In the Golden State Warriors’ 134-132 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night, Draymond Green had one of the most on-brand games of his career. A meager two-point scoring effort was offset by dishing out 15 assists, hauling in six rebounds, swiping six steals and recording four blocks.
The three-time All-Star was a plus-seven in 37 minutes, tied for the second-highest mark on the team with Stephen Curry behind Kent Bazemore’s plus-10. According to StatMuse, he is the first player with 15+ assists, 5+ rebounds, 5+ steals in a game without making any field goals in the last 30 seasons.
It isn’t often that a player can take just two shots, score only two points and yet have a level of impact topped only by the teammate who scored 57 points in the same game, albeit in a losing effort.
Of course, players like Green don’t come around very often, and yet he still finds himself facing scorn over how much that actually matters.
Draymond Green will never be a traditional superstar, but the Golden State Warriors’ most recent game showed how little that affects his impact.
The Warriors have never wavered in their commitment to Draymond Green. They know the exact influence he’s had on five straight Finals runs and three championships as well as how important he is to this next iteration of Warriors basketball as a two-way force.
“It’s very obvious how much he changes our team,” Steve Kerr said several weeks ago about Green. “We’ve looked at the numbers over the games that he’s played … we were a mess without him.”
Green is not an offense unto himself like many of the traditional stars in the NBA today. He’s down to the fewest points per game since his sophomore season (4.8) with a 3-point percentage that has cratered down to a career-low 18.9 percent. Many are quick to deem him a liability because of those shortcomings, but only so many players possess the intelligence and unselfishness to leverage their glaring offensive weaknesses for the strengths of others.
Take the below play as the perfect encapsulation of Green’s astute knowledge of how to break down a defense, where a drive and kick finds Stephen Curry in the corner that results in a 2-point bucket.
Most players believe they can knock down a wide-open 3-pointer regardless of their percentages, but Green has never been about settling for a good shot. Golden State’s system encourages him to always hunt for the best shot, which he does by engaging Maxi Kleber on a drive, allowing Juan Tuscado-Anderson to screen a defender not paying attention, which frees up Curry to pump and flow into a mid-range jumper.
Proper defensive positioning will never get its rightful dues, but it will forever be crucial to maintaining the integrity of a defense. Though one player can only do so much when all five are required to be tethered via string, few are better at holding up their end of the bargain than Green.
Slowing Luka Doncic is one of the toughest tasks in all of basketball. Golden State didn’t exactly succeed in doing so on Saturday as Luka was 12-of-23 from the field for a career-high-tying 42 points along with 11 assists and six rebounds. The best any defense can truly do against a talent like that is to force Doncic into tough shots and even tougher decisions, which Draymond did late in the first by blitzing the Slovenian superstar late in the first.
Curry got the statistical credit as the one who officially stole the ball out of Dallas’ possession, but it was Greens’ precise timing on the trap that forced Doncic into a panicked pass that led to one of his seven turnovers.
Don’t double at all and Doncic likely turns the corner, gets downhill and gets to work his magic from there. Double closer to the 3-point line and Luka isn’t as uncomfortable and has a better angle to find Tim Hardaway Jr. in the left corner or Kristaps Porzingis rolling to the rim.
But by suddenly blitzing him far beyond the arc, Draymond catches Doncic off guard and unbalanced. He’s leaning back and has to get rid of the ball quickly, leading him to look for the teammate Green abandoned, a ploy the Dubs use to their advantage to force the takeaway.
“He prides himself on being the anchor of our defense, and the engine, and he’s been our heart and soul here for a long time,” Kerr previously said of the former Defensive Player of the Year. “You saw what happened when he was out the first few games, and upon his return our defense got much better, so we’re always going to need him to captain the defense, to give us that energy and that edge that we need to compete every night.”
Draymond had the gaudy stats to back up his nuanced style of play in this game, becoming just the second player in NBA history to register at least 15 assists, six rebounds, six steals and four flocks in a single game since 1984. But those historical numbers won’t always be present to validate the contributions that rival only perhaps the best season of his career.
According to Cleaning The Glass, the Warriors are 15.1 points better per 100 possessions with Draymond on the court. The only time in his career when that number has been higher came during Golden State’s 73-win season in 2015-16.
You’ll never see the full influence of that elite number in your basic boxscore. It’s difficult to even pinpoint in the chaos of a 48-minute game when so much of what Green means to the Warriors is accomplished vocally just as much as physically to ensure his teammates are always in the spots that allow them to positively impact the game at both ends.
That isn’t what 20+ million a year typically buys in the NBA, which is why so many are quick to see what else it can bring Golden State. But the Warriors don’t seem to mind. They never have, hence the $100 million extension they gave Draymond in the summer of 2019.
“I gauge Draymond based on his emotional engagement,” Kerr said when asked about concerns over Draymond’s decreasing numbers. “His fire. His energy he brings. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. He automatically makes us better just by being on the court because he’s in the right spot or making the right play. When he’s been like he has this year, when he’s engaged and leading, that’s when he’s at his best.”