Last year’s draft was full of excitement for Golden State Warriors fans. While draft day is usually the most exciting day for a Warriors’ fan (other than the NBA Lottery), the 2012 draft was special. Even though the spotlight was on Harrison Barnes, it was a player who fell into the second round that may change the franchise, or at least symbolizes a new era of Warrior basketball.
That player was Draymond Green, a do a little bit of everything but not anything elite player.
Draymond, Magic and Oscar are the only players in NCAA tourney history with multiple triple doubles. However, Green does not have elite size, athleticism, handles, shooting ability or passing ability.
So, what makes Green so successful? He has an elite basketball IQ, a “coach’s player”. He hustles, works the boards and defends. This is his value to the Warriors. He is not the type of player that will make a bad team good; he is the type of player that makes a good team great. The Chris Cohen (former owner) Warriors of the past decade would have little use for this type of player, but these new Warriors need a Draymond Green.
Watching the Warriors both in person and on TV last year, there were two players who looked very different in each medium. On TV, David Lee looked like an All-Star. He scores with style, grabs 10 boards and throws a few nifty passes a night. In person, you see the whole floor. You can see a player who doesn’t offer any help defense, who forces others out of position to help with his man. You see Lee as a liability.
In contrast, Green doesn’t usually look like anything special on TV. His numbers aren’t anything special. In person, however, you see just how important Green is to playing winning basketball. He defends anyone and everyone. He gets to the right place on the floor. He makes the right pass. He doesn’t force shots. He sets some nice screens. This contrast took center stage in the playoffs.
When Lee went down the Warriors’ chances of beating the Denver Nuggets in the first round were supposedly evaporated. Yet, the Warriors played their best basketball of the year.
Barnes stepped up his scoring, which was important, but it was more than that. The Warriors defense went to the level necessary to succeed in the playoffs. The key was more minutes for Green. When Ty Lawson had his shootout with Curry in Game 3, he torched Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson for most of his 35 points. Green took Lawson for a big part of the third and fourth quarter, and Lawson did not get to the basket as easily or to the line as much. It is like when LeBron James took Tony Parker in Game 7 of the finals.
In Game 4 of the Nuggets series, Curry emerged as a star, yet in the shadow of Curry’s barrage of threes, there was Green getting a steal, taking a charge, getting a rebound and making a good leak out pass, getting another steal and taking another charge. When Denver’s press made the Warriors look like a high school JV team, it was Green who stepped in to help break the press with the right pass or movement.
Then, Lee started to make his comeback. While his grit was inspiring, Green’s minutes dipped. He went from playing 20-30 minutes to playing 10-18 minutes. That lost time was a big difference between the first couple of games in San Antonio and the rest of the series. It seems evident that the more Green plays, the better the Warriors play.
Going into the 2013-14 season, I expect big things for Green. He seems to work hard on his game and should improve, especially his shooting. The success of a small lineup may inspire Mark Jackson to play Green more this year, where he can stretch defenses and shut down offenses.
While new acquisition, Andre Iguodala, may take the “glue” guy role, there has to be a big role for Draymond Green for the Warriors to succeed. Championship teams have a culture of players doing whatever it takes to win. Draymond Green is a championship level player.