Amid all the controversy surrounding the marquee matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, perhaps the most startling development has been the transformation of what was expected to be a clash of offensive titans into a high-level defensive chess match.
The Warriors and the Rockets finished 1st and 2nd in offensive rating, respectively, which set the stage for a highly explosive shootout between teams who possess the deadliest offensive weapons in the NBA. The prospect of elite scorers such as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant going up against offensive maestros such as James Harden and Chris Paul created anticipation over the NBA’s version of mutually assured destruction between two of the NBA’s superpowers.
But in the 2 games between these two teams, defense has taken center stage, a movement spearheaded by each team’s defensive stalwarts. The Rockets’ P.J. Tucker, a versatile and sturdy boulder of a defender, has so far acted as a stopgap and personal defender of Durant.
On the other side, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala have taken it upon themselves to lead a defensive unit that has become the ultimate foil to an offense predicated on heavy reliance on its offensive superstars as well as spreading the floor with bona fide three-point marksmen.
Ever since Green lost 23 pounds in time for the playoffs, he has been moving more agile and nimble on both ends of the floor. Sporadic bursts of energy turned into continuous spurts of explosion. Hesitation to take matters into his own hands on offense transformed into a newfound confidence and bravado not seen since the the 2016-17 season.
As always, Green has acted as the floor general on defense for the Warriors. A human Swiss army knife on defense, his versatility is his greatest strength. He can act as a one-on-one lockdown defender; he can serve as basketball’s version of a free safety; and he can slot into the center position, ready to anchor the paint and act as a big man disruptor.
One can see how spry and lively he is on defense, with his hands actively hunting for passes that are unwisely thrown without discretion, as well as displaying his seemingly-preternatural defensive instincts by getting himself into the correct spots and throwing a wrench into the opposing offense’s gameplans.
Draymond Green is the best 1-on-2 defender I've ever seen. Absolutely uncanny how he tricks guys into throwing lob passes, only he's already moving back to tip the lob away while the passer is still releasing his pass.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 1, 2019
Remember when most people were counting Green out, ready to label him as a has-been All-Star who is now showing signs of decline?
Green certainly does.
He has taken into account those who have largely brushed him aside, those who are calling him a glorified role-player. He is aware of his apparent decline attributed to a body and style of play that is assumed to be aging in an ungraceful manner.
He has been counted out by many during his life of adversity, and he has responded to those claims in the same manner that he always has: He barks back and proves everyone wrong.
So far in these playoffs, Green is averaging 12.6 points on 51.8 percent shooting from the field, along with 8.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game — a Draymondian stat-line that is a testament to how at his best, he affects the game in a multitude of ways.
The one lesson that can be learned from what Green has shown so far during these playoffs — especially in these 2 games against the Rockets — is to never doubt his desire to prove his doubters wrong.
As Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic so eloquently and masterfully put it in his recent piece on Green — and in reference to that Eminem line in Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre,”:
“How Em say it? Nowadays everybody wanna talk like they got something to say. But nothing comes out when they move their lips. Just a bunch of gibberish. And motherf***ers act like they forgot about Dray.”
Who is your Warrior Wonder for Game 2 between the Warriors and the Rockets?
This poll is closed