Warriors

Warriors' Draymond Green rated as best NBA defender by FiveThirtyEight

Warriors' Draymond Green rated as best NBA defender by FiveThirtyEight

You know you're either really good or really bad at something if they name a statistic after you.

In the case of Warriors forward Draymond Green, it's most definitely the former option.

The former Defensive Player of the Year has long been regarded as one of the top all-around defenders in the NBA. However, the ways in which we've been able to evaluate defensive performance up to this point haven't painted the whole picture. Blocks and steals are good, sure, but there's a lot more that goes into being a good defender then simply collecting stats in those categories. 

Similarly, the league-provided opponent shooting data can produce the unintended consequence of punishing good defenders, simply due to being the nearest defender to the shot. After all, if the defender hadn't been there at all, there's no guarantee anyone else would have, and some defense is typically better than none. 

It's with that disconnect in mind that FiveThirtyEight set out to develop a better way to evaluate NBA defense. And which player have they chosen to name their model after?

None other than Green, of course.

FiveThirtyEight's 'DRAYMOND' metric stands for Defensive Rating Accounting for Yielding Minimal Openness by Nearest Defender. A mouthful, I know.

But don't be daunted by the name. Without dumbing it down too much, DRAYMOND essentially calculates a player's effectiveness at minimizing the openness of opponent shots, relative to the rest of the league. It's a plus-minus statistic measured per 100 possessions, where a score of 0 represents average defense.

And, among all players who have played at least 10,000 possessions over the last six seasons, guess who rates out as the top defender, according to DRAYMOND?

That's right. Draymond. Duh.

Since the 2013-14 season, Green leads all such players with a DRAYMOND rating of plus-3.16, meaning he's been worth an average of 3.16 points per 100 possessions of defensive value over that span based on his scoring defense alone. That doesn't even factor in the other ways (blocks, steals, etc.) in which he makes a more traditionally measured defensive impact.

What's even more impressive is that Green has played far and away the most possessions (38,282) over that span of any of the top-ranked players according to DRAYMOND. Only two other players in the top-20 have played at least 30,000 possessions over the last six seasons.

After Green, DRAYMOND ranks Philadelphia's Joel Embiid, Dallas' Kristaps Porzingis, Utah's Rudy Gobert (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year), Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Oklahoma City's Andre Roberson and Los Angeles' Anthony Davis as the best defenders dating back to 2013-14, which -- for the most part -- passes the eye test.

Green took a step back defensively last season, though, posting a DRAYMOND rating of plus-1.76 points per 100 possessions. However, only one other NBA player -- Giannis Antetokounmpo -- played more possessions than Green and rated higher.

Golden State's best defender last season, according to DRAYMOND? That would be Kevon Looney, who ranked eighth-best in the NBA with a DRAYMOND rating of plus-2.72 points per 100 possessions.

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As the saying goes, there are lies, damn lies and statistics. But based on the results produced by the DRAYMOND metric, it seems to do a better job of highlighting the top defenders in the league than the more rudimentary statistics we've generally relied upon until now.

Green believes he's the best defender in the NBA. Now DRAYMOND does, too.

D'Angelo Russell's potential on display in Warriors' preseason finale

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USATSI

D'Angelo Russell's potential on display in Warriors' preseason finale

SAN FRANCISCO – The wait for D’Angelo Russell to start raising his game is over. He’s coming.

If he brings it in the regular season as he did in the preseason finale Friday night, and continues to build on it, the Warriors will sing his praises and jersey sales will spike during the holidays.

“He’s just such a skilled player that no matter what happens, he’s just going to find his way to 20-plus points,” coach Steve Kerr said after a 124-103 win over a Lakers B-squad team at Chase Center. “He’s a tremendous passer, so putting him into high screens and letting him pick people apart and he’s going to find a flow.

“One thing I really like about him is that he doesn’t get discouraged. He just plays. After the slow start, he really picked it up. He was fantastic.”

Russell shot well, scoring 29 points in 28 minutes on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, including 6-of-11 from deep, and 5-of-6 from the line. He also passed nicely, recording three assists and at least as many secondary assists. He could’ve had more dimes if not for the Lakers reaching to foul shooters found open by Russell.

