A lot of Golden State fans started freaking out and called for Mark Jackson‘s head when the Warriors got off to a slow start this season. Now that Stephen Curry and company have won five games straight and six of their last seven, the cries for a coaching change have died down a bit, especially since it was pretty evident that the Warriors are an elite team when they have Andre Iguodala on the court. But if there’s one justifiable criticism of Jackson this season, it’s this: Draymond Green deserves a little more playing time than he’s currently getting.
In Jackson’s defense, Golden State has a high-powered offense with a number of high-caliber players to divvy up minutes between. Curry and Klay Thompson average a little more than 37 minutes per game. Iguodala, David Lee and Harrison Barnes all average 32-plus minutes a night. Andrew Bogut logs just less than 28 minutes per game. And then there’s Green at a somewhat meager 19.7 minutes.
There are two big problems preventing Green from getting more playing time. The first is the organization’s commitment to Barnes, an emerging talent who logs a huge amount of time off the bench. Barnes hasn’t exactly made the leap this season, increasing his production from 9.2 points in 25.4 minutes per game last season to 12.1 points in 32.1 mintes per game this year. His rebounding has actually regressed from 4.1 rebounds to 3.9 boards per game despite playing about seven more minutes every night. But Barnes’ ceiling is a lot higher than Green’s and he’s still capable of doing things like this:
That kind of athleticism and the potential Barnes showed in the postseason last year explains why Golden State’s No. 7 pick from the 2012 NBA Draft is getting more run than their No. 35 pick. Barnes hasn’t adjusted to more minutes coming off the bench as well as Green, but the biggest thing keeping the Warriors’ other young prospect from getting more minutes is his lack of offense.
Golden State an offensive-minded team that just so happens to also have two of the best individual defenders for their position in the league (Iggy and Bogut). But don’t be fooled; this team doesn’t win games without Curry, Thompson, Iggy, Barnes and Toney Douglas jacking up 3s from all over the place. Green is no stranger to 3-point attempts and averages 2.2 per game. The only problem is he only makes 0.8 of those attempts, which amounts to 36.8 percent from downtown. Green’s field goal percentage isn’t much better at 39.9 percent either.
But here’s the thing about Draymond Green and the argument for his minutes to go up: the Warriors don’t need him on the offensive end. It’s the defensive end where Green makes a difference, being that he can guard multiple positions pretty darn well. Green has the 11th-best defensive rating in the league at 98.0 and the Warriors’ defense is vastly superior with him, Iggy and Bogut on the floor together at the same time.
For those actually asking, Bogut-Green-Iggy have netted a 78.2 DRating together. Again, only 35 minutes of data to go on
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) December 30, 2013
It’s a small sample size to go off of, but a 78.2 defensive rating is a historic rate worth exploring, especially when the Warriors are in need of a late-game stop. Unfortunately, the only way Green will increase his minutes is if he improves his shooting to the point of consistency. When Green is knocking down 3s, it can be a backbreaker for opposing defenses spending the majority of their time trying to stop Curry, Thompson and Barnes. But he hasn’t been able to do that on a regular basis yet.
The good news for Green and his advocates for more playing time is that his minutes increased from 18.3 in November to 21.3 in December. The bad news is with just three more minutes per game, Green’s field goal percentage plummeted from 43.3 percent to 35.2 percent. Oddly enough, however, his 3-point percentage actually increased during that span (31.3 percent to 38.2 percent).
It seems nonsensical to make a case for more playing time for a guy who just went 2-for-10 from the field last night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But his balanced stat line of five points, 12 rebounds, four blocks, two assists and one steal shows his ability to do it all. Green brings a ton of intangibles to a Golden State team that often relies on certain players to only produce in certain areas. If Green can shake off his December shooting slump moving forward, he’ll start to see more minutes and boost Golden State’s defense in the process.