When it comes to challenges across his ten-year NBA career with the Golden State Warriors, Draymond Green may be about to embark on his toughest task to date.
Although the Warriors starting lineup for the playoffs remains a mystery, there’s no doubt Steve Kerr will employ a fair share of small-ball minutes with Green at center. The four-time All-Star isn’t a stranger to the role, with it being a staple of the Warriors’ three championships across Green’s career.
While Draymond Green may have experience as an undersized center, mounting challenges make it a defining postseason for the defensive maestro.
Throughout the prime years of the Warriors dynasty, the frontcourt of the vaunted ‘Hamptons Five’ included Green, a seven-foot rim-protecting presence in Kevin Durant, and a younger Andre Iguodala capable of playing nearly 30 minutes per game.
In this iteration of Golden State, Durant is now the shorter, perimeter-defending Andrew Wiggins, and Iguodala is the offensive-minded Jordan Poole. That leaves far greater pressure on Green’s broad shoulders.
That pressure is intensified by the fact the former Defensive Player of the Year is now 32 years of age. Additionally, Green missed 36 games in the regular season, including over two months with a worrisome back injury.
He’s also going to be asked to guard some of the most dominant big men in the league, starting with the reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. There’s minimal recent data on the individual matchup, with Green having missed all four games against the Nuggets this season.
If the Warriors were to advance past the Nuggets, potential future matchups include Karl-Anthony Towns (if the Timberwolves upset the Grizzlies) and DeAndre Ayton in the Western Conference Finals. A trip to the NBA Finals could welcome superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid.
Rewind back to the 2019 playoffs and the caliber of player simply wasn’t comparable.
The Clippers had Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell, the Rockets had Clint Capela but often went small themselves, the Trail Blazers had Meyers Leonard, and the Raptors had Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka (both past their prime).
If Green truly believes that he’s the best defender of all time, this postseason may be his best opportunity to showcase that to the world.
Between a decrease in defensive capacity beside him, his own recent injury issues, and the level of opposition big men, this may be a task only he can overcome.