The real revelation, however, was on the other end of the court. Unlike more than a few moments in the previous four games, Russell was more consistent with his defensive energy and purpose. During one 19-second span early in the fourth quarter, he swiped a Zach Norvell pass and raced in for a layup and also picked up a loose ball off a Draymond Green deflection and pulled up for a triple that cranked up the noise in the building.

Russell's ability to turn defense into offense is one of his more valuable traits, and something that may be an essential component of the Warriors’ attack.

“I just made shots,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of things on the defensive end that I want to get better at, just figuring out the coverages that we’re playing and getting accustomed to those things. It’s easy to make shots in this league. It’s more about doing other things.”

What’s apparent is Russell’s growing comfort on the court. He’s in a new city, with new teammates, many of them young. There were in the first few games far too much confusion on defense and hesitation on offense. All of that is starting to fade.

And much of that stems from the growing partnership between Russell and fellow guard Stephen Curry.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know each other but see the potential of what we can be when we are out there on the floor,” Curry said. “When we’re on the floor together, there is a lot of trust in terms of making the right play, taking advantage of each possession.”

Even with such an encouraging performance, Russell still sees the holes. The areas that need to improve before he can approach All-Star status for the second consecutive season.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, to be honest,” he said. “We’re still figuring each other out. In preseason you make it what it is, for a lot of teams. A lot of teams are set and they know what they’re going to do.

“For us, we need that time to build in the good things and work on the things we didn’t do so well.”

For the Warriors to be a factor in the Western Conference, the Curry-Russell backcourt has to be among the best in the league. Offensively, that’s a given. Defensively, that’s a mystery.

But it has to at least be respectable.

“I’m optimistic that we will get off to a hot start,” Curry said. “If we do run into some road bumps throughout the season, we will build a level of communication that we can adjust as we go.”

[RELATED: Russell eyes superteam with Booker, KAT]

On this night, D-Lo showed that his offense will be there. He also, at times, showed he is capable of being the defender he’ll need to be for the Warriors to get anywhere near 50 wins.

Is he all the way there yet, particularly on defense? No. But he’s much closer than he was two weeks ago. Close enough to glimpse where he has to be.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-103 preseason win vs. Lakers

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 124-103 preseason win vs. Lakers

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Warriors ended their preseason slate with a bang, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 124-103 at Chase Center on Friday night. 

However, the victory didn't come with much star power. While the Warriors played their healthy starters, Los Angeles rested most of their veteran core, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard.  

With the win, Golden State finishes preseason play 2-3 and face a myriad of questions, particularly in the frontcourt. 

For now, let's get to the takeaways from Friday's win. 

Curry and Russell shine

After struggling for much of the preseason, D'Angelo Russell played well, finishing with 29 points, three rebounds and three assists, including six 3-pointers. 

Meanwhile, Stephen Curry poured in 32 points, including a four-point play in the fourth quarter. Occasionally this past summer, the two All-Stars trained in Golden State's old Oakland facility hoping to get the chemistry they displayed Friday evening. 

However, playing alongside Curry within Golden State's motion offense, Russell admittedly struggled through the team's first four games. He has All-Star talent and should find his rhythm during the regular season, especially with the spacing Curry provides.  

Rest of the Starters in dress rehearsal 

Playing as close to a regular-season rotation as possible, the Warriors starting lineup quickly found themselves down double digits. Through the first six minutes, the depleted Lakers built a 14-point lead. 

Marquese Chriss -- who effectively made the roster Friday -- air-balled his first attempt of the night, later committing an offensive foul. For good measure, Draymond Green earned a technical foul midway through the third quarter. 

With the season just under a week away, Golden State is a world away from last year's star-studded roster. Worse, injuries to Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein might linger into opening night. If Monday's performance against an undermanned Lakers team is any indication, the Warriors could be in trouble. 

Youngsters provide a boost

While Curry and Russell combined for 61 points, the Warriors' young core showed signs of life as well. With four minutes left in the first quarter, a lineup featuring Jacob Evans, Jordan Poole, Curry and Omari Spellman helped Golden State cut the Lakers' lead to one heading into the second quarter.

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Poole -- who struggled his last two games in Los Angeles -- scored eight points, including two 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Eric Paschall added 11 points and seven rebounds. 

With a new roster, Golden State's young core will be counted on more than past years, meaning performances like Friday will have to be a regular occurrence.