There’s never really a “good” time to play against the Golden State Warriors — they’re a godless juggernaut sent to destroy your scheme, team and dream. However, it’s even less ideal of a matchup when you’re playing for the third time in four days, traveling cross-country, and in the middle of a three-game losing slide. This is where the Charlotte Hornets found themselves Monday night; so it goes in the NBA, I suppose.
The Hornets hung tough against the Dubs, and ended up losing by only 10 points, 111-101. But this game was never really in doubt; Golden State was on cruise control from the opening tip — getting basically every shot they wanted, and making it an arduous process for Charlotte to score a bucket, especially without the injured Nic Batum (toe).
Steph Curry did his usual insane thing — 30 points on 21 shots — and he and Klay Thompson combined to sink 11 three-pointers. Harrison Barnes — BLACK FALCON COMETH — returned to the lineup for the first time since November 27th, when an ankle injury pushed him to the bench for the entire month of December (great to see him back).
But if you watched this game — and if you frequently find yourself up too late watching the Warriors play, as I do — you know who stole the show: Draymond Green. Or, as you should refer to him as, the best power forward in the NBA.
On Monday, Green slapped up another ridiculous stat line: 13 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, two blocks and a steal — his third straight triple-double. Yes, you read that correctly. Golden State has won three games in a row, which improves their record to an absurd 32-2, and Draymond’s averages during that brief stretch scramble my brains: 17.3 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 13.3 assists — all while shooting better than 58 percent from the floor and nearly 54 percent on threes. Here’s his shot chart, courtesy of NBA.com, for the last three contests; notice where all but one shot came from: at the rim or beyond the arc.
Back to Monday at Oracle, though: in his 37 minutes of action, Green touched the ball 104 times (26 more than Curry) and made a team-high 90 passes. He dominated the flow of the game on both ends of the court, too: Golden State held Charlotte to just .973 points per possession with Green on the floor.
He bottled up every player that was thrown to him in Golden State’s positionless and magnificent whirling dervish of a defensive unit. One possession he’s checking Kemba Walker on a switch, the next he’s showing rookie big man Frank Kaminsky that no easy buckets exist in Oakland. I mean, think about that range: Draymond can defend every single position, 1-5, without sweat. No one else like Draymond exists on Earth — not LeBron, not no one. He’s unique and awesome — appreciate him as such.
Now, this is nothing new. Klay Thompson is an amazing player; he’s one of the best shooters we’ve ever seen, and the third best shooting guard in the league — behind only James Harden and Jimmy Butler. But it’s clear if you’ve paid any attention to this team: over the last 15 months, Draymond — in year one of a five-year $82 million max contract (worth every damn penny, by the way) — has usurped Klay as the team’s second most valuable player. Behind only, you know, that league MVP guy, who can splash jumpers 30-feet from the basket.
Earlier in this post, I labeled Draymond as the best power forward in the NBA; that is not hyperbole. Apologies to Anthony Davis (The Brow is our future hoops overlord), Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, and Chris Bosh — all of whom are playing at incredibly high levels — but Green has been the best at his position this season. He’s currently No. 4 in the league in real plus-minus — behind only Westbrook, Steph and some robot named Kawhi Leonard.
With Green on the floor, Golden State is scoring 115.6 points per 100 possessions, and holding opponents to a super stingy 95 points per 100 possessions — according to NBA.com (a bonkers net differential of 20.6, second to only Curry on the team). The defensive metric would grade out as the No. 2 defense in the NBA when Green’s in the game; the San Antonio Spurs, led by Kawhi and backed by Tim Duncan, currently have the top defense (93.1 per 100 possessions).
When Draymond hits the bench, though, Golden State’s defense takes on a totally different look: no longer can positionless nirvana be achieved, and it shows, too. Their defense allows 108.5 points per 100, again according to NBA.com, which would rank as the worst defense in the league. In other terms, Draymond Green — a second round pick who started only 13 games his first two years in the league — is the difference between a historically great defense and the worst defensive unit in the NBA. This is your man:
It may come as a surprise to some, but Green leads Golden State in assists — with 7.5 per game, which rank sixth in the entire NBA. There are only two other non-guards who rank inside the top-30 in this statistic: LeBron (duh) and Griffin (also, duh). Green averages better than one more assist per game than Steph does, and he assists on 30 percent of his teammates buckets when he’s on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
Draymond should make his second straight appearance of the all-defensive team; he should be a starter in the All-Star game, and he should be named All-NBA as well.
Outside of when Curry is sinking raindrops with ease from beyond the arc, Golden State is at their best on half-court offense when Draymond and Steph run a simple spread pick-and-roll. You know, Green sets a pick on Curry’s man, the big dude checking Draymond has to show hard to prevent an easy Curry three-ball, and when that happens the former Michigan State Spartan slips to the rim. Right around this time, Curry — who is occupying two defenders — hits Draymond with a perfect little pocket pass. Now it’s 4-on-3 in advantage of Golden State; Draymond has the ball, careening to the hoop, surrounded by either shooters (Klay, Barnes, Brandon Rush, the Ghost of Rick Barry) or alley-oop finishers (Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli). There are no good options for the defense here; there is no where to hide or help from; this is death. Welcome to the NBA in 2016.
There may not be a more exciting play than when Draymond snags a rebound, and — instead of snapping off an outlet pass — sprint dribbles up the floor. In the open court, with Curry and Thompson, spotting up on both sides of the floor, defenses are helpless to stop this one-man fastbreak. Honestly, LeBron and maybe Blake are the only two forwards in the league who can simulate this can of action. The Hornets experienced this last night.
If Green gets loose again Tuesday night, when the Dubs play the Lakers, he’ll join Russell Westbrook and Michael Jordan as the only two players in NBA history to record four or more straight triple-doubles. Eh, not terrible company.
Steph Curry is en route to his second straight MVP — but it’s worth noting that Golden State has another player who should garner consideration, too, and he does things like this: