Draymond Green hasn’t been on the court for the Golden State Warriors since their Jan. 5 loss (aside from the opening tip when Klay Thompson returned) to the Dallas Mavericks. In Green’s absence, the Warriors are 13-8, but in watching the team, it’s clear to see just how important Draymond is to the overall functionality of the team. Since Feb. 1, the Warriors have fallen from No. 1 in league-wide defensive efficiency all the way to 22nd.
Golden State suffered another bad loss to the Clippers Monday night, 119-104, and again it was the defense that let them down. In their last seven games, the Warriors are 4-3 and are giving up 113.3 points per game. That’s their worst for any seven-game stretch this season. Head coach Steve Kerr has undoubtedly noticed the team’s downward trend on the defensive end.
“The main thing is that our defense has been bad,” Kerr said. “It’s been bad for six or seven games now. It’s hard to win in this league when you’re looking like we are, defensively, with so many holes in our games.”
Kerr’s squad gave up 54 points in the paint against the Clippers Monday night. That is far from the norm for this Warriors team. For the season, Golden State is allowing 44.3 points in the paint. That’s an 11-point discrepancy from what this team usually gives up inside. That’s the Draymond Green effect.
“[Draymond] is one of the best defenders in the league, so not having him out there is always going to be something we are missing,” said Kevon Looney.
When Green is on the court, it’s about more than what he does physically. His mindset, knowledge of the game, and knack for knowing where to be at all times defensively are what sets him apart from other players in this era. Green is one of the more versatile defenders the league has seen. He’s 6-foot-6 and can pretty much guard every position effectively when called on to do so. A player of his size that plays the center position regularly (especially during the postseason) is rare even in today’s small-ball NBA.
These Warriors have been great this year overall, but we’re seeing that they might not go as far as many expect without a healthy Draymond. The Warriors and Phoenix Suns were battling back and forth for the top seed in the western conference earlier this year. Today, Golden State sits five games behind Phoenix and only two games ahead of the Grizzlies in second place. As contentious as he can be, Green’s defense and leadership are the engine that makes this team go.
Without Green in the lineup, I’m not sure how far Golden State can go in the postseason. Green is making progress with his back injury that’s kept him out since early January but might be out another couple of weeks at the least. So, he might not be back in the Warriors lineup until some time in March. The way it’s looking, Golden State could fall out of the top three in the West altogether. Steve Kerr has to find a way to keep his team engaged defensively while Green is out of the lineup. Otherwise, what started as a surprise season, may turn into an unexpected nightmare before too long.