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NBA Preview 2016: The Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green, and sacrifice

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In the final installment of our collection of thoughts leading up to the 2016-17 season, we discuss Draymond Green and which players might have to make a sacrifice to accommodate the addition of Kevin Durant.

Basketball - Olympics: Day 16 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

How do you even begin to describe Draymond Green right now?

During the offseason, Bram Kincheloe described Green’s season as “strange, confusing, exhilarating” and, honestly, there’s no other words following that little italicized summary at the top of the article that nobody really reads better captured the emotion of his season.

As this is a new season, we all want to start fresh, not only putting the shock of blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals behind us but also releasing the burden of old grudges. However, almost any time Green comes up — with both casual and die hard fans — the elephant in the room seems to come down to something resembling this question: will this guy actually hurt the team with these negative actions?

Personally, when it comes to discussing matters of character, I lean toward something like what Bram said back in August:

Rooting for sports figures can be an exhausting and confusing process. We think we know these guys, and sometimes we feel we can relate to their on court personalities. Or, heck, even their off court personalities, especially when it’s a player as forthcoming and open as Draymond. But then, you remember he’s still in his mid twenties, with a crap load of money, still figuring out who he is in this world and where he fits.

I for one, prefer to concentrate on his on-court exploits, and let the other things fall where they may. I don’t pretend to know him, and I don’t pretend that I would have behaved all that differently if I’d been young and famous with the world at my fingertips.

Nevertheless, as we began discussing the upcoming season as a staff, the question about Draymond Green still lingered. So we shared our feelings about it one more time before moving on.

Is Draymond Green a liability?

Sami Higgins: No. Draymond is Draymond. He has been and will continue to be a huge presence on this team, and hopefully he has learned a few little social lessons, but overall his passion and his drive for greatness are an asset to the team, not a weakness. If he can keep his foul troubles in check, the rest of the league better look out because there’s no stopping him.

Derek Knight: In terms of his on-court impact for the team, all respectable (ie not based on counting stats) metrics point towards Draymond being a top five player in the league. In order for Dray to be considered a holistic liability, his off-court impact would have to be hugely detrimental to the team’s success.

It’s not. He’s scuffled a bit this offseason with his image, between a “we don’t know the full context of the situation” after-hours kerfuffle with some college kid in Michigan and a tragic case of “NBA-player-sized-thumb pressed the wrong button on a phone”.

Draymond Green doesn’t have a sterling reputation -- that’s fine. It means he’s a human being with (gasp) the potential to make mistakes. If that casts him as a liability, then anyone claiming to not be a liability is simply dishonest.

Basketball Jonez: Yes. And no. He’s my all time favorite player, but off the court Draymond didn’t handle his first year of being rich very well. Draymond Green is a paradox, a 6’7” rim protector that led a 73 win team in assists, so he’s both the Warriors most important player this season AND the biggest liability. Coming from a gang infested neighborhood, I can identify with a lot of Draymond’s off court choices. Driving waaaay too fast, getting in fights, and a recklessness that goes a little further than just “young, dumb, and single”.

He’s going to need to leave that hoodrat mentality behind, which is harder than some people seem to think. I’m 43 and I still struggle with it sometimes. Hopefully he can just keep it compartmentalized on the court because he is going to have a huge target on his back.The league officiates differently for certain players, and I think we’ll see so much whistle swallowing that John Philip Sousa’s entire discography plays every time Tony Brothers farts. I just saw a focused Draymond Green, and he was the best player in Game 7 without any relief from the officials, so I know he can do it. Still, his offseason was far from ideal for an Olympic gold medalist.

Dean Campbell: Draymond was KD’s number one recruiter! He has been anything but a liability in lining up a bright future for the franchise. While Draymond has at times shown poor judgment on and off the court, he’ll continue to contribute positively to the team’s goals. He ought to use the scrutiny coming his way in light of his missteps this summer as motivation to prove himself again on the court. I would be more concerned about his confidence after a poor performance in Brazil. If he loses his swagger, then we can entertain the thought of him being a liability.

Jason K. Lee: On the court, he’s a net positive anyway you look at him. Do I wish he’d done his best Tim Duncan impression and stared blankly into space instead of getting in LeBron’s face at the end of Game 4? Sure. But do I have a problem with what he did? No. I’ll take him as he is, fire and all. And hate all they want, there’s not a true basketball fan out there that wouldn’t take Draymond in a second. Whoever denies that, the hate is strong in that one.

As for his off the court behavior, I still answer no, he’s a 26 year old. Undoubtedly, he’s done some stupid things. But I can’t cast any judgment on him without projecting some notion of what he’s “supposed” to be. It would be unfortunate if he goes down a bad path and gets into real trouble but I would be more sad for him than anything.

Which of the Big Four do you expect to “sacrifice” the most statistically this year?

Derek: A lot of who ends up with the short end of the statistical stick is arbitrated by the rest of the league’s plan of defense. The rest of the league has got to pick its proverbial poison; should that poison be letting Draymond Green run wild, then he obviously sacrifices the least. If the plan of defense is to contain Durant, blanket Klay, and let Curry go one-on-one, then Curry gets his numbers.

Hugo Kitano: This question depends heavily on Kerr’s rotations this season. I expect to see Klay and Durant spend a lot of time with the second unit that usually begins the second and fourth quarters. There were many times last year when Warriors’ bench units were so inept offensively, and having one of Klay or Durant kickstart the offense is probably wise. Because of the staggered minutes, I can see Curry, Thompson, and Durant maintain their offensive outputs at similar levels to last year. However, I do see Draymond moving towards more of a facilitating role on offense, and definitely adopting a larger role on defense with Bogut and Ezeli gone.

BBJ: I assume by “sacrifice” you mean “give up the most points from their per game scoring average from last year”. Hmmm. I’ll guess Steph, mostly because he had the highest scoring average in the league. I think Curry and KD both average about 25-26 ppg.

Dean: Curry will sacrifice his 400+ made threes for more two-point shots and assists. Opponents won’t be able to double team Curry as easily with Durant on the floor, which will create more open lanes for Curry to drive to the hoop more easily. Curry seems eager to share the ball with Durant and it may lead him to pass on some contested shots similar to those he took (and often made) last season.

Jason K. Lee: In terms of statistical sacrifice, probably Curry. But that’s because he had other-worldly numbers last year. If you’re asking who will “suffer” statistically, I say no one. To add to Derek’s point, I think these four are smart enough to capitalize on what the defense gives them. If they decide to let Klay shoot instead of Curry and Durant, it’ll be Klay’s night. If they decide to give Draymond the lane on 4-on-3s, it’ll be Draymonds’ night. If they make adjustments during the game it’ll be Curry’s first half and Durant’s second. Good luck, league.