Draymond Green is expected to make his season debut on Sunday in Chicago, and the Warriors are delighted at the possibility. Though he is not a one-man panacea, the veteran is a potent elixir for a squad that slogged through its first two games.
The Warriors are 0-2 and were blown off the court both times. They’re also younger than they’re accustomed to. They’re in the very early stages of what amounts to a lab experiment, with coach Steve Kerr the lead scientist.
“We’re brand-new team, thrown together with a couple weeks of practice,” Kerr said after a 138-99 loss to the Bucks in Milwaukee. “We just played two of the best teams in the league, so it's looked bad. I have no doubt we're going to get a lot better as we go, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
How much progress can they be expected to make without the most effervescent lab assistant in the room?
That’s Draymond. He challenges Steph Curry and the rest of the lab staff, aka, assistant coaches. This abysmal start can be traced to a number of factors, but three of them are directly related to the absence of Green.
One, there is distinct lack of communication on both ends but most damaging on defense.
“He’s extremely vocal offensively and defensively,” Jordan Poole said of Green.
“I’ve got to make sure I talk,” rookie center James Wiseman said. “I sometimes forget. I need to talk and communicate.”
Draymond will address that issue. Pronto. Communication is among his greatest assets.
Two, the defense is careless, even negligent. Part of the problem is communication. Part of it, so far, is accountability. The defense cannot continue to look less like a team than five men in the backyard staring at the grill, waiting for someone to light the thing.
“Defense is all about being connected,” Kerr said. “You have to be together as a five-man unit. You’ve got to communicate. And we're just throwing this thing together. So, it's hard when you when you don't have all five guys thinking alike and rotating and playing together.
“All the stuff that we're talking about that leads to winning games, basically. Calling signals defensively, calling coverages, recognizing patterns. That can only come with a lot of time on the floor.”
These Warriors are not going move as they did in the old “Death Lineup” days. That group played as if stitched together with elastic bands. Opponents often reacted to six or seven defenders when there were five. Everyone knew where they were supposed to be.
It’s asking a lot of Draymond to fix that. There is no question he’s going to address it. Purely on the basis of experience, he’ll be an upgrade over the rookie. Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Wiseman should prepare to be confronted, tactfully but not without volume.
“Just the continuity and the progressiveness in terms of everybody being motivated, everybody having an edge, just everybody brings that intensity,” Wiseman said, looking ahead to what will change upon Green’s return. “Draymond just has that aura and that presence, to where he just can bring that intensity. I can just feel it in practice. Everybody can feel it in practice as soon as he steps on the court.”
The third factor that Green will address is the clunky offense. There is no flow. Through two games, they have 40 assists and 29 turnovers. Excluding Curry, the Warriors had a total of eight assists against the Bucks.
More starkly, Warriors not named Curry have a total of 13 assists in the first two games.
“It’ll obviously help,” Curry said of Green’s return, “in terms of having a high basketball IQ and the way that Draymond can control a possession and try to make the right pass or putting pressure on guys guarding him.”
Draymond unlocks Curry, who can’t get unlocked because Wiggins and Oubre aren’t stretching defenses. They aren’t stretching defenses because they’re trying to unlock themselves. There’s a domino effect here, and the result is stasis.
Fixing the Warriors is going to take a while. It will be a month or so before any conclusions can be reached. They lost to a pair of teams that are, to be blunt, vastly superior.
The Warriors don’t know how good, or bad, they’re going to be. That’s the experiment. The merging of faces old and new is going to have unsightly moments. In this instance, unsightly games.
The competition level drops off over the next two games, at Chicago on Sunday and at Detroit on Tuesday. Even without Draymond, the Warriors are bound to look better. With him, though, they finally can begin to make progress on who they are.