Draymond Green is a player who chomps at the bit to defend the NBA's best players. Nine years into his career, the Warriors' forward has gone up against nearly every single one of them that's currently in the league.
But Wednesday's game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center, which the Warriors won 123-108, presented Green with a new assignment.
Because of last year's shutdown, the Warriors never got the chance to face the Pelicans and the 2019 No. 1 overall pick. Williamson is a tank. He tears through defenses and will assault you at the rim if given a chance.
Typically, Williamson is the kind of player opponents have to double team just in hopes of slowing him down. But with Green on your roster, the Warriors didn't feel the need to do that.
"If you had to pick one guy in the NBA to Zion, Draymond would be that guy," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "He has seen everything, he's the smartest defender in the league, but he's got the strength to be able to stay in front of him. We tried to help as much as we could without completely leaving shooters, but when you have Draymond, it's the ultimate weapon defensively."
Williamson got his, finishing the night with 32 points, but all of the league's top players do. But the key for the Warriors was that they made him work for every point he got.
The key when defending Williamson is trying to beat him to his spot. Green -- and the rest of the league -- knows where Williamson wants to go. He's not looking to take a jumper or trick defenders. He puts his head down and gets downhill by driving through defenses as much as possible.
"You see a lot of guys when they're defending him, he will make his move and they just stop. You got to continue to pursue," Green said. "You can't stop on the first move. Always, no matter what moves he makes, just try to make him take a tough shot and finish over me. And if he finishes, you live with the results."
Kerr has been preaching a defense-first mindset from the start of the season but has re-emphasized this since the Warriors' abysmal loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Golden State has managed to refocus on that end of the court, and it all starts with Green. He did it a few nights ago against the Minnesota Timberwolves, holding Karl-Anthony Towns to 6-of-18 shooting. He did it again in Houston, disrupting the entire Rockets' offense. And most recently, against Williamson.
"He’s the cornerstone of our defense," Juan Toscano-Anderson said. "He does everything. He’s the anchor. He’s the voice of our defense, he’s the heart of our defense ... As great as Steph is offensively, Draymond is just as great defensively."
"Draymond is just incredible," Kerr said. "He's such an amazing defender ... Just look at the verticality, the strength to be able to stay in front of Zion without fouling, take away his angles ... that's really hard to do. Zion just goes through people. And Draymond is so strong he's able to hold his ground and force some tough shots. I thought Draymond was tremendous."
And as much as Green did on defense, he kept his production up on the other end of the court. He finished the night with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists -- his fifth triple-double of the season -- to go along with three steals and two blocks. Green is one of just eight players with a least five triple-doubles this season.
"I do think we are at our best when Draymond is playing at such a high level," Kerr said. "However you want to describe that, Draymond is crucial to everything we do."