Three times this season Draymond Green has clinched a win with a clutch defensive play in the closing minute. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year runner-up is further focused on that end of the court, to assert the Golden State Warriors as one of the best defensive units in the game.
Green, currently third in the NBA with 2.2 steals per game and No. 24 with 1.3 blocks, is certainly no stranger to leaving a lasting impact on that end of the court.
Despite receiving eight more first-place votes than Kawhi Leonard, and leading the league’s top ranked defense to a title, he finished runner-up to the San Antonio Spurs swingman for the 2014-15 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. He responded by increasing his impact on the defensive end last season — finishing second in the race again.
Early in the 2016-17 season Green has again improved his defensive production.
Following one of his win-sealing stand, a 105-100 win over the Atlanta Hawks on No. 28, fellow defensive standout Andre Iguodala said that the chip of consecutive second-place finished has grown heavy on the large shoulders of his teammate:
“He’s really after something. I think he’s trying to prove himself as the defensive player of the year.”
Green agreed that there is something weighing heavy on his mind, forcing him to push himself even further. But, it isn’t any individual award:
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve got something to prove winning that award, more so that people have counted our defense out with (Andrew) Bogut leaving, and that kind of pisses me off. … I’ve never been a guy who prides myself on awards. It would be cool to win, absolutely, but my goal is to win a championship. In order for us to win a championship, we’ve got to defend, and the world says we traded our defense away when we got (Kevin Durant). I disagree.”
The fifth-year forward has seen his scoring dip to three-year low (10.6). His assist (8.7) and rebound (8.7) production are each down from a year ago, as well. His steals, though, are by far a career high, up from 1.5 last season, while his blocks have remained steady.
With the somewhat surprising defensive contributions of the elite scoring Kevin Durant — 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks per game — this season, Green is well on his way to showing the league that his team’s dominance without the ball did not depart with the former center. Not only are the Warriors tops in the league in both measurables, the 9.6 steals and 6.2 blocks per game are both up from the 2015-16 season.
Golden State’s 103.6 points allowed per 100 possessions is also the best in the league, down from 104.32 in its record-setting 20116 season.
And Green is far from done making his mark on the season defensively. He took the league-wide slight personally. The fact that so many were ready to write off his, and his team’s, defensive abilities when Bogut departed has forced his already high-level passion into another gear. He’s pissed:
“If someone says, ‘the Warriors offense is going to suck,’ KD would be pissed, Steph would be pissed and Klay (Thompson) would be really pissed.”