- After a sluggish regular season, Draymond Green has rounded into peak form and helping the Golden State Warriors dominate.
- Part of it has been fueled by a recent weight-loss mission where Green lost 23 pounds in six weeks and got into better shape.
- Since then, Green has turned into a one-person defensive force and is proving he’s essential in the Warriors’ quest for a third straight championship.
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In the playoffs, Draymond Green is re-establishing himself as an integral part of the Golden State Warriors.
Talks of Green’s decline accelerated during the 2018-19 regular season when he struggled with his shot and didn’t have the same one-man-wrecking-crew energy on defense.
His turn-around has reportedly been inspired, in part, by a drastic dietary change.
According to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, Green went on a mission six weeks before the playoffs to lose 23 pounds. Green had a few nagging injuries that prevented him from getting into peak shape. He began working with a nutritionist and the Warriors training staff to accomplish the mission. He cut out fried and sugary foods and alcohol.
"I knew I wasn’t in good shape," Green told Thompson. "But I also know if anybody knows how to get in shape and get in shape quick, I know how. I’ve been doing it all my life."
Since then, Green has been on a tear. There were positive signs after the February All-Star break, like how his 37% shooting from three-point range, up from 23% before the All-Star break.
He’s taken his overall play to a new level in the postseason, particularly against the Houston Rockets.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr made the bold decision to start his "death" lineup against the Rockets, which features Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant, with Green playing center. Kerr has often used it less frequently to avoid overexposure against opponents, and, ironically, some believed earlier in the season that years of playing against bigger opponents had contributed to Green’s decline.
Against the Rockets, Green has been as critical as any other Warrior in making it work.
Curry, Thompson, and Durant put defenses on such an edge that opponents will double-team them to get the ball out of their hands. The Warriors are at a unique advantage when their "center" can then make the right pass on a 4-on-3 situation.
Green is yet to make a three-pointer in the series, but he’s still averaging 14.5 points per game, thanks to some finishes around the basket, another facet of his game that was lacking in the regular season.
But what separates Green is his defense. Green made a name for himself during the Warriors rise for his ability to guard all five positions and around the court, snuffing out opponents’ plays. He’s back to doing that against Houston.
Defense is rarely about one-on-one brilliance and more often about working in cohesion with teammates. Green’s defensive plays are subtle, but his positioning is critical.
Watch below how Green deterred Austin Rivers from having a straight line drive to the basket, kept himself in position to stop Clint Capela, and denied Capela long enough for Curry to come over and get the block.
Another example that may seem small, but mattered nonetheless — Green positioned himself just well enough to slow down Harden and prevented the alley-oop to Capela. Harden ended up throwing the ball away.
Lest this looks easy, it’s not. It’s a rare skill.
With Green on the court in the playoffs, the Warriors are outscoring opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions. Against the Rockets, they have a +13 net rating with Green on the court, significant in a series where the scoring margin is only 10 points, in the Warriors favor.
Even more eye-popping, with Green off the court against the Rockets, the Warriors have been outscored by 11 points. He has only been on the bench for 17 minutes in the series so far.
"[He’s] always a problem," Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters of Green. "He’s an All-Star for a reason. He’s really good, kind of a point guard at the center or forward position. He plays well. He’s a heck of a player."
Although this coming offseason will focus heavily on the futures of Durant and Thompson, Green’s future will be a topic as well. If the Warriors re-sign Durant and Thompson to max contracts, their payroll, with taxes, could balloon to over $300 million. They could look to cut costs somewhere, and Green would be a possible victim if the Warriors felt he was no longer crucial to championship contention.
Green isn’t just proving that he still is, he’s making a bid for a raise himself in 2020, when his five-year, $82 million contract expires. Green, like Curry and Thompson before him, and Durant most recently, took a discount when he re-signed with the Warriors. He may be looking to make some of it back.
A lot will happen between now and July, not the least of which will be whether the Warriors win a third straight championship. Green is proving once again that he’s a major part of whether it happens.
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