WATCH: Draymond Green's case for Defensive Player of the Year in two plays
The guy continues to be everywhere for the Warriors
On Monday, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made two incredible defensive plays to finish off the Hawks in a 105-100 victory at Oracle Arena -- first against Dennis Schroder, and then Kent Bazemore to close out the game.
"Just an incredible defensive sequence. Draymond's amazing. He literally can guard anybody in the league," Steve Kerr said after the game, and he's not lying.
Green's ability to guard 1-5 separates him and arguably makes him more valuable than other top flight defenders. Rudy Gobert is the league's best rim protector, for example, but he can't also corral a guard in space and dog him on a hedge to the perimeter. Tony Allen is a junkyard dog, attacking an opponent's positioning and dribble at all times, but Allen can't box out a larger opponent the size of Dwight Howard (though Howard won a lot of those battles Monday night).
Green can go from disrupting the entry pass to the premier big man (he has an insane ability to reach over and deflect the pass without fouling over the back), then on the next possession contain the guard in pick and roll, then next strip the wing driving to the basket off the cut, and then box out someone considerably bigger. He almost never loses matchups.
What makes this all the more important is that you can't neutralize him the way you can some defenders. As I covered here in relation to Kawhi Leonard, you can sometimes take Leonard away by sliding him onto a perimeter player and clearing him out. Draymond, on the other hand, can guard the five which means he's always in position to clean up plays like the Schröder block, but he's also used to combat pick and rolls. There's no way to remove Green from the equation, and that means that his defensive "usage" is higher.
To judge the difference, I looked at total possessions defended per game via Synergy Sports. A possession, in this instance, is when Green is guarding and the sequence ends with either a shot or turnover by the player Green's defending. Green defends the second-most possessions per game via Synergy Sports, at 16.7, behind Hassan Whiteside's 18.1. That's a full seven more possessions per game than Kawhi Leonard's 9.2 possessions per game. (Green also allows a lower points per posssession mark currently, at 0.722 points per possession compared to Leonard's 0.955).
So what you're seeing, then, is that not only is Green a shut-down defender, but he is involved in a lot more plays. Some of this is his role as a help big-man defender who can rotate over and recover on plays like the Schroöder play above, and some of it is that teams continue to go at him, like the Wolves did the other night, to no avail. Green is just small enough to entice teams to go at him with bigs, foolishly or otherwise, because they know that if you can beat him physically, it can disrupt everything the Warriors do. It breaks their safety valve. It's just nearly impossible because of how good he is.
It should be noted that on the play by Bazemore, he had Dwight Howard with a wide-open lob off the switch. That's something the Thunder and Cavaliers found. The best way to punish the Warriors' size isn't by challenging Green. He's too good. It's by forcing the switch, and then punishing whatever smaller player his man gets switched on to. It's just easier said than done.
Either way, Green continues to make the best case of anyone this season for Defensive Player of the Year.
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