(Via TheRinger.com's e-mail newsletter)
By Jonathan Tjarks
Despite the hurdles that the charmed Warriors have faced early in these playoffs, Draymond Green’s star continues to rise. In the five games against the Rockets and Blazers since Stephen Curry’s knee injury, Green has had the highest plus-minus of any Warrior, plus-107 in 186 minutes. As a team, Golden State’s point differential in that span is only plus-71. Green has averaged 22 points, 10.6 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, and a steal a game on 48.7 percent shooting and 48.5 percent from 3. From a statistical perspective, it has been the best stretch of his career. Klay Thompson has emerged as the team’s top scorer in Curry’s absence, but Green is the system keeping the Warriors afloat.
Without Curry, Green’s role in initiating the offense expands. Instead of being the roll man, he’s now the primary ball handler in the pick-and-roll, dribbling around screens and either pulling up for the jumper or hitting the cutter. He’s just as effective in the post, where he has long been one of the best passing big men in the league.
Green is also looking for his shot more, even coming off screens and launching 3s as if he were a secret Splash Brother. He went 8-for-12 from behind the arc in their Game 3 loss to the Blazers on Saturday, a remarkable feat for a guy who couldn’t buy a 3 when he first came into the league. Green has gone from shooting 20.9 percent as a rookie to 38.8 percent from 3 this season, a staggering improvement comparable only to Kawhi Leonard’s transformation from a 25 percent 3-point shooter in college to a pro who boasts a 39 percent career mark.
That isn’t the only time Green and Leonard should be spoken of in the same breath — they are 1A and 1B as far as the best two-way players in the league. That kind of impact is felt at a foundational level. The Warriors’ fabled Lineup of Death cannot exist without Green. He can defend like a big man in the post and at the rim, and he can defend like a guard in the pick-and-roll and on the perimeter. On offense, giving him the ball with four shooters around him means you’re almost always giving up an open shot. That’s how the Warriors outscore their opponents by a point every two minutes when Draymond is on the floor — and he’s played 77 percent of the possible 384 minutes so far.
The Blazers don’t have an answer for him, nor does the rest of the league. The Warriors may have lost Saturday because of a dazzling offensive showcase from the Blazers, but their long-term prospects remain bright. Draymond is playing at an MVP level, excelling at everything there is to do on a basketball court. These playoffs have shown that Green isn’t bound to Curry’s gravity when it comes to taking control of the game.