At some point, somebody gotta tell the truth. And at some point between the dog days of the 2018-19 NBA regular season and the dawn of the playoffs, the truth is exactly what Draymond Green got.
For Green, the truth is that he spent portions of his 2018-19 season out of order and out of control. Injuries limited his game, preparation, and maintenance. His on court behavior was about as reckless as a Porsche shredding the asphalt in the middle of an Oakland sideshow.
Green’s mother, Mary Babers-Green, his fianceé, Hazel Renee, and Warriors GM Bob Myers sat the three time all star and former Defensive player of the year down and set him straight.
First, Myers addressed Green’s weight. After the All-Star Break, Myers told Green that he needed to get himself into shape if they were going to be champions again. While Myers addressed weight, the women in Green’s life addressed self control.
The truth, at times is inconvenient. It’s ugly and painful. But for the postseason goals for the Warriors, it was necessary that Green needed to hear it. To feel it. And ultimately to provoke needed changes from him going into their title defense.
Regardless of what critics, some opposing players, and fans may think and feel about Green, not one of them can say that he lacks self-awareness. With Green being on the pulse of who he is as a player-for better or worse, these interventions became confirmations and revelations.
When Myers addressed weight, Green was already working on it. Green explained his whole plan in detail and eventually lost 23 pounds in six weeks. After seeing his son, Draymond Jr. shoot on his hoop and flopping, Green came to a realization that he was doing more complaining than playing. As a result, Green turned in a solid postseason-finishing with 13.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assist per game. His playmaking as well as his disruption on defense was key in the Warriors’ Western Conference Finals sweep of Portland. Green’s production and performance in the playoffs, in my opinion makes me wonder how different his season would have been without his early season struggles.
‘Gimmicky’ Defense and Injuries
Green came into the year primed to make a run at Defensive Player of the Year award and to do everything that he could to put himself in position to get a supermax contract when he hits free agency after the season. However, early season injures to his foot and toe hampered his effectiveness while on the court. Against Memphis in November, Green bruised his right foot and was limited to 14 minutes, and missed the next two games with a sprained right toe. These injuries were significant because when Green sustained them, it hampered him in his conditioning and practice and limited what he could do.
In the Warriors’ system, Green’s scoring is more of a luxury than a necessity. In the offense, Green could facilitate and not worry about scoring much. Until defenses sold out to stop Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant on the perimeter, denying passes and leaving a wide open Green and daring him to shoot. I called this the “forget about Dray defense”. As gimmicky as the strategy was, it worked — Green shot 23.3 percent from three during the first half of the season, and was often indecisive when he was left open on the perimeter. Despite shooting so poorly and even having his mechanics mocked in social media, Green’s confidence never wavered.
“My defender is going to have to pay... I’m going to start lighting their asses up,” Green shared at the time. “And that just don't mean scoring by the way. I aint really been doing me. I ain’t been playmaking like I can. I ain’t been scoring when I got the opportunity. I aint been rebounding like I can. I just haven't been myself”
For most of the first half of the season, Green fought injuries and poor shooting to get back to himself. That fight, ended up causing a causality.
11/12/18 and the aftermath
It was supposed be an in-game disagreement about a blown play. Green racing up the court to make an outlet pass for a potential game winning field goal. Kevin Durant was a few steps behind clapping for the ball. The play resulted in a turnover and the game went into overtime. Durant and Green was caught on the sidelines exchanging words. A common blow up between teammates about a play in the game, right? Until it wasn’t. Green snapped at Durant about his at the time impending free agency. Green tackled it in the only way he knew how, and as a result, he was suspended without pay from the front office. Green, Durant and the rest of the warriors eventually moved on from the incident.
When I think about the spat eight months later, I think of how a common blow up over a play escalated, and I understand why Green exploded like he did. In my opinion, Durant’s impending free agency was a distraction all year and the team was walking on eggshells not only to appease their temperamental prized free agent, but also to not upset him. It was like the Warriors were holding their breath and waiting to exhale all year, and holding and waiting was an act that wore thin especially on Green. The Clippers game was Green’s breaking point.
Remember, at that point, Green was already struggling to find his game and his slump was already bothering him. Durant’s demanding of the ball by clapping, didn't make matters any better. In fact, it pissed Green off. Green let Durant know about that and threw his free agency on top of that like, how are you going to tell me anything when you’re not really committed to the team? Now that Durant signed a four-year deal with the Nets after signing 1 +1 deals, is it fair to say that Green had the right insight to address the issues but the time, place and the manner in which he confronted Durant was wrong? I think so.
Getting back into form
During the All Star Break, Green and his family flew to Puerto Vallarta for a short trip consisting of relaxation and recuperation. After the break and his trip, Green shot 48.3 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. At this point in the season, Green was finally healthy. He started his diet and exercise regimen and lost the extra weight he gained. In the final 17 games of the season, opponents shot 37 percent when Green was defending. In the first few rounds of the playoffs, Green defended a team high of 41 shots while opponents shot 36 percent.
In the Western Conference Finals, Green was finally playing like himself at a high level. He scored, defended, facilitated, and nearly averaged a triple double for the series. Green’s weight loss and discipline helped him lock in for the playoffs. While the Warriors ultimately came up short in a hard-fought Finals against Toronto, Green turned up his level of play when it was needed most. He fought his injuries and and his own vices to turn in a solid season.
I give him a B for the season.
What grade would you give Draymond Green for the season? Vote in the poll and comment below.
What grade would you give Draymond Green for the 2018-19 season?
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Too hard to say for sure