Golden State Warriors, NBA Playoffs

Draymond Green is the main reason Golden State is winning without Kevin Durant

Subtract Kevin Durant and much of the talk surrounding the Golden State Warriors is about how the “Splash Brothers” can rewind time. How Steph Curry can re-shatter the 3-point field goas records. How Klay Thompson can regain a secondary-scoring role, heating up enough to perhaps score 30-plus in a quarter.

Less conversation, then, is given to Draymond Green. However, he is shouldering the load what may be their final stretch as currently constructed. In the playoffs, Green is averaging 13.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.0 assists. Yes, Curry is a revived MVP candidate and Thompson is locking-down Lillard while hitting a fair share of triples but don’t forget the impact of Playoff Draymond.

After all, he has recorded two triple-doubles in the past two games, adding to the Warriors’ 29-1 record when Green tallies a triple-double. While he has the second-highest net rating in the playoffs, rarely is the first-player — Kevon Looney ‚— on-the-court sans the core-four.

The Warriors forward’s statistics have accelerated since Durant went down with the calf strain. Each game he is more active than the last, capped off by an 18-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist night at Golden State finished off Portland. His statistics without Durant are 14.8 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists. And the Warriors are benefitting. After going 7-4 to start the postseason, they’ve won their past five, including ending the Rockets season in six and sweeping the Trail Blazers.

“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” Kerr said after Game 3 against Portland. “He was like a wrecking ball out there. He was just destroying everything in his path. The pace that he was generating was incredible, and it just seemed like he never got tired.”

While the length of their defense has significantly overpowered Damian Lillard (who reportedly separated his ribs), Golden State’s success is directly-tied to an uptick in passes. The drastic increase in Green’s touches and average dribbles and seconds per touch is largely due to the erasing of Durant-led late shot-clock high-post isolations.

Now the undoubted fulcrum of the offense, Green is finding Curry and Thompson more often. Green is more than capable of finding teammates running off-screens or low-post split passes:

However, that’s the simplest form of his passing skill set. When the player coming off-the-screen is defended, Green leads the screener with a pass:

Or if the shooter running off-the-screen is “top-locked” (face guarded), he makes a backdoor feed:

Statistically, he’s an elite passer, third in assist percentage for those who have played in 10 or more playoff games (behind Jokic and Harden). Approaching all-time-great passing territory, Green is one of three players to have an assist percentage of 29 or higher and turnover rate of 22 or lower, a historic feat Green has accomplished in back-to-back postseasons.

The Warrior forwards revolutionized the pick-and-roll with his ability to find shooters on the “short-roll”, which is essential given Curry is often double-teamed before Green can even set the screen:

Green’s incredible basketball IQ is on full display in the above clip. Once Zach Collins “blitzes” Steph Curry, Green “flashes” on the short-roll. Meanwhile, Meyers Leonard rotates up on help-side to confront Green and Hood rotates down to Looney, who stands in the dunker’s spot. Before Livingston finishes the easy layup, Green shovel-passes the ball and then shields Leonard, the second of his 12 assists in Game 3 (tied for the most of his playoff career).

Green is simply one of the best passing big men ever but his shot-profile has always been shaky. Any increase in 3-point shots invariably leads to a decline in 3-point percentage. Same goes for his free-throw stroke, the largest tell-tale sign of a shooter’s touch. This playoffs, though, he’s finally playing to his strengths. Sure, his 3-point percentage is a career-low, but Green has also nearly sliced his 3-point volume in half.

At the rim is where he’s inflicting damage, finishing layups and dunks at a career-high 76.5 percent in the playoffs. In addition, the floater range has transformed from his third most-efficient spot to second-most efficient.

How Green is finishing shots is cutting to the cup, be it in transition or half-court sets:

Those who lack a viable jump-shot need to compensate with finer details, such as a hyper-awareness when cutting. Green is no different. He is benefitting from the uptick in ball-movement with more of his field goals assisted (67.2% to 73.9%) since Durant went down with the injury.

For example, he optimizes the dunker’s spot:

And uses Curry’s gravity to slip the (inverse of sorts) low-post split:

Plus, Draymond Green’s defense has been normally staunch, helping stifle Portland’s guards. In short, he’s operating on another level for this Warriors team.

Next: The WNBA’s superstars of tomorrow are playing right now

Where is this coming from? He reportedly shed 23 pounds before the playoffs, which has seen a chiseled physique and unrelenting stamina. Green calls his fiancee and mom for advice on, yes, basketball. He credits his children for making him take a step back, which has decreased his technical count as a result. Whatever it is, the revamped Draymond has been the most important piece to the Warriors five-game winning streak.

Whether Kevin Durant is healthy for the finals might not matter; Green will tire Giannis out on both ends. The Warriors still have Curry and Thompson, but more importantly, Draymond Green.

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