.
1. Timing and awareness – Watch how Green expertly navigates the dangers of no-man’s land here. Hedging off of his man while maintaining a reasonable distance, he knows just when to rotate over to help. The attacking offensive player (Plumlee) clearly isn’t worried enough about the “little guy” hovering around the rim.
You’ll note here that Green doesn’t really get up above the rim, this block is completely about perfect timing and position.
2. Intelligence and covering ground – This first gif displays his intelligence: he literally pushes Harrison Barnes into the correct defensive rotation, while somehow maintaining awareness of the ongoing drive and manages to subsequently block Lebron James. Without that shove to get Barnes protecting the corner three, this ends up in an easy kickout for a wide open look. But not only does Green have the awareness to move the defender out, he keeps his awareness of his responsibility and gives James the rejection he deserves.
(God this is a sweet block!)
Next, we see Green covering all the action, rotating to cover four opponents and then finishing the defensive sequence with solid defense. He starts off on the high right wing; watch here as he covers the pick and rolls and then rotates to follow the pass TWICE before finally ending up defending the drive. As in the previous gifs, it’s not that Green is playing high above the rim; like Neo in the Matrix, he’s realized he doesn’t have to. By anticipating where the action is, Green is able to cover and prevent multiple offensive attacks.
3. Using his body – James Harden makes his living off of getting people to reach for the ball. Here you can see Green play a classic Harden drive perfectly, using his body to bump Harden off his drive while still maintaining his verticality.
4. Tenacity – Watch here as Green makes the decision to go for the block. At first it looks like he’s going to be content with the rebound, but after Bogut makes a hard show on the pump fake, Green steps right in. As we saw earlier, you can see that Adams doesn’t properly appreciate what he’s facing when Green comes up to challenge the shot.
So, now that you’ve seen the specifics of how Green does what he does, do you feel any better about our frontcourt rotation? I think with this being a known weakness it is likely our opponents will often challenge Green, and all that means to him is that he’s going to get more opportunities to play amazing defense.
Rather than being hampered by the absence of Bogut and Ezeli, I’m choosing to look at this as an opportunity for Green to shine. And I bet he does too.