Draymond Green‘s absence was felt in more than one place in the Golden State Warriors’ blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. It shows he is still the heartbeat of the their team.
Green watched Thursday’s game on the sidelines in a black blazer. He watched as his team got stomped at home by the Milwaukee Bucks, led by MVP-candidate, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his cohort of long and athletic teammates. He watched as his replacement in the starting lineup, Jordan Bell, get into foul trouble against Antetokounmpo. There was nothing for the former Defensive Player of the Year to do but watch.
It was Green’s first missed game of the season after suffering a reported toe sprain during Monday night’s victory against the Memphis Grizzlies. Over the past two seasons, Green has missed a total of 18 games during the regular season, six coming in 2016-2017 and 12 last season. In 2016-2017, with Green off the court, the Warriors were only +1.6 over their opponents, per NBA.com. Last season, the Warriors were only +2.2 with Green off the court. Although it’s a small sample size, the Warriors are +2.5 without Green on the floor this season.
Although the numbers may not pop out, Draymond Green is still the heartbeat of the back-to-back defending champs. He might not be the engine of the team that Stephen Curry is, or the unstoppable scorer Kevin Durant is or the sniper Klay Thompson is, but he does the dirty work. He draws charges, gets deflections, rotates perfectly on defense and switches onto point guards and centers on the defensive end.
That gritty defensive effort by Green was missed on Thursday night as evidenced by Milwaukee putting on an attack-the-rim clinic (per NBCSBA’s Grant Liffmann).
The Warriors just allowed 84 points the paint.
That's the most in the Steve Kerr era (2nd most was 68 @ LAL last season)
The most since March 19, 2010 when they allowed 90 points in the paint @ SAS
— Grant Liffmann (@GrantLiffmann) November 9, 2018
Part of the reason the Golden State Warriors allowed so many points in the paint was because the Bucks were the aggressor on Thursday night, with Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe attacking the basket at will. Green’s presence would not allow so many points in the paint with his gritty effort.
Green’s energy and ferocity on the glass helps the Warriors with their identity. The former Michigan State product provides Golden State with a toughness and intensity edge that cannot be matched. Green will sometimes rip down one-handed rebounds, while boxing out his man. He averages 7.2 rpg and has had games where he had 13 and 14 rebounds.
The Warriors struggle with long, athletic and physical teams. The Bucks are a prime example with the length and athleticism they possess starting with Antetokounmpo, along with John Henson, Thon Maker, Khris Middleton and Bledsoe. The Houston Rockets were another team who gave the Warriors troubles on the defensive end with physical defenders P.J. Tucker, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. Their length with Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute gave the Warriors issues. But gone are Ariza and Mbah a Moute due to free agent signings during the summer.
Green can help alleviate some of the offensive pressure the three other stars shoulder. He is a playmaker when Curry gets doubled near the halfcourt circle. On the season, Green is averaging 7.9 assists per game, the best mark on the team and good enough for seventh in the league, and being the first forward on the list. He has had games where he has had 12, 13, 12 and 11 assists. He is the hub on offense, being the primary facilitator while setting screens and doing dribble hand-offs with Curry, Thompson and Durant. Green is also the player who will grab the rebound, and start the fastbreak himself, and with his passing ability, will make the right read.
Green’s best attribute for the Golden State Warriors? His defensive versatility and how he can guard every position on the floor. His feet constantly move as he’s always quarterbacking the defense, and often times, he’ll be a roamer, sniffing out lobs and deflecting passes. He is in the right place at the right time, anticipating a play or two ahead of the opposing offense, knowing where the pass is going to go and who will be receiving the pass. The combination of length, strength, quickness and basketball IQ he possesses has helped mold Green into one of the best all-around defenders in the league.
Above are some of his defensive highlights. Notice how active Green’s hands are, resulting in him getting strips and steals from smaller and bigger players. He is constantly in the right position to get a block, steal or rebound. It seems as if many of the defensive plays Green makes ignite a fast break, which for the opposing team, more times than not, is trouble.
Draymond Green is more of an important piece of the puzzle than some might realize. He might not get the limelight that Curry and Durant do, and even Thompson, but make no mistake, the Golden State Warriors do not win championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018 without his toughness, playmaking ability and defensive prowess. The Warriors need Green to be at his best and healthiest in the playoffs as new challengers such as Milwaukee, the Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors will make it known that their road to a third consecutive title will not be a cakewalk.