The Golden State Warriors are up 2-0 on the Portland Trail Blazers without Stephen Curry.
Would they be in just as comfy a position without Draymond Green?
It’s an interesting question. These early playoff rounds have shown us the Warriors can handle their business without the presumptive two-time MVP. They have other guys who can hit long-range shots, handle the ball and create scoring chances, albeit not in such dazzling style.
What Green does is irreplaceable. His pu pu platter of skills cannot be matched by any other player on the roster – and perhaps the NBA.
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Over Golden State’s past four games, Green is averaging 18.3 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists while playing his usual Flex Seal defense.
Over Golden State’s past four games, 3.5 of which were without Curry, Green is averaging 18.3 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists while playing his usual Flex Seal defense.
I mean completely leakproof.
In one sequence during the Warriors’ fourth-quarter Game 2 comeback, Green stymied a drive by Mo Harkless, then found himself matched against C.J. McCollum on a switch. After forcing McCollum to pass, Green dropped into the key to block a layup by Mason Plumlee.
Harkless is a 6-foot-8 forward, McCollum a 6-3 guard and Plumlee a 6-11 center. On one possession, the 6-6 (if that) Green threw a wet blanket on all three.
He’s probably the best all-around player in the league at this point.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut, on Draymond Green
Perhaps the best way to gauge Green’s impact is to measure how many points the Warriors score versus how many points their opponent scores while he is on the court. Green’s “plus-minus” over the past four games is a whopping +109.
“Draymond is huge for us,” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said following Sunday’s Game 1 win. “His playmaking ability, his defensive ability – he’s probably the best all-around player in the league at this point.”
Green made his first All-Star Game this season and finished second to Kawhi Leonard in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. So it’s not as if he hasn’t gotten accolades and recognition. Still, there seems to be reluctance to include Green’s name among the NBA’s elite.
Just last week, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went out of his way to describe Green as “really, really, really, really good” but “not a superstar.”
“You’re not going to put Draymond on a bad team and watch him win 50 games,” Cuban said. “Draymond, he makes all the players around him better, but I don’t think he goes anywhere in the league and wins 50 games.”
7.4 Assists averaged this season by Warriors forward Draymond Green, doubling last season
Cuban’s definition of superstar is pretty narrow. In his eyes, that moniker can only be given to someone whom teams turn to at the end of games when they need a bucket. (Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook don’t make Cuban’s cut, either.)
In that sense, Cuban is just giving voice to an accepted basketball wisdom. If a player can’t create his own shot, if he doesn’t average 20 points, if he doesn’t star in his own car commercials, then he can’t possibly be a superstar.
So in that respect, someone like Blake Griffin gets made into a superstar, even though his most noteworthy accomplishment is punching an equipment manager, while Green is relegated to “really, really, really, really good.”
Of course, Griffin was a No. 1 overall draft pick in 2009. He’s been groomed for super-stardom since Day One. Green was a second-round pick, No. 35 overall in 2012. He was considered too small and without a natural position. So when a player like Green vaults those perceptions, it’s harder to acknowledge and accept.
What stands out most about Green is how much he’s gotten better. After giving little more than dogged defensive effort as a rookie, the Michigan State product has significantly improved his shooting, rebounding, passing and conditioning.
This season Green became the only NBA player to record at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks since steals and blocks became official stats in 1973-74. Green’s 7.4 assists per game doubled his average from the year before and were the highest for a frontcourt player not named LeBron James in more than a quarter century. His 13 triple doubles are a franchise record.
Draymond is very, very competitive, very vocal. We’re kind of a quiet team otherwise, so he’s the guy who kind of keeps the engine going.
After Green recorded yet another triple double in the Game 1 win over Portland, Warriors coach Steve Kerr called him “a top 10 player” in the league.
Informed of Kerr’s comments, Green grinned and said, “I agree” before turning slightly more serious.
“I think there’s a lot of great all-around players in the game,” Green said. “You’ll never hear me call myself that, but if they are going to call me that, I’ll take it. I’m not going to shy away from it.”
Other than defense and passing, the most valuable attribute Green brings to the Warriors is swagger.
Shying away is not something Green does often. Other than defense and passing, the most valuable attribute Green brings to the Warriors is swagger.
Whenever he finishes at the rim, Green typically responds by flexing both biceps – something Curry has started to emulate. Green can be fiery, brash and loud – and not just toward opponents, as evidenced by his publicized outburst at Kerr during halftime of a game against Oklahoma City.
“We yell at each other all the time,” Kerr said. “If I yell at him, he’s going to play better. Sometimes I yell at Draymond just to get the team to play better. Draymond understands that.”
Any day now, the NBA will get around to handing Curry a second MVP. No question; it’s a 30-foot swish.
But if the Warriors gave an in-house award, it would be colored Green.
Golden State at Portland: Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (KFSN-30.1)
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