OAKLAND — Stephen Curry regularly gets credit for changing the game of basketball. It’s been said so much, the notion has been accepted as fact.
There’s another aspect of the Warriors that is reaching that point: That is, Draymond Green is Golden State’s most important player.
“It’s great when you can have a guy on a night like tonight — he goes 0-for-4 — but he makes a huge impact on the game,” head coach Steve Kerr explained after Thursday’s game. “You need players like that. Especially with our team and the skill that we have. You have to have guys that kind of keep it together.”
Green is a one-of-a-kind player. Against the Detroit Pistons, he was one board short of his fourth rebounds-assists double-double of the season. He’ll eventually get a couple of those performances in the coming months to become the first player since the 1983-84 season to have more than four.
And when he logs 10 assists this season, like he did against Detroit, the Warriors win — they’re now 13-0 after winning, 127-107, to improve to 34-6.
He’s unpredictable on the floor, which on most nights is a positive because it’s indicative of his ability to fill so many roles.
Last year, he was a 6-foot-7 center — though Kerr thinks he’s closer to 6-5 — in the most unguardable rotation in the NBA. With Kevin Durant in the mix this year, the Death Lineup hasn’t been as effective, but that hasn’t limited Green.
Instead, he’s continued to be the guy who fills this team’s gaps.
“I still do what I do,” he said. “Like, sometimes take the shot when it’s there; move the ball around; screen, try to get guys open; defend; rebound. That’s pretty much the same to me.”
The Warriors need high-impact players who don’t dominate the ball: Green’s responded with assist numbers that have slightly improved despite his usage rate dropping.
With Andrew Bogut no longer causing chaos in the paint, Draymond has stepped up his output on the defensive end, averaging a career-best 2.1 steals a contest as he’s tied for the league lead for most deflections per game.
He’s scoring less than he ever has since Kerr took over before the 2014-15 season. But instead of making it a sticking point, he’s relished the opportunity of impacting games without scoring.
That would bother most players, and Green is far from immune to confrontation. If he thinks a teammate or coach has done something wrong, he won’t hesitate to let them know. And maybe the way he packages his message isn’t always ideal, as Durant said before being berated in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week.
But KD recognized the flare up as a symptom of Green’s passion.
“You have to have guys like that, just competitive freaks,” Kerr said while comparing Green to his former teammate and hall of famer Dennis Rodman. “[You need] guys who want to win desperately and that’s Draymond.”
Steph’s game will always be what makes these Dubs wildly popular. But, Draymond’s is what will make them wildly successful. And against underwhelming opponents like the Pistons, he doesn’t need to make a single shot.
(H/T Erik Malinowski)