The Golden State Warriors have not been having a great time since Klay Thompson came back. Things looked really hopeful in his first game back since the 2019 NBA Finals, as they beat a scrappy young Cleveland Cavaliers team 96-82. Thompson did a little bit of every thing in that game, from making threes, dunking, and tough contested layups, but results have been mixed since then.
Including that Cleveland game, the Warriors have gone 2-3. They were soundly defeated in all of them, including a big game against their budding rivals the Memphis Grizzlies, who led by as many as 18 but had to claw back after the Dubs summoned a little magic in the second half.
Their next defeat, against the Milwaukee Bucks, was not the same kind of game. For what felt like the first time this season, the game was already over for the Warriors by halftime after the Bucks bludgeoned them and took a 77-38 lead through two quarters. They managed to whittle that 39-points lead to a somewhat more respectable losing margin of 118-99 at the final buzzer, but they basically had no chance of coming back.
Their latest loss, against a young but hungry Minnesota Timberwolves team, saw things break down again. After taking a lead in the third quarter, their first since it was 18-15 in their favor in the first quarter, the Warriors were soundly outscored in the second half on the way to a 119-99 defeat. The 20-point loss is their worst defeat of the season so far.
Steph Curry sat out of the game with a hand injury, and coach Steve Kerr is hopeful that he will be back in their next game. Gary Payton II also sat out with a back injury. The loss of Curry’s scoring was huge, of course, as was not having Payton’s two-way play.
However, I feel that what’s holding them back the most is Draymond Green’s absence. Green’s latest injury update shows that his calf problems are related to a disc in his lower back, which has caused the Warriors to officially put him in ice for at least a couple more weeks. That’s a worrying sign for Golden State.
Let’s take a look at some of Green’s key numbers so far this season:
- Assists per game: 7.4 (first on the team, Steph Curry second with 6.0)
- Defensive Rating: 99 (tied with Gary Payton II for best on the team)
- Win shares: 3.3 (fifth on the team, Steph Curry leads with 5.2)
- Defensive Box Plus/Minus: 4.7 (first on the team, if you discount Quin Weatherspoon who only played 3 games)
- Overall Box Plus/Min: 4.1 (third on the team)
- Value over replacement player: 1.6 (second, Steph Curry leads with 2.9)
In the 34 games that Green and Curry have played together this season, the Warriors have a win rate of 78.6% (28-6). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Green is a better player than Curry. What I’m saying is that he’s just as integral to their success especially when paired with the greatest shooter of all time.
Green is their unabashed leader and their most vocal critic. He’ll talk shit about himself if he plays badly, and he also holds other players into account, especially on defense. That kind of leadership has been evidently missing in the rough stretch the Warriors have seen so far, because this season has seen Curry have more and more tough shooting nights. When that’s happening, defense is what will win them games, along with smart offensive execution.
If you watch some of his defensive highlights, you can see Green constantly barking and pointing to where his other teammates should set up to stop plays. Even if he doesn’t personally make a block or a steal, he ensures that others are aware of positioning. He will not cut anyone any slack for missed coverages, and keeps people’s minds focused on defense. No one else on that roster is dialled in on almost every single play when playing defense.
Now, with Thompson back in the mix, Green’s playmaking will become an even more important part of their offense, because if he becomes the main ballhandler, Curry and Thompson can start getting more opportunities to run their opponents ragged around a ton of screens instead of having to face double-teams while also handling the ball for the majority of the time. Curry at one point led the league in scoring this season, and though he’s now fallen to sixth place, it shows how dangerous a scorer he still is.
The last time Green looked fully healthy was a game against the Miami Heat, where he had a line typical of his play. He had five points, eight rebounds, 13 assists, a steal and four blocks. He only took five shots that entire game, but his imprint was all over their offense and defense.
He seems to always be there to provide help defense or bother shots, along with his strong man-to-man defense. On offense, he can thread the needle through multiple opponents to find an open man, and is a master of finding cutters. He’s also keenly aware of when to set those little screens that give his shooters just enough space to let a long bomb fly.
With Green out of the picture, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Warriors continue to trade wins and losses, especially with Thompson still getting re-integreated. However, if Green manages to get back to great shape toward the end of the season and the playoffs, and Thompson gets back to something close to his old self, the Warriors are going to be dangerous.
I’m not a Warriors fan, but I certainly want to see Green, Thompson and Curry do damage in the playoffs this season. It’s been one of the most competitive seasons I’ve seen in a long time (in both the East and West), so having the Warriors’ top trio all healthy and ready would be good for basketball.