The Golden State Warriors are one of the best defensive teams and despite losing Kevin Durant to the MCL sprain heard around the world, they remain one of the best defensive teams in the league thanks to their defensive player of the year candidate, Draymond Green. The Warriors’ defense has been consistent all year even when their offense has sputtered. When they gave up a ton of depth the biggest concern was the defensive end of things and they still rank as the best team on that end. Green has been determined this season to not let them falter on that end and has a strong case to win the defensive player of the year award.
As of this moment, the Warriors are tied with the San Antonio Spurs in defensive rating (the number of points a team gives up per 100 possessions) with 101.1 according to NBA.com. This puts them 1.5 ahead of the next closest team the Utah Jazz. It should come as no surprise that all three teams each are sporting a candidate. The Spurs have the best perimeter defender with Kawhi “the Klaw” Leonard and the Jazz have the Stifle Tower in big man Rudy Gobert. The Warriors though have the best versatile defender in Green.
All three players the great defenders but Green brings the ability to defend post players and switch onto guards. There is not a player in the NBA that is as effective defending all five positions as Green is. The numbers back up his candidacy, according to basketball-reference.com Defensive Box Plus/Minus (an estimate of defensive points a player per 100 possessions that a player contributed above a league-average player, translated to an average team). Green leads the trio with a DBPM of 5.0 with Gobert at 4.6 and Leonard at 1.3.
Since Durant’s 1.6 blocks a game has been missing in the lineup, Green has stepped up. In the last 10 games, he has a defensive rating of 93.9 compared to his season average of 98.3. To compare with the other candidates, Gobert has a defensive rating of 100.2 and in his last 10 games, 104.6 whereas Leonard is at 104.1 for the season and 105.2 over the last 10 games. Green improved his numbers while the others ratings went up.
|Last 10 Games DRTG||DRTG||DBPM|
Numbers do not tell the whole story but the film backs up Green’s campaign. In the series of plays, he stripped Karl-Anthony Towns as he tried to make a move towards the basket then forced Giannis Antetokounmpo into a difficult fadeaway after stopping his drive. Finally, on the last example, he switched onto Russell Westbrook, stonewalled his drive, never conceding an angle to the rim that led to a bad pass in traffic the Warriors stole.
As more proof of Green’s defense propelling his team to wins, he came up with several key defensive plays in their win over the Philadelphia 76ers when they struggled on the offensive end. Green pressured TJ McConnell full court then ran back to his man, Dario Saric. As the play develops, he switches the 4/5 pick-and-roll, and as Saric drives past David West, Green is in perfect help position and blocked the shot. Later in the game, he switched onto McConnell and sent the layup attempt into the stands. The Warriors would go on to win the game.
Green campaigned early in the year for the defensive player of the year award and has backed it up with his play. He has the ability to defend anyone on the court despite standing at 6’7, he has the wingspan (7’1.3”) to bother all positions. He has great hands and constantly is jabbing at the offensive player to keep them uncomfortable. Cases can be made for Gobert and Leonard but neither of them can defend 1-5 all game. This is what makes Green so special on the defensive end and the DPOY.
- Leonard’s Defensive Numbers – As stated above, numbers don’t always show the whole story. A weird thing has happened to Leonard’s defensive numbers this year; it showed that the Spurs were better defensively with him off the court. As shocking as it was, teams began to hide whomever Leonard was guarding in the corner and basically playing 4 on 4. He is so good defensively, that teams game plan to keep him out of the picture. Matt Moore from CBS Sports wrote a great piece on this back in December, I highly recommend it. (Kawhi Leonard is so great at defense, he’s actually hurting the Spurs)
- Clippers getting Pierce Playoff ready – This is the final season for Pierce and after his farewell game in Boston, he didn’t play in the Clippers next 16 games. However, Pierce has been getting significant minutes in their last six games, which makes me wonder if Doc Rivers it trying to get him in the flow just before the playoffs for a Clipper team that is barely playing .500 basketball after the all-star break. After the game against the Jazz, Pierce has played in a total of 19 games. Something to keep an eye on.
- Cleveland’s Defense – The Cavs have struggled defensively all year ranked 22nd at 108.1 in defensive rating this year a steep drop from 10th last year at 102.3. Even more worrisome is that after the all-star break, they are 29th just ahead of the Lakers in defensive rating at 113.5. The expectation is that by playoff time they will be able to flip the switch and get back into form. They certainly are capable but it’s nothing to be cavalier about.