The Draymond Green motivational tour is back on, and it’s got some new fuel for the fire. After putting on a block party and locking up everyone from Dennis Schröder to Dwight Howard on the Hawks late Monday night in Golden State’s 105-100 victory over the Hawks, Green spoke out about what’s fueling his defensive performance this year.
To no one’s surprise, he wants to prove the haters wrong.
Note: Haters may or may not be actual real people.
“The world says we traded our defense away when we got KD,” Green said after blocking a game-high four shots. “I disagree. So, I think our defense actually has the upside to be better with the length and everything that we have, the speed, the athleticism. That pissed me off more than anything, that it’s kind of like, ‘Yeah, their defense is going to suck now.’ I take that personally. So that pushes me more than anything else.”
1. For Green, the reality of whether people said these things does not matter. When you’re at the gym, cranking through that 40-minute mark on the treadmill or eliptical, and you start thinking about bailing and going by Dunkin, it doesn’t matter that your boss never actually said you weren’t as good as your colleagues, or that your parent never actually said your sibling had done more with their life. It’s about how you perceive those slights and how you react. So even though Green is entirely misreading the actual conversation about what the Warriors’ defense would be like, it doesn’t matter. It’s real to him.
This is not entirely dissimilar to the presence of fake news on Facebook regardless of subject matter. If we encounter media that resonates with our worldview, we’re more likely to absorb it. So when Draymond Green sees “ESPN criticizes Warriors’ defense after signing Kevin Durant,” he’s going to absorb that, even if there weren’t real criticisms therein.
2. There’s a difference in saying the Warriors might have defensive limitations and saying the Warriors would be bad at defense. As for whether there was actual criticism, here’s probably one of the things Green saw, or at least is in the same mold of it. Basically, some scouts said that without Andrew Bogut, there would be a “hole in the middle’ and that would impact their defense. Spoiler Alert: That’s true. The Warriors do not have a dominant shot-blocking presence to cover for perimeter penetration. For example, when Dennis Schröder blew by Stephen Curry at will Monday night, there wasn’t a force down low to deter him, and he managed to score efficiently and create offense.
“But what about those blocks by Green!” you cry.
Well, that’s not really rim protection. That’s just awesome one-on-one defense off a switch. And the Warriors were always going to be awesome in that regard. They have Green, a top-two defensive player the past three years, they have Kevin Durant who is an absolutely phenomenal defender when he engages himself on that end — which he did not do regularly in Oklahoma City in the regular season — and they have Klay Thompson, a long, plus athletic defender.
This one is actual rim protection:
However, look at where Dwight Howard is, and look where Andre Iguodala winds up.
If Bazemore lobs that ball up, Dwight Howard is dunking it through the floorboards (or getting fouled and missing two free throws; one or the other). Challenging Green is never a good idea. He gets too pumped up, and he’s too strong and athletic. It’s a tremendous defensive play by Green. This is how you rim protect without a rim protector. But it’s also just a bad decision by Bazemore, who’s having a bad season overall.
But beyond all this, it’s important to note that rim protection isn’t everything. The Hornets have been without a rim protector under Steve Clifford every season until adding Roy Hibbert his season, and still were top five every year in field goal percentage at the rim. They gave up a lot of shots there, and just defended well by bringing help. The Warriors are doing something similar. The Warriors allow the most shots in the paint outside of the restricted area, but the third-lowest percentage.
3. Most people said the defense would be awesome. Anyone who watched how Durant played defense in key playoff series all the way through last year’s Conference Finals knew they would be great. They knew Green would bring it. They knew the team would be good defensively. It’s about how they would manage in playoff situations. The Warriors struggled, especially with their smallball “death lineup” in the playoffs defensively, particularly against the Thunder and Cavaliers. But they’re not facing those teams in a playoff series every night. They’re facing the Hawks, the Bucks, the rest of the league from the dregs to the pretty-good teams like Atlanta.
It’s not wrong to wonder how they’ll contain if teams spread Green out on the perimeter and attack the rim. It’s not wrong to wonder if they’ll miss Andrew Bogut (who, by the way, for all Dallas’ struggles is still anchoring the best team in the league at opponent scoring in the paint) when they’re using JaVale McGee for long stretches. But everyone who’s not a Twitter egg or just antagonizing to antagonize knows the truth: the Warriors defense was always going to be awesome, it is awesome, they’ve fixed their problems, and they’re on track to be a legendary team.
Whatever gets Draymond there is just means to an end.