Warriors

Draymond Green's defense key to Warriors regaining 'super team' status

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USATSI

Draymond Green's defense key to Warriors regaining 'super team' status

OAKLAND – Watching the Warriors wax and wane through 39 games this season, several of their problems become starkly evident, perhaps none more than Draymond Green’s struggle to play at his usual elite standard.

Yes, there is a cogent argument for two-time MVP Stephen Curry to play more off the ball. Yes, the Warriors could benefit from consistently giving former MVP Kevin Durant more touches, keeping him involved and his head in the game. Yes, it is fair to want four-time All-Star Klay Thompson to be more selective with his shooting.

And questioning coach Steve Kerr’s substation patterns has become a parlor game.

If the Warriors were to fix all those issues Saturday night in Sacramento, they’d still be a Draymond short of reaching their potential.

Conversations in the wake of their devastating 135-134 loss to the Rockets raged deep through Thursday night and into Friday, folks debating solutions in person, over the phone, and on social media. The defending champs are 25-14, sirens are blaring through the streets and suddenly everybody with a tongue or a keyboard is an EMT specializing in emergency treatment of an NBA team.

The vast majority of the chatter fixates on what Curry or Durant or Thompson or Kerr should do for the Warriors to regain their “super team” status.

Yet, Green is the key. He can do more for the other four than perhaps any of them can do for each other.

When Green is on his game, he lubricates the offense and, moreover, is such a one-man pack of smart and instinctive dogs on defense that he inspires teammates and deflates opponents. His impact is so massive it’s reasonable to argue that he is as valuable as any member of a team that has two players with MVP awards.

“He sees the pictures of the game, in the moment, as well as anybody I’ve ever been around,” assistant coach Ron Adams says anytime he discusses Green.

“With his passion and intensity, he puts us on another level,” Kerr said during Green’s 11-game absence with a sprained toe.

While Green’s offense is a hot topic, with good reason, his defense is the bigger issue. When he's balling, the Warriors are not 15th in defensive rating.

Oh, Draymond’s D is not a nightly issue. There have been games when, because of his defense, he was the most impactful player on the floor. He was tremendous last week in the win at Portland, quite good three weeks ago in a win at Sacramento and extraordinary back on Nov. 2, when he was the technician of a defense that held Minnesota to 37.6-percent shooting in another Warriors victory.

But for every game when Draymond plays at Defensive Player of the Year level, there are a two or three that he’s just another guy trying to do his job.

“Players are more willing to challenge him now,” one Western Conference scout said last week. “He’s gonna shut some of ‘em down, but not like he used to.”

[RELATED: Warriors still searching for answers after loss to Rockets]

Green’s defensive rating this season is 102.4, eighth among forwards averaging at least 30 minutes per game. His defensive rating last season was 104.4, 14th among players averaging at least 30 minutes.

In 2016-17, when Green was DPOY, his 100.2 rating was No. 1 among all forwards averaging at least 30 minutes per game. It was, in fact, No. 1 among all players, at any position, averaging at least 30 minutes.

There is more to great defense than ratings, but ratings are perhaps the most reliable means of measurement. And right now, Green’s 102.4 is well behind the likes of Paul George (99.6) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (100.4).

What makes Draymond different from George and Antetotkounmpo is his ability to generate fluid offense for his teammates. His defense, because of how it triggers transition, is a major contributor to the team’s offense.

At 6-foot-7 Green faces so many physical challenges that some are speculating his body is wearing out from the hard labor against bigger men. There may be something to that, though he’ll never admit it. Injuries forced him to miss 12 games last season and 14 so far this season.

Now, there is the possibility that Green, despite his expressed desire to win another DPOY award, is saving his best for the postseason. He did it last season, when that 104.4 rating dropped to 100.0 in the playoffs, third among all frontcourt players.

Regular season or postseason, though, it’s hard to imagine the Warriors reeling off a fantastic run unless Green’s defense is a central component.

Klay Thompson proclaims Warriors' championship dynasty 'far from over'

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USATSI

Klay Thompson proclaims Warriors' championship dynasty 'far from over'

All the national pundits and talking heads have danced on the grave of the Warriors' dynasty.

With Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston gone, and Klay Thompson out for a large portion of the upcoming season after ACL surgery, most believe the Warriors' reign of dominance is over.

But Thompson isn't listening to the noise. The Warriors might be down, but they aren't out.

"The dynasty ain't over," Klay said Friday during the second annual Thompson Family Foundation golf tournament in Newport Beach, Calif. "It's far from over."

After five season atop the NBA mountain, the Warriors no longer are the favorites to win the title, and they will look vastly different this season.

At the beginning of the season, Steph Curry and Draymond Green will be flanked by newcomers D'Angelo Russell and Willie Cauley-Stein. Instead of Durant at the starting small forward spot, Warriors coach Steve Kerr might go with Alfonzo McKinnie.

Super Death Lineup this is not.

Making matters tougher for the Warriors is the improvement of other teams in the Western Conference. The Clippers, Lakers, Jazz and Rockets all made blockbuster moves over the summer, while the Nuggets and Blazers return teams that were top-four playoff seeds in the West last season.

But once Thompson returns in February or March, the Warriors will be able to close games with a lineup of Curry, Thompson, Russell, Green and Kevon Looney, who signed a three-year contract in the offseason.

[RELATED: Eight things Warriors need to do to make playoffs]

As Green said last week, no one will want to face the Warriors in the playoffs. That will be especially true if Thompson is 100 percent in April.

Durant isn't around anymore, but the dynasty isn't dead until Curry, Thompson and Green say it is.

Magic Johnson can't believe Kevin Durant was unhappy with Warriors

Magic Johnson can't believe Kevin Durant was unhappy with Warriors

Kevin Durant came to the Warriors in 2016 in pursuit of a family and NBA titles.

Despite all the winning the Warriors did with Durant, he told the Wall Street Journal last week that he never quite felt like one of the guys. That possibly had something to do with him refusing to commit long term to the Warriors. It's hard for a family to accept you when you have one foot in the house and the other on the front porch.

NBA legend Magic Johnson can't begin to fathom Durant's logic in leaving for the Brooklyn Nets after three seasons and two championships in the Bay.

"KD, I hope that he finds happiness," Johnson said Friday on ESPN's First Take. "If you can't find happiness at Golden State, where are you going to find it at?

“First of all, give Steph Curry a lot of credit for saying, 'I'm a two-time MVP. I'm willing to take a backseat because I want to win.' Give Klay Thompson a lot of credit, because you know whose game suffered the most? Klay Thompson. He used to get a lot more touches before KD got there, and he said, 'I'm OK with that as long as we win a championship.' Draymond Green, even he had to take a backseat.

"So, Kevin, if you won back-to-back titles, you won MVP of the Finals as well, where are you going to find happiness at? I just want him to find happiness because when I look at Michael Jordan, when I look at Kobe Bryant, this brother, Kevin Durant, is one of the greatest scorers we've seen in NBA history, so I just want him to be happy. I just don't know where he's going to find it at if he can't find it at Golden State."

We imagine every single Warriors fan feels the same way as Magic does.

[RELATED: Durant shows no sign of limp after surgery]

Unlike Thunder fans, Warriors fans don't hold any ill will toward Durant. They're just puzzled by his decision to leave. He had everything he wanted in the Bay Area, and Golden State could have offered more money. Yet he still decided to leave.

But maybe Durant never will be happy in the same spot for too long. It's possible that in three years, Nets fans find themselves wondering why Durant wasn't happy, just like Warriors fans are right now.