Draymond Green defensive defense, unaltered, can change a game. His teammates know this, their opponents know this, the most casual NBA fans know this.
But can Green turn the Warriors into a defensive, non-stop, game-changing defense team? That counts as one of the most pertinent, intriguing questions for head coach Steve Kerr’s team that is on the verge of a pandemic delay this season.
Green’s newest starters in the starting lineup, Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr., are not known as standing defenders. Wis Rookie center James Wiseman earns plenty of playing time even if he doesn’t start – and, pushing a wide range of wings and all, he’s only 19 years old.
So the Green Warriors, beyond his own defensive duties, need to be more of a mentor than he has ever been this season, advising and cajoling with vigor.
“That’s going to be a big part of his job this year,” Kerr said. “It’s basically like a middle class supporter out there, calling for contracts and getting people in the right position.
“Because of James’ childhood, he has to learn from Draymond every day. I’m excited for Draymond to make his mark. He has been our heart and soul for so long here, the kind of engine we have, and the man who brings strength and energy. ”
The Warriors need the intensity and energy they can muster after Klay Thompson ‘s torn Achilles tendon is coming to an end. Thompson’s absence adds to the burden on Stephen Curry, on both ends of the court, and in many ways it also increases Green’s importance.
He turned 30 in March, a week before Golden State’s lost season came to an abrupt end. Green returns to the turmoil amid natural questions about his game, after his field goal percentage dropped to 38.9% last season, the lowest level since his rookie season (and by far lower than its high position of 49% in 2015-16).
Green’s 3-point shooting percentage has fallen in each of the past four quarters, a steady decline from its high-career mark of 38.8% in ’15 -16 to 27.9% last season.
However, shooting numbers alone do not have the effect of a team not far from the next five-year run. Green, a slow passer and a three-time, first-team, all-defensive pick (including one defensive player of the year award) can shape the Warriors ’fortunes in a number of other ways.
“It’ll be that defensive presence, the monster we expect it to be,” Curry said. “Talk about a man who knows the conversation about who he is as a player, what the expectations are. I’m sure he keeps the receipts, too. It’s just like being himself, and being the anchor we have to be every night. ”
That role involves crushing more out of Wiggins and Oubre, athletic wing players with an offensive mental history. If the Warriors want to achieve Kerr’s vision of being a top-10 defensive team (they were ranked 24 last season in points allowed at 115 per game), they will need Wiggins and Oubre.
Wiggins, who played in 12 games after receiving the Warriors from Minnesota, quickly learned how Green can “change the defense of the entire team” with his convincing style.
“Whenever I can lift his brain, I’m here to listen,” said Wiggins. “He’s going to let you know if you were wrong. That’s what you need. You want a guide that shows you how stuff is made. ”
Or, as Warriors forward Eric Paschall said, “Dray knows it can be easy for me. He comes to me at a game: ‘They do this, they do that. ‘It’s good to have someone like that on your team. “
Green insisted he learned from the turbulent 2019-20 season, in which he was in fact the only major catcher after Curry broke his arm. Green also battled injuries, losing 22 games, and struggling to find his form as the Warriors sprinted to the league’s worst 15-50 record.
His main guiding lesson: patience.
That made sense once Curry went down and the Warriors made player development their priority. But the equation is different this season, even with Thompson out – Golden State are clearly aiming to return to the playoffs after last season ‘s pratfall.
So now Green needs to strike the balance between tolerance and “letting stuff slip,” as he put it.
“I think it’s a great line,” he said. “And we can’t just let things slip because we have younger boys. We still need to push people and expect them to do the work at the highest level, as long as they understand… you can help teach them. ”
And the teacher, in this case, is completely willing to raise his voice.
Ron Kroichick is a staff writer in the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ronkroichick