In describing the Brooklyn Nets as having “the best display of offense we’ll probably ever see in this league,” Draymond Green didn’t turn his back on his NBA family. He surely recalls the 2016-17 Warriors juggernaut that posted a league-record 16-1 mark in the playoffs.
Rather, Draymond had an rational explanation for the commentary delivered Tuesday during his part-time gig on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.”
The fourth offensive option in that Golden State lineup was Draymond. And he would be the first to concede that in no way does he compare to Brooklyn’s fourth option.
That’s Joe Harris, the most accurate 3-point shooter in the league.
Harris averaged 14.1 points per game during the regular season, shooting 50.5 percent from the field and, moreover, an NBA-best 47.5 percent from distance. During the pandemic-shortened season that ended in the bubble, Harris shot “only” 42.4 percent from deep, finishing sixth. In the last 82-game season, 2018-19, his 47.4 percentage led the league.
Draymond doesn’t shoot like Joe, can’t shoot like Joe and never will shoot like Joe. When the Warriors were laying waste to the league in 2016-17, Draymond was averaging 10.2 points per game while shooting 41.8 percent overall and 30.8 percent beyond the arc.
Harris’ shooting is where the Nets’ offense has an advantage over peak Warriors -- or any other team in NBA annals. When opposing defenses are justifiably focusing on Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, Harris can puncture them with deep strikes. He was 17-of-33 (51.5 percent) from deep in Brooklyn’s first-round series win over the Celtics.
“It’s the best display of offense we’ll probably ever see in this league,” Green said on the TNT panel featuring Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and host Ernie Johnson. “We’re talking about those three guys (Durant, Harden and Irving). But Joe Harris ... you rotate, you’re swinging it to Joe. So, that’s who you’re rotating off of to Kevin, Kyrie or James?
“You’ve got Bruce Brown, who makes a world of a difference for their team, doing all the dirty work. He plays the dunker position as if he’s a ‘five’ man. You’ve got Blake (Griffin), who’s had this resurgence, who is dunking the ball, who’s all over the court, playing the five. When you look at this team offensively, you’re not going to stop them.
"If you stop one guy, you get the other two going.”
To be fair, the 2016-17 Warriors were the best team I’ve ever seen, with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant all capable of terrorizing a defense. That squad at its peak played with such exquisite precision that opponents were at times rendered helpless.
With the emphasis on movement, by players and the ball, those Warriors led the NBA in scoring (115.9 points per game) and assists, averaging 30.4 per game -- five more than the second-place Denver Nuggets. That Golden State operated like a symphony with Curry and Green as dual conductors. It was classical offensive hoops at its best.
The 2020-21 Nets offense functions more like a traditional jazz band, creating beautiful harmonies but with individual members capable of breaking out with incendiary solos. Durant, Harden and Irving are three of the top five 1-on-1 players in the league. And when the whole group is in rhythm, Harris comes out of nowhere to nail his part.
For pure firepower, we’ve seen nothing like these Nets. Two MVPs, both of whom have been scoring champs, and a third star capable of getting to the basket on any defender. This excess of riches is why they are favorites to win it all.
Draymond realizes that. His analysis is on point.
“I think their defense will be good enough,” Green said, “because the reality is those other teams have to score as well. And that’s not so easy to do. So, when you’re trying to outscore these guys, which teams are going to have to do, I can’t see that happening.”
Well, um, I’m not sure about the defense.
If Brooklyn falls short of winning The Finals, it’s likely to be related to its defensive shortcomings. None of their starters is elite or even consistently good. They will give up points, lots of points, to a quality offense.
Put another way, if the 2016-17 Warriors met the 2020-21 Nets in The Finals, Golden State’s offense would score in bunches and its defense would be the most appreciable advantage for either team.
Warriors in six.
If Draymond is asked to compare the current Nets to the Warriors of four years ago, and it seems a natural discussion, I suspect he’d reach a similar conclusion.