The Golden State Warriors have previously been labeled the super-team and as the 2016-2017 NBA season kicks off they have now been dubbed the super-villains.
This team couldn’t be–theoretically–set up for success any better than they are. However, I believe there is only one player who can take this group of superstars from individual contributors to league champions–that player is Draymond Green.
Green grew up in Saginaw, Michigan where he played for Michigan State for 4 years and led his team as captain, to a Big Ten Championship. In 2012, Green was named Big Ten Player of the Year and passed Johnny Green as the second all-time rebound leader at MSU with 1,046 college career rebounds. In the summer of 2012, Green was drafted as the 35th pick overall in the NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors where he has been ever since.
Golden State has proved to be a great team for Draymond’s skill set, as he has had the privilege of working under the coaching leadership of six-time NBA champion Steve Kerr. He is entering his 5th season in the NBA and already has a championship ring, an all-star appearance, and was runner up for both Defensive Player of the Year and the Most Improved Player Award. Green averages 8.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game for his career and while those are somewhat modest numbers he’s invaluable–and here is why.
Put simply, Green is a highly emotional leader. As such he brings radioactive energy to the court that spreads like wildfire to his teammates. A telltale sign of a good leader is one who makes their teammates better, and Green has a keen ability to stretch the defense from the front court to unlock his teammates’ skills. He is also a great play maker, and sets up the offense nicely for the Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry & Klay Thompson). Green’s larger than life personality on the court makes him able to play much bigger than his size on defense.
In a public display of protection, Green recently came to the defense of new teammate Kevin Durant who has received unyielding criticism for his move from Oklahoma to Golden State as a free agent this summer.
“Nobody complains when somebody leaves Apple and goes to Google. Aren’t they in competition with each other? Nobody talk junk about the CEO who leaves Apple and goes to Google. As a basketball player, you are the CEO of a business. He is the CEO of that business. So him going to play basketball for a different team, the CEO decided to leave where he was at and go somewhere else. But there’s so many guys in this for a different team, the CEO decided to leave where he was at and go somewhere else.”
Draymond Green brings the intangible “it factor” to the Warriors super-team. You might say he is the spark plug to their engine, the baking powder to their cake recipe, and the one degree that takes the team’s water from hot to boiling. The Warriors have so much talent on their roster, but Green is the alpha personality that gets it done. On average, Golden State tallies 6 more points, 2.6 more rebounds, and 2.2 more assists per game when Green is on the court than when he doesn’t play. Green has also shown incredible versatility. Last season, he stepped into somewhat of a point-forward position at times to run pick and rolls and increased his assist average to 7.4 which helped fill the gap when Curry was injured. He has a high true-shooting percentage at 58%, and facilitates great ball movement in that 25% of his possessions end with an assist.
On the flip side, when Green isn’t playing, the Warriors don’t always have the synchronicity to get the kill. They seem to tally big numbers individually, but they can’t come together as a group to clench the win. Now, don’t get me wrong Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala are all assassins, and bring game-changing contributions to each match-up. But, these players don’t retain the same ability as Green to unite the team and elevate their game. In game 5 of last season’s NBA Finals, Green was serving a one-game suspension as a result of a flailing kick to Steven Adams (which may or may not have been intentional). The Warriors led the series 3-1 heading into that game, but without Green, they lost their grip and fell to Cleveland by 15 points. From that moment, they couldn’t regain their composure, and ultimately lost the Finals’ series 4-3.
While it may be easy to look at stats to judge a player by their numbers, there are many traits which are vital to winning that a statistic cannot capture. Green’s contribution to the Warriors is significant in numbers, but the magic he brings to the game each night is irreplaceable. Without Green, the Golden State Warriors are simply not a championship team. If they hope to make a run for the title again this season, Green will have to be at the center of their success with production you can see and the intangibles that make him their most important leader.