SAN FRANCISCO -- I lobbed the question a few feet over the head of Draymond Green, with no idea what to expect.
He caught it with one hand and dunked it.
Q: “Do you have a focus, for you, this year?”
A: “To be great.”
If those three words come true, Green’s impact will take the Warriors to a higher standing, from likely playoff team to possible top-four seed. There’s a wide expanse between the two.
But Green’s greatness encompasses everything a coach could want in a player. He’d play multiple positions. He’d defend at his customary elite level. He’d probably, for the fifth consecutive year, lead the Warriors in assists per game. He’d probably, for the third time in five seasons, lead the team in rebounding. He’d help guide the progress of the team’s influx of youngsters. He’d limit his technical fouls and disqualifications.
He’d also, to punctuate his production, rediscover his 3-ball.
The one aspect of Green’s game that has declined over each of the past four seasons is his accuracy beyond the arc. He went from 38.8 percent, to 30.8 percent, to 30.1 percent to, last season, 28.5 percent. His total attempts also have, for the most part, gone down. After launching at least 250 3-balls four straight seasons, he attempted only 165 last season.
Asked Friday if he plans to bring back the triple, he implied it is likely.
“It’ll just happen as it happens,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But I probably do need to shoot more. You know, when you shoot two 3s a game, it’s kind of hard to shoot 39 percent.
“So, yeah, I probably do need to shoot it a little more.”
He definitely does. It was logical for Green to limit his 3s when his teammates were Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Durant left for Brooklyn. Thompson will spend most of the season rehabbing after ACL surgery. Only Curry remains.
Historically, when opponents respect Green’s 3-ball, it adds an entirely different dimension to the Warriors’ offense. With the current roster, only Curry is clearly superior to Green from deep. D’Angelo Russell, expected to be the team’s No. 2 scorer, is a career 35.3-percent shooter from deep. Glenn Robinson III is at 36.1 percent, while Alec Burks is at 35.5 percent. The rookies straight from college are still trying to adapt to the additional distance.
Green is motivated to make opponents regain respect for his deep shot because he knows, otherwise, it’ll be far easier for defenses to back off of him and cover more of the floor, tilting toward such teammates as Russell, Burks, Robinson and rookie Jordan Poole. Curry is another matter because he’s always the priority, no matter who else is making shots.
The challenge, then, for Green is to find his 3-point shot while still doing the other things that have made him a three-time All-Star -- all as he serves in his usual capacity of unofficial assistant coach. The youngsters on this roster need his experience and expertise. He knows it and he is optimistic about reaching them.
“There’s a lot more teaching,” he said of training camp. “For us guys who have been here for a while, it’s a little difficult, some of these practices. But that’s the reality of it. We kind of knew that coming in. We’re kind of playing in a players’ role but also coaching a little bit as well.
“You can teach some things about basketball, but you can’t really teach IQ. You can teach people what to do. However, this seems to be a pretty smart team. There’s not really any idiots. You know, on some teams you’ve got some idiots.”
So, for Green, it’s about finding a balance. Shoot a few free throws before teaching Eric Paschall defensive reads. Jack up some 3s after explaining NBA floor spacing to Omari Spellman and Alen Smailagic. Impress upon Willie Cauley-Stein the importance of video study, while studying video. Green need not worry about the defense, because that’s his natural inclination.
He’s already figured out his system for this season.
“While playing, you teach. While on the sideline, you teach. During film, you teach,” Green said. “But the No. 1 thing is always going to be working on your own game.”
Green is finding time to do that; he was the last man off the court Friday, finishing his individual workout by shooting triples all around the arc and then putting up free throws.
Most of them went in. That’s what the Warriors will need once the games matter. And if that shot is falling, and Green is indeed great, it will alleviate a lot of concerns this season.