Draymond Green says he's still about two weeks away from being at his best. And if that's the case and what he's doing now is still merely a warm-up, the Warriors are in for something good.
Some might point to Green's scoring average as the area that will need to grow over the next few weeks. His five points per game aren't exactly eye-popping. It's the lowest he has averaged since his rookie year when he played 13.4 minutes a night. But high-volume scoring isn't what the Warriors need from him. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said that last week and doubled down on that Thursday night after their 147-116 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Warriors depend on Green for his passing, screening, and overall energy, and that's what will continue to grow over the next few weeks. Their defense vastly improved when Green returned after missing the first four games of the season, and Steph Curry's efficiency takes a jump when Green is on the court.
When Green and Curry share the floor, Curry shoots 50.2 percent and has a +4.3 net rating. When Green is off the court, Curry shoots 42.2 percent and is -4.7. The impact Green has on Curry's performance is because of his screening.
"I view screens like I view assists," Green told reporters after practice on Friday. "I get more excited to get an assist than I do to score a point. That's just how I've always been. And screening is the same way for me. When I nail a guy on a screen and Steph hits a three, I probably feel better than he feels making the three."
Green says he views assists and screens in the same light, and he had plenty of both against the Mavericks. Thursday night he had 15 assists, one off from tying his career-high.
Between Green, Andrew Bogut, Zaza Pachulia and David Lee, the Warriors have a history of passing big men. It's a trait that has become more common around the league, but still, having a natural "point center" or "point forward" is a luxury.
"Steph and Klay (Thompson) playing off the ball is a powerful force, so when you have that combination of a big who can pass and a guard who is that big of a threat off-ball, it opens up the whole floor," Kerr said. "It's much tougher to scheme for defensively and opens up a lot of holes."
But Green is even more unique than some of the other point-forwards and centers around the league. As few of them as there are, there are even fewer who can have such an impact on offense, and then turn around and do the same on defense.
"It takes a combination of energy and brains," Kerr said. "That's basically what defines Draymond as a basketball player. He's got a brilliant mind, a powerful mind, he's unbelievably competitive and he hates to lose. He takes it personally.
"His natural instinct is to handle the ball and get everybody involved. And then you combine that with the defensive acumen, that's what makes Draymond one of the most impactful players in the league."
The Warriors were forced to play Green at the center position against Dallas on Thursday because of the lack of bodies they had. With Marquese Chriss, James Wiseman, Kevon Looney and Eric Paschall all sidelined with injuries, Green was their only choice. But it's not the first time he's been put in that situation. The Warriors have played small in the past, and it's something Green is comfortable with.
"No matter what, when we go small I think we have an advantage," Green said. "I don't look at it as a negative. I am very comfortable going small and playing the five. I think that exposes things on the other team, as well. It's something we've done a lot over the years and at this point, it's kind of second nature."
So, even after those true centers return, Kerr may try to find minutes for Green to play the five. It was out of necessity on Thursday and will be in the next few games. But playing small works for the Warriors, and having Green in the center of everything they do has proven to lead them to success.