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NBA PM: The Importance of Draymond Green

Draymond Green has surprisingly emerged as one of the Warriors’ most important players this season.

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The Importance of Draymond Green

The Golden State Warriors’ well-rounded roster is full of key contributors who helped this squad win 67 games in the regular season (with a +10.1 net rating) and become one of the best NBA teams in recent memory.

Stephen Curry is the superstar MVP candidate who has become one of the most talented (and most popular) players in the NBA.

Klay Thompson is the All-Star sidekick who is one of the NBA’s elite two-guards and was deemed untouchable last summer, even when Kevin Love was available.

Andrew Bogut is the former No. 1 overall pick who helped the team become elite on the defensive end by being their anchor down low.

Andre Iguodala is the former All-Star and All-Defensive First Team player who was the team’s big free agent acquisition before the 2013-14 season.

Harrison Barnes is the phenom who was rated the top high school recruit in the country and got drafted No. 7 overall in 2012.

Steve Kerr is the first-year head coach who was one of the NBA’s hottest coaching prospects last summer and finished second in Coach of the Year voting.

Then, there’s Draymond Green. He has surprisingly emerged as one of Golden State’s top contributors even though he wasn’t a top pick, phenom or star. He has exceeded all expectations in the NBA and his development has been incredible to watch.

Rivals.com rated Green a three-star recruit out of high school. After four years at Michigan State, he entered the NBA as a second-round pick (35th overall) in 2012. There were low expectations for him because he was one of the older players in the draft and many people around the NBA felt he didn’t have much upside. In the draft, teams often try to swing for the fences and go with young, boom-or-bust prospects, which can cause seniors like Green to slip on draft night. Also hurting his stock was the fact that he was viewed as a tweener, who was too short to be a power forward yet too doughy to be a small forward.

DraymondGreenInside1Now, the 25-year-old Green has silenced all of his doubters. In his first full season as a starter, Green has been outstanding on both ends of the floor and become one of the Warriors’ most important players.

“It’s hard to put into words what Draymond means to the team,” Kerr said. “He does everything; he’s a jack of all trades. On top of that, he’s one of our leaders and the guy who talks the most trash to the other team, to the refs, to his teammates, to me. He’s kind of our life line. It’s great. … Draymond is always the guy who has the passion and the intensity that sort of lifts us up when we need it, and he’s also a great playmaker at both ends of the floor.”

As Kerr said, Green has become a great two-way threat for the Warriors.

He’s a dominant defender, who has the versatility to guard every position on the floor. He averaged 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks during the regular season. Despite being measured at just 6’7.5 with shoes on, he has shown he can guard centers very well, giving them fits in the post. He’s a big reason why the Warriors had the NBA’s top ranked defense this season (allowing only 98.2 points per 100 possessions). Green finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind only San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, and he received more first-place votes (45) than any other player – including Leonard (37).

On offense, he has averaged career-highs across the board, including 11.7 points on 44.3 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from three-point range as well as 3.7 assists. He’s an efficient playmaker who always seems to make the right basketball play. He makes his teammates significantly better with his unselfishness and ball movement, and he has really developed into a well-rounded weapon for Golden State.

This versatility and ability to impact the game in a variety of ways was on full display during the Warriors’ first-round sweep over the New Orleans Pelicans. Green filled the stat sheet, averaging 15.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.3 blocks while shooting 47.9 percent from the field in the first round.

Green spent much of the series guarding Anthony Davis, making things difficult for the budding superstar and showing his ability to guard even the most talented big men in the NBA. He forced the Pelicans’ star to take tough shots and was a big reason why Davis averaged 3.3 turnovers during the four-game series (after averaging just 1.4 turnovers during the regular season). Green’s second-place DPOY finish was announced during the series and he certainly looked like an elite defender in the first round, while also contributing on offense and getting the crowd pumped up with his screaming, flexing, trash talking and hustling.

“He’s a gamer,” Curry said of Green. “He finds different ways to impact the game. Obviously we know he’s going to defend at a high level, whoever his match‑up is, and make some plays that won’t show up on the stat sheet that kind of get the crowd into it and just bring some life into us out on the floor. He just always finds a way to be in the mix. There is no teaching that. He just has a knack for it. He’s shown that since his rookie year, and obviously in big games, that’s huge that you can rely on him to be ever present on the court.”

Green averaged 41.5 minutes per game (just shy of Davis’ 43 minutes per game) during the series because Kerr knew the team was better off when he was on the court, even if he was tired. When asked about how he manages Green’s minutes and decides when to keep him on the floor, Kerr smiled.

“I ask Draymond if he’s tired, and if he says no, I leave him in. If he says yes, I leave him in,” Kerr said. “It’s a very scientific approach.”

Green knows that the Warriors have a target on their back after winning so many games and entering the postseason as the favorite to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. However, he’s not worried about how that will affect Golden State since they already expect so much out of themselves.

“The last two years you’re the hunters; now you’re the hunted,” Green said of the Warriors. “You have to go out there with that mindset that they’re coming. They’re going to give you their best shot. The world expects you to win, so I guess there is a little more pressure. But at the end of the day, with what we expect out of ourselves, nobody’s expectations are going to be higher than ours for us. I think as long as we keep that mindset, we’ll be just fine.”

Some people have questioned if Golden State has what it takes to win it all, labeling the Warriors as a “jump shooting team” and wondering if they can still win games when their shots aren’t falling. However, this ignores the fact that Golden State had the league’s best defense and one of the NBA’s most efficient offenses. They’re just the third team in the last 38 years to finish top two in the NBA in offense and defense (joining the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and 2009-10 Orlando Magic). This is a dominant team that can beat you on both ends of the court, which Green stressed when asked about those skeptics who question if their success is sustainable.

