Draymond Green has returned. One of the main characters of the 2023-24 NBA season rejoined the Dubs on Monday night, where he played in his first game in over a month and came off the bench in a regular season game for the first time in nearly a decade.
And the Warriors got their asses kicked.
Mind you, it wasn’t entirely Green’s fault, or even mostly his fault. While there were clear signs of rust, and while his three turnovers contributed to the primary reason the Dubs lost, it’s worth noting that the Warriors outscored the Memphis Grizzlies by a point in the 24 minutes that Green played in; they got outscored by 10 points in the 24 minutes that he was on the bench for. Having Green back is a good thing for the Warriors, even if it remains to be seen how much weight his leadership voice can carry in the wake of three ejections and two suspensions, one of which was indefinite.
It also remains to be seen whether he can fix the Warriors woes.
He probably won’t help the Warriors fix their turnover issue, which was starting to get corralled slightly before Monday’s game. After all, Green had the worst turnover rate in the NBA last season, and had the 22nd-most turnovers per 100 possessions; he’d rank even worse this season if he had played enough minutes to qualify.
But the Warriors can hope that Green’s presence can help them solve their free-falling defense, which has been at the heart of their free-falling record. During Green’s time away from the team, the Dubs posted a garbage-time adjust defensive rating of 124.1, which ranked 28th in the NBA in that period, per Cleaning The Glass; only the Portland Trail Blazers and Detroit Pistons had worse marks.
At times in his career, Green has been able to almost single-handedly fix the Dubs’ defense. Golden State’s defense was floundering in the 2021-22 season while Green was sidelined with an injury, even amid career years from Kevon Looney, Andrew Wiggins, and Gary Payton II. When Dray returned, the defense took off, forming the backbone of what would, a few months later, become a championship team.
The task is harder this year. Not only is the team’s defense worse than at any point during the Steve Kerr era, but, as Green posited after Monday’s loss, the fundamental issue is poor one-on-one defense.
Perhaps Green’s help defense can cover up that hole a little, and maybe his voice and leadership can light a fire in a few players. But given his strength as a combo roving safety and defensive quarterback, it’s going to take a lot more than just Dray for the team to find improvement on that front.
If one-on-one defense is the primary culprit, then it’s easy to point to the personnel. The biggest factor is probably Wiggins having the worst year of his career ... a year that sees EPM shockingly rank him in just the eighth percentile on that end of the court. Payton’s injury is certainly being felt right now, as is the fact that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Chris Paul are all getting older; they can each hold their own in certain defensive matchups, but as a grouping there’s usually going to be a weakness to exploit.
It’s unfair to task Green with saving a sinking ship, even if he’s one of the biggest reasons for the holes in the boat. It might take trading Wiggins for a player better suited to the team’s current needs.
But if the Warriors are to reverse course this year — and they’re running out of time — Green will need to work a little magic.