Why Draymond Green Can Be Golden State Warriors' X-Factor in the Playoffs

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 15, 2014

Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) in action during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Indianapolis. Golden State defeated Indiana 98-96. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings

Until stat sheets start accounting for bone-rattling screens, razor-sharp rotations and supreme confidence, Golden State Warriors sophomore forward Draymond Green will never be a big numbers guy.

"He just comes to play," former Warriors forward Carl Landry told Marcus Thompson II of Bay Area News Group. "He's a guy that does things that don't show up in the box score."

Well, at least that's supposed to be the book on Green. Then, he'll go out and do something crazy like flood his line with 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks as he did in Golden State's 130-120 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night.

He'll remind us that his basketball story needs to be written in pencil, that there's a short shelf life on any assessment of his game.

The 24-year-old might not have a true position, a reliable perimeter shot (career 30.0 three-point percentage) or even a set of physical tools that grades out anywhere above solid, but he has an insatiable drive to win.

If you're not familiar with the former Michigan State standout, just tune in to a Warriors broadcast and keep your eyes peeled for the player who wants it more than anyone else on the floor.

Yes, that's an intangible trait, but trust me, it's easily identifiable.

"He refused to let us lose, with his passion and commitment," coach Mark Jackson told NBA.com's Geoff Lepper after the Warriors locked up the West's No. 6 seed and secured their first 50-win season in a game they trailed by as many as 19 points.

Green isn't quite a Swiss Army knife—he's more like a shank. He wasn't built by the basketball gods or gifted some pogo-stick hops.

He's a self-made professional athlete, but every bit as lethal as those manufactured weapons.

"Winning is how he balances out the scales from not being the most athletic, not being skilled like the elite," Thompson wrote of Green. "His resolve is to exact revenge by winning."

Winning, of course, by any means necessary. If there's a play to be made, he'll find a way to make it.

"He makes timely blocks, comes up with loose balls and plays to contact inside," Bleacher Report's Matt Steinmetz wrote.

And that might be just a two-minute snippet of his floor time.

He could also toss around his 230-pound frame to create space on the glass or hit a back-cutter perfectly in stride with a pinpoint setup. Or, because he has irrefutableirrational?trust in his talent, he just might tickle the twine on a "no-no-no-no-no-YES" crunch-time triple that only he knew was going to drop.

Jackson might hand out assignment sheets to his other players, but Green just keeps a copy of the course syllabus. Anything can—and often does—fall on his plate over the course of 48 minutes.

"Green can guard good power forwards, he can guard good wings, Jackson even likes playing Green on very good point guards," Bay Area News Group's Tim Kawakami wrote.

Defensively, the Michigan native's blue-collar approach yields otherworldly results. His 97.6 defensive rating is fifth-best in the league, and that's with the smorgasbord of responsibilities on his nightly to-do list.

As varied as that list already is, it will only grow come playoff time.

Jackson will have to ask the man that does everything to do even more with the team announcing on Twitter that rim protector Andrew Bogut will be sidelined indefinitely with a fractured rib:

With Bogut, Andre Iguodala and David Lee all missing time this month, Green's checklist has already been expanded. Not that Green, or the Warriors for that matter, have been complaining.

His workload is as heavy as it's been all season, yet he hardly seems in over his head. If anything, he looks primed for even more playing time.

Draymond Green's Production by the Month

Losing Bogut creates a massive void in the middle, but it doesn't have to be the point of derailment for Jackson's club.

"We hope a miracle happens with Andrew," Stephen Curry told Carl Steward of Bay Area News Group. "We'll see what happens. But as a team, we're focused on what the challenge ahead of us is, and we have to move forward."

Moving forward can't happen without Green. He, more than anyone, will feel the effects of Bogut's absence.

Jackson will employ the sophomore anywhere along his frontcourt, whether at the 3 as part of an oversized lineup or even anchoring the middle on a small-ball group even former Warriors coach Don Nelson might call extreme.

Green, of course, doesn't have the body of a big nor the footspeed of a perimeter player. But his energy compensates well for his lack of physical gifts, and his basketball IQ does the rest.

Apr 13, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) reacts making a basket at the end of regulation against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

That's why someone facing his limitations can have his name attached to the team's three most efficient two-man tandems (minimum 200 minutes), according to NBA.com. He reads the situation of a game as well as anyone on the roster and that knowledge allows him to consistently make the right reads.

"In different situations, you have to do different things," Green told Steward.

What I'm thinking now is `catch the ball, move it.' It's hard for a defense to defend side to side. Eventually, it breaks down. Usually I'm the swing guy, so I try to take advantage of who's on the court with me.

How do Dubs fans know what the correct play is? It's pretty simple, actually. It's the one that Green ends up making.

He's smart enough to take advantage of the weapons around him.

That could be something as simple as spotting an open shooterand, in Curry and Klay Thompson, he has two of the league's best at his disposalor there could be more layers to unravel.

It might mean freeing Curry on a screen, popping out to create a passing lane, driving hard to force an interior defender to commit, then putting just the right amount of touch on a lob pass to a teammate at the rim.

The challenge that lies ahead for Green is massive. If this were any other player, the better word might be "daunting."

With the Los Angeles Clippers likely up first on the team's playoff venture, Green's sure to spend some time defending the poster-printing Blake Griffin. A date with the best point guard on the planet, Chris Paul, is also probably in order.

Few players could handle such different assignments, but Green has displayed his versatility all season.

The key will be for him to have a similar impact on the opposite side of the floor. Judging by his recent production there, that could be easier than it sounds.

At the least, Green might make it look that way.

The biggest challenge could be for fans to identify the positives he brings to the hardwood. Watch this team in action, though, and that becomes a far simpler task.

X-factors fly under the radar by their nature. That may not hold in this case.

Green will make his presence felt. The longer the Warriors are playing postseason hoops, the closer he'll get to becoming a household name.


Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference and accurate as of April 14, 2014.


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