Draymond Green's Best Chance at DPOY Is to Get Warriors Defense Back to Elite

Will Gottlieb@@wontgottliebFeatured Columnist INovember 3, 2018

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 2: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors is seen before the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 2, 2018 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Draymond Green is one of the best defenders in the NBA, but if he wants the Defensive Player of the Year Award the way he expressed after Wednesday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans, he better get his team to ramp up its defensive intensity.

"I need that," Green confessed of his desire to win Defensive Player of the Year. "I need that bad. Real bad. I made Second Team All-Defense last year. I'm pissed about that still. I'll be pissed until I right that, so that's a serious goal of mine this year. And I'm on it every night."

"Absolutely," he added. "I'm pissed. Second Team All-Defense, that's disrespectful."

Friday's 116-99 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves was a great place to start. After a shaky defensive start, the Golden State Warriors locked it up, allowing 12 fourth-quarter points and holding the Wolves under 100, the first time they've done that this season.

Green's reputation as one of the league's premier and most unique defenders is warranted, but unlike Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, he has not yet seen his stats fully mirror his sterling career resume. That's partly because his team is sitting ninth in defensive rating, and some of that may have to do with the new freedom of movement rules that are allowing offenses to flourish.

"Anything under 130 is a good showing," head coach Steve Kerr joked pregame. "Everybody's playing fast and wide-open, putting three-point shooters everywhere, so it's tougher to cover the whole floor."

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 28: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors plays defense during the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on October 28, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
Matteo Marchi/Getty Images

Through three quarters, the Warriors were on pace to allow 116. After giving up 87 points in the first three quarters, the Wolves were in a great position to start off their road trip with a win—until the Warriors buckled down.

"We started flying around. Our fourth-quarter defense was tremendous," Kerr said. "Everybody flying to the ball. I thought Draymond set the tone. I'm not sure I've seen Draymond play better since I've been here."

Despite the team's iffy start defensively, Green has still made his impact known, and everyone in the organization knows his value.

"The decision-making, the poise, the ability to play through adversity. He knows how much we need him," Kerr added. "He's lifting everybody else up. It's been really fun to watch him play."

Green is built to not only be an elite individual defender but also elevate his team's play on that end, and that's what he will need to do to keep gaining traction for DPOY. Despite his height limitations at 6'7", his 230-pound frame and 7'1¼" wingspan allow him to absorb contact from bigger players while still contesting shots.

His foot speed allows him to contain quick guards who think they can cherry-pick points after a switch. He can see plays unfolding two or three moves ahead, which allows him to defend the three-point line better than anyone in the NBA.

His team is allowing 8.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, due in large part to his ability to eliminate the most efficient shots in the game: Teams are shooting 1.8 percent less frequently (81st percentile) from the corners with him on the floor.

The Warriors are also allowing teams to shoot 6.1 percent fewer shots at the rim (92nd percentile) while Green is on the floor. For a big man to have such a presence in both areas speaks volumes to his versatility.

Being able to defend your own position at an elite level is one thing, but he can switch onto premier wing scorers like Jimmy Butler, break up pick-and-rolls as a rover and snuff out plays before they happen. He has the second-most deflections, contested the most three-pointers and boxed out more than anyone. That combination is rare, and it doesn't just materialize from strength and speed.

"He's a brilliant basketball mind," Kerr said of his defensive anchor. "Defensively, both Draymond and Andre [Iguodala] can see two moves ahead, and these days you have to cover so much of the court with all the three-point shooting. Draymond has the ability to run out and challenge a three but also guard the post and scramble for everything in between. He's got a great mind for it and the athleticism and the strength to match."

Much like two-time DPOY Kawhi Leonard, it's becoming more and more likely that teams avoid dribbling around Green altogether. That means fewer pick-and-rolls with his man, which can allow the Warriors to eliminate a go-to move, such as the Clint Capela-James Harden pick-and-roll during the 2018 Western Conference Finals. And like 2018 DPOY Rudy Gobert, it's also becoming increasingly less likely that teams attack the rim with Green on the floor.

Green—the 2017 DPOY and a member of four All-Defensive teamsis one of the league's top defensive stalwarts, but for him to be catapulted into Defensive Player of the Year contention, he'll need to elevate his team's defense back into the top three, where it has resided frequently since 2013-14.

The Warriors took a step in the right direction but still have work to do. Even with the new rules improving offenses, someone has to have the best defense in the league, and reaching that peak may be the biggest needle-mover in Green's DPOY candidacy.

Related

    Kyrie Has C's Looking Their Best vs. Raps

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Kyrie Has C's Looking Their Best vs. Raps

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Luka Proves He Deserves to Be an All-Star

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Luka Proves He Deserves to Be an All-Star

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report

    Pop: Doncic a 'Hell of a Basketball Player and Person'

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Pop: Doncic a 'Hell of a Basketball Player and Person'

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report

    Midseason Grades for Every NBA Team 📝

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Midseason Grades for Every NBA Team 📝

    Dan Favale
    via Bleacher Report