In the three seasons since Draymond Green was last an All-Star, Golden State has experienced both Finals victory and loss, posted one of the worst records in team history and retooled one of the most dominant lineups of all-time. Through it all, as the Warriors pursue a return to the playoffs, Green remains their ultimate catalyst.
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Green is off to arguably his toughest start to a season since becoming a full-time starter in 2014-15. But his team hasn’t suffered from his struggles: After finishing with the NBA’s worst record in 2019-20, the Warriors are sitting one game over .500 through 21 games this season. Though they’re missing Klay Thompson for a second consecutive year, Stephen Curry’s return from a broken hand and his partnership with Green have boosted the franchise’s fortunes. Despite dips in scoring average and shooting efficiency, Green has continued easing and directing the workload of his teammates, filling in crucial gaps as Golden State balances contention with player development.
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Green’s career trajectory has aligned with that of Golden State’s return to greatness. As the 2012 second-round pick came into his own, the team hit the stratosphere, snapping a 40-year title drought. Over the team’s five-year Finals run, Green established himself among the most versatile and impactful players of an entire generation, totaling 80.3 RAPTOR wins above replacement — more than all but two players: Curry and James Harden.
Green makes his team go
Highest team winning percentage in games with a triple-double for NBA players with at least 10 such games
|Games with a triple-double|
One easy way to see Green’s impact on his team is by looking at what happens when he goes off. Including the playoffs, Green has amassed 34 triple-doubles over his nine-year career. In those games, the Warriors maintain a win percentage of .882, tied for fifth-best for any player in NBA history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.1
Green hasn’t recorded a triple-double in more than a year, though, and he’s had only one double-double this season. That trend is undoubtedly related to the injuries nagging him over the past two seasons.
Green missed 22 of the Warriors’ 65 games last year, then he missed most of training camp before the start of this season after testing positive for COVID-19. When he was able to rejoin the team, he injured his foot and missed the first four games of the season. The two-time All-NBA selection, who is on pace for the lowest usage rate of his career (12.6 percent), acknowledges that he hasn’t resembled his peak self yet this season.
“I think I’m like two to three weeks away,” Green said after a win over Detroit on Saturday. “Just continuing to get in shape. My speed is kind of getting there. I dunked the ball today. That was big time. I was really excited about that.”
In most cases, it’s tough to see the offensive impact of anyone averaging 4.8 points per game, on pace for Green’s lowest scoring output since 2012-13. For Green, though, his passing, screening and acumen are critical to opening the door for Curry to carry the scoring load.
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According to NBA Advanced Stats, Curry’s efficiency fluctuates heavily depending on Green’s presence. Without Green on the court, Curry is shooting well under 40 percent on threes in 2020-21, which he’s never done over an entire season. Green even provided the assist on Curry’s final 3-pointer as he scored a career-high 62 points on Jan. 3.
Steph is better with Draymond
Stephen Curry’s stats with and without Draymond Green on the floor for the Golden State Warriors, 2020-21 season
|Per 36 minutes|
|Green on the court||49.8%||47.1%||28.2%||29.6||+3.1|
|Green off the court||42.4||33.0||33.5||31.0||-4.7|
“It made so much sense that it was Draymond knowing exactly what the situation was, knowing where I was at,” Curry said after his big game against Portland. “I thought he wouldn’t look for me, but I shoulda never doubted it; he knew exactly where I was.”
As the Warriors continue to integrate new players, Green’s passing has allowed Curry’s off-ball movement to create more efficient scoring opportunities for their teammates, namely seventh-year forward Andrew Wiggins. Though the former No. 1 overall pick is averaging 17.7 points per game, well below his career average of 19.6 points per game, Wiggins’s 3-point percentage so far (38.5 percent) easily outpaces that of his first six NBA seasons.
Rather than force his own offense, Green has dialed up his dimes to new levels. According to Second Spectrum, the veteran is averaging 15.5 potential assists per 36 minutes this season, the most among all forwards.2 To boot, it’s on pace for the highest such rate of his career. Such facilitating ways aren’t new to Green. Over his seven-plus seasons starting, he ranks eighth among all players in potential assists while leading the league in total passes.
Green has also taken promising rookie James Wiseman under his wing, mentoring the young center. This helps bridge yet another crucial gap between the Warriors’ present and future.
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While Green acknowledges the extra gear he could stand to provide, head coach Steve Kerr believes the three-time champion is exactly where he needs to be as these new-look Warriors find their footing.
“I don’t think I need anything more from Draymond,” Kerr said recently. “I think his engagement has been great. He really is doing a great job leading the team. He’s very vocal in film sessions. He’s vocal in trying to lead a group of guys in how to become a team. When he is on the floor, he’s been active. He helps our defense a ton.”
A former Defensive Player of the Year, Green’s impact on Golden State remains undeniable. With Green on the court this season, the Warriors are holding opponents to just 41.8 percent shooting from the field. When he sits? That figure leaps to 46.3 percent.
Overall, despite his shooting woes, Green’s presence has swung the Warriors’ net rating by 8.0 points per 100 possessions, more than double than that of Curry (3.7), who currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring. Without Thompson to round out the winningest trio in NBA history,3 Golden State isn’t likely to be considered a title contender this season, but no team will want to face Green, Curry and company in the playoffs.
Green rediscovering his shooting touch would only bolster the team’s fortunes this season, but he continues to prove invaluable with his penchant for feeding and stifling the hot hand.
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