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Player perspective: Draymond Green’s unique offense

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Using detailed play data from Synergy, let’s look at Green’s evolution from spot up specialist to offensive maestro

NBA: Preseason-Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This is part three of an ongoing series aimed at previewing key Warriors players’ performance not just as static images, but as the evolving players that they are. Read part one on Stephen Curry here, and part two on Kevin Durant here.

Draymond Green is known for his defense, but we don’t talk nearly enough about his offense, and I think I may have figured out why.

When coach Steve Kerr took over as head coach for the Warriors, he made a bunch of major strategic shifts - moving Iguodala to the bench, changing our entire offensive scheme, and transforming Draymond Green into the “Point Forward” that Don Nelson always dreamed of. Lost in all of this though is Green’s offense - how does he get his own shot?

The “less is more” approach

This is the third installment of these articles, and one thing that really popped out from looking at the data was that there’s not as much corresponding rise in offense when Green sees a reduction in one aspect of his game as compared to other players.

Where’d the spot ups go? Nowhere, that’s where.

As you can see, Green gets the majority of his shots from spot ups - but the number of attempts have seen an inexorable decline in the face of superior offensive options at the Warriors’ disposal. His offense has slowly drifted away from that of a spot up shooter as both he and the team have realized that maybe a Draymond Green spot up jumper isn’t the best shot for Golden State to look for.

This makes sense if you watch the games - he’s not out there trying to take people off the dribble, and the team most definitely is not calling his name when it’s time to initiate the pick and roll. He still gets most of his points from spot up jumpers, but now he takes a lot less of those shots and looks to attack in transition significantly more. That dip in spot up attempts is really the biggest evolution of his offense.

There are two precipitous dips in his spot up shooting percentages: after his rookie season (where he was presumably looking for - and taking - open shots), and then another with the arrival of Steve Kerr. When Kerr moved him within the offense, it was to put Green into a more facilitatory role. As per basketball reference look at the rise in his usage in ‘14-’15 and the corresponding rise in assist rate from the 2015 season forward:

Green’s facilitation shows in the advanced statistics

How things could change for Draymond Green’s offense this season

One of the... let’s say “complications” rather than “problems” in analyzing basketball is the inter-relations of everyone on the court. Looking at points per gameand shooting stats for Draymond Green aren’t super impressive in a vacuum. Some of it is his proximity to the great scorers on the court with him, but after looking at the Synergy statistics, I do think there is one specific element that Green and the Warriors should look to address moving forward.

First, let’s take a look at the Synergy outputs for his most used play types:

Points per possession and play type, with percentile ranks.

While there aren’t any egregiously bad values in there, it’s a pretty clear pattern of mediocrity. Some of this can’t go away entirely. Green isn’t going to turn into Steph Curry overnight, nor would it serve the offense well for Green to completely abscond from taking these shots. Most of these attempts are taken within the flow of the offense, and make or miss, Green will need to continue shooting those open looks or risk gumming up the offense and allowing other teams to dare him to shoot.

Instead, I think that Kerr should try to get Green on more cuts. Looking at the synergy data again, you can see that while not the most used, the cut option is clearly the most effective way for Green to get his points - especially since Durant arrived.

Cut ‘em up, Dray
statistic from Synergy Sports - graphic by GSOM

This won’t be an easy adjustment. Green hasn’t traditionally made his living off this play type and there are a bunch of reasons for that.

Some of it is due to the fact that he operates more on the perimeter within this offense, frequently being used as an outlet valve for pressure on the primary ball handler, as reflected in his assist numbers. That means that someone is probably either already in the paint, or likely to head there soon - running another body through there all the time probably isn’t an ideal solution.

And then there is the problem with energy output. How much more can you reasonably ask Green to do? He’s the fulcrum of our entire defense and a central support mechanism for the offensive flow as it is. As anyone who’s played basketball before can tell you “cut more” is a tough request to fulfill because all the extra running is taxing, and it seems like the more you do it, the more the defense can adjust to you. So you can’t just spam this attack.

But if you are looking to up Draymond Green’s offensive output, I’d say you should look to have him cut more. He’s never going to be an elite jump shooter, so pining away for three point percentages or greater scoring efficiency from 15 feet isn’t going to be the best answer.

Last season, Green scored at the lowest volume since his rookie year - down to 10.8 points per game. Rather than an indictment of his offense though, it’s a more direct result of his utility as a play maker. He probably will be asked to score a bit more this year, and it’s nice to know that we have some good options for him when it is time to look for his own offense.

Up next: Klay Thompson

For the last planned installment of this series, we are going to check out Klay Thompson. I’m expecting to see a lot of spot up jumpers.

Author’s note: Much of this article is inspired by the really cool player overviews that Eustacchio Raulli (who many of us around here know by his work at Fear the Sword under the pseudonym of EVR1022 ) has been doing for Cleveland Cavaliers players; you should definitely check out his Twitter. He was kind enough to help me out with the Synergy data underlying much of the analysis, which mostly alleviates his heinous crime of rooting for the Cleveland Cavaliers.