“That’s just stigma – there is this expectation and belief that we can’t win if we’re not making threes, yet we’re the number one defensive team in the league,” Green said. “But that’s never really talked about. We know if we continue to get stops, no matter how we’re shooting the basketball, we can find a way to win the game.

“We know that we’re more than what some people may say we are: ‘just a three‑point shooting team.’ We don’t worry about it. We just go out there and play our game, and we know we can do other things.”

That defense has been led by Bogut and Green, who finished No. 1 and No. 2 in Defensive Real Plus-Minus during the 2014-15 NBA season. Having two elite defenders surrounding their offensively gifted All-Star guards makes Golden State very scary.

“We’re just working together like we’ve done all year,” Green said of he and Bogut. “I think we’ve done a great job working together as a tandem on the defensive end. If he gets beat, I’m there to cover for him. If I get beat, he’s there to cover for me.”

While the Warriors have looked absolutely unstoppable at times throughout this campaign, Green believes they haven’t even played their best basketball yet.

“Absolutely, there is definitely another level [that the team hasn’t reached yet],” Green said.  “We’re going to keep continuing to work to get to that level. Obviously every game matters now.

“In order to win a championship, which is our ultimate goal, you have to get better each and every time you step on the floor in the playoffs because other teams are.  There is another level that this team could reach, and we look forward to reaching it.”

In order for the Warriors to reach that next level, they will need Green to continue making plays all over the court like he did in round one. That shouldn’t be a problem; that’s what he does. These playoffs are Green’s coming out party – right before he hits restricted free agency this July, when he’s expected to get a max contract offer. Expect to see plenty of big plays from Green throughout the rest of the postseason followed by screaming, flexing and, likely, winning.

Tim Duncan Winning Fight Against Father Time

The San Antonio Spurs are damn good and they could win it all (once again) this season.

I know… this isn’t exactly breaking news. We’ve been saying this for years, since the Spurs have made the playoffs in 18 straight seasons and won five championships in that span. Their winning percentage has been 61 percent or higher (at least 50 wins, except in a lockout-shortened season) in each of those 18 seasons. That means there are high school and college students across the country right now who can’t remember a time when the Spurs finished below 50 wins in a season.

And once again Tim Duncan has been a huge reason for their success. Duncan is one of the greatest players of all-time, with five championships, two Most Valuable Player awards, 15 All-Star appearances and 14 selections to the All-NBA teams. Now, even though he’s 39 years old and has played 54,915 minutes (counting the regular season and postseason) throughout his 17-year NBA career, he continues to make a significant impact on the court for San Antonio.

Duncan is averaging 17.2 points (on 55.4 percent shooting from the field), 10.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals through five games in the Spurs’ first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. It seemed like this match-up against the Clippers’ frontcourt would be hard for Duncan since Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are two of the most athletic big men in the NBA. However, he has played well and continues to battle off Father Time.

“I’m just getting to spots,” Duncan said. “I didn’t change anything. I didn’t do anything different. I just kind of worked myself into the spots I know that we need. I get shots sometimes, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes they go, sometimes they don’t.”

While Duncan hasn’t changed what he’s doing on the floor, he has tried to change the way he approaches each game. He knows that his NBA career will be over very soon, so he’s trying to appreciate each game and take in everything.

“I’m trying to enjoy myself,” Duncan said. “I’m trying to enjoy myself, whatever that means. I know it’s coming to an end… whenever that time is, so I’m enjoying myself. I’m enjoying the time out here and the crowd, the energy, the situation, and if that translates into something different, that’s something different then.”

Duncan admits that it has been frustrating at times to make sacrifices and accept a diminished role as he gets older, but he knows that it’s for the best of the team, especially with players like Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard carrying the team for spurts. When asked if there’s still “a lot left” in terms of what he can do on the court, Duncan was realistic.

“I think ‘a lot’ is a stretch, but I still feel right now I can be effective in my role,” Duncan said. “And that’s all I’m doing is just playing a role on this team.

“I’m a competitor. I want to be playing the best I can, and there have been times where I feel I’m just kind of running around for my health, but sometimes that’s my role. Sometimes it’s with the ball movement, with the guys that we have, with the shooters that we have, with Tony and Kawhi controlling the ball. That’s kind of my role in that position sometimes. But I’m here to do whatever I have to do and be a part of whatever I have to be a part of. I get to my spots, and [things] will change, whether it’s from game to game or from series to series, whatever it is, you have to find your spots and be as effective as you can in it. It is [hard mentally] at some points, but it’s a gradual process. It’s over an entire season or two or three seasons [of adjusting to the new role], not just overnight.”

Still, Duncan understands why he doesn’t get the same amount of touches that he used to, as he’s the first person to point out that one of the Spurs’ biggest strengths is their depth.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen on any given night, but we’re willing to go 10 deep and figure out what happens from there,” Duncan said. “We [rely] on a bunch of different guys to step up.”

Over the last two games, Duncan has contributed 43 points, 25 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and four blocks, while shooting 61.5 percent from the field. When asked about Duncan’s excellent production recently, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said what everyone was thinking.

“I thought Duncan was terrific… He’s Tim Duncan,” Rivers said.

We have come to expect these monster stat lines and impressive playoff victories from Duncan, even at 39 years old, because he has been consistently great for nearly two decades now. And somehow, even with so many NBA miles on his body, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Father Time is undefeated, but Duncan is giving him a hell of a fight.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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