Draymond Green: The Key to Golden State's Success

Draymond Green has only improved his breakout regular season performance this postseason

With the Golden State Warriors on the brink of reaching their first NBA finals in 40 years, a lot of the attention is being placed on the MVP, Stephen Curry. A stat line of 29.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 6.4 assists in the playoffs will rightfully earn you that recognition.

Not so quietly, however, another Warrior has had an as big impact for Golden State this postseason: Draymond Green. The runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player has been excellent this postseason, and the numbers back it up.

Lockdown Defense

Green did not earn First Team All-Defense honors for nothing this season.

In his first year as a regular starter, Green posted the second best Defensive Win Shares in the league and the fourth best Defensive Rating. He was without a doubt, one of the very best defensive players in the league. This postseason, he's been able to continue the success. The third year forward trails only LeBron James in Defensive Win Shares this postseason. He also ranks in the top 10 in blocks per game, Defensive Rating, and Defensive Rebound Percentage.

Regular season4.0970.1046.922.4

These numbers are all the more impressive considering Green has been tasked with guarding a huge variety of players, ranging from power forwards like Anthony Davis to shooting guards like James Harden.

While the Warriors' defense as a whole has fallen off a bit in the playoffs (99.8 Defensive Rating compared to 98.2 in the regular season), Green still remains integral to his team's defense. Shown in the table below, Green makes it harder for opponents to get shots off at the rim, and he drastically lowers the overall rate at which opponents convert these shots.

Opponents' PPP%FG < 3'FG% < 3'eFG
On the court0.96827.251.345.2
Off the court1.13231.868.748.7

Improved Offense

During the regular season, Green played solid offense, certainly nothing outstanding. He averaged 11.7 points and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 44 percent from the field. So far in the playoffs, he's posted an averaged of 14.4 points and 4.4 assists, off of 45 percent shooting. He's totaled 0.8 Offensive Win Shares, good for 14th in the league. While even the postseason numbers don't jump off the page, the on/off court data shows just how important his offense is to the team.

Points per PossessionEffective Field Goal%True Shooting%
On the court1.1475557.6
Off the court0.9546.949.1

Even Curry doesn't have the same impact on the Warriors' points per possession as Green does. Speaking of the MVP, Green makes his point guard much better. In the playoffs, Curry has averaged a full two tenths of a point better per possession when Green is on the floor than when he's on the bench. Klay Thompson averages almost three tenths of a point better with Green.

We've all heard about LeBron's positive impact on his teammates, it seems like Green has a similar, albeit less obvious, effect, especially during this year's playoffs. Part of the reason his teammates have been so successful is his passing ability this postseason. Green has accounted for 20.5 percent of all baskets made while he's on the floor, good for 10th in the league among all players whose teams advanced to at least the second round.

What's interesting about Green's offensive performance so far this postseason is where his points are coming from. Compared to the regular season, Green has doubled the rate at which he's posted up (up to 8.9 from 4.1). He's scored less in transition, (13.8 in the playoffs compared to 18.2 in the regular season) and about the same in cuts and pick-and-rolls. Overall, Green has scored off of unassisted buckets twice as often in the playoffs than in the regular season.

A thorn in his offensive repertoire continues to be his three point shooting. He's made just 28.4 percent of shots beyond the arc, well below his 33.7 percent clip that he shot in the regular season. And it's not as though he's only occasionally venturing outside. Among players who advanced past the first round, he's 15th in threes attempted per game with 4.6.

Role in the Finals

On basketball's biggest stage, it will be interesting to see if Green can continue his offensive improve and defensive might. Unless the Rockets make history and come all the way back from down 3-0, the Warriors will be taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers, which means Green will have the unenviable onus of guarding LeBron.

The only time the two met during the regular season, the pair combined for 56 points, 19 rebounds, 9 assists and 8 blocks. While Green may not have to shut down LeBron completely, by staying with the four-time MVP and not requiring a double-team, Green may be able to cut down on the passes to wide-open three point specialists with which LeBron sunk the Hawks.

While Steph Curry may make the highlight reel and stuff the stat line every game, the real key to the Finals may be Draymond Green.