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Draymond Green, Warriors

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Draymond Green is looking like Draymond Green again

Draymond Green is looking like Draymond Green again

The Golden State Warriors have handled the Houston Rockets so far in the Western Conference Semi-Finals and Draymond Green has played a critical role in their success.

Green has managed to average an impressive 14.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 8.0 assists so far in the series. With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson each averaging below 20 points and shooting a combined 29.7% from deep in the series, it is difficult to envision where the Warriors would be without Green’s production right now.

It wasn’t long ago that talk show hosts like Collin Cowherd said that Green was reduced to being an “ineffective shooter” that was an “average defender.” Since then, he has ramped up his defense to an elite level and has managed to provide significant offensive value despite shooting a mere 14.3% from the perimeter so far in the playoffs.

“Draymond Green has been reduced to an ineffective shooter, an average defender and almost an annoyance to his teammates as much as the other team,” Cowherd said.

Something that Green made clear was that his conditioning throughout the season was not up to par with his standards. He managed to shed over 20 pounds in six weeks and his toe injury is no longer bothering him. Being at a better place physically has enabled him to play at a high level for longer periods of time.

“All this year I don’t think I was in great shape at all,” Green said. “[I’m] really just locking in and focusing on my body; getting it healthy and ready for this time of year has been important.”

The improvement in Green’s conditioning has allowed him to make a greater defensive impact, especially when he has played in the small ball center in the “death lineup.” Whether he has covered significant ground when sending ball pressure or recovering back to the dunk spot to prevent Clint Capela from catching lob passes, Green has made life very difficult for Houston.

The mental edge that Green provides on the defensive end of the floor has been a tremendous asset for Golden State in this series. He has managed to almost neutralize the threat that Clint Capela usually provides the Rockets’ offense as a lob threat by staying disciplined with his positioning when James Harden is driving the lane.

“It’s always so tempting when James (Harden) gets downhill to step up, but once you step up, they throw that lob to (Clint) Capela and it’s like a 90% shot,” Green said after Game 2 about neutralizing Capela. “So you gotta trust your length. We got guys on James that has length. We gotta trust that and pick and choose your spots. That’s been key for us.

“We gave up a few of them tonight that we shouldn’t have. But they’re great at that so you’re not going to completely it away every time but as long as we can keep it to a minimum it will be good for us.”

A similar sentiment was echoed by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni when a reporter asked about how the Warriors have managed to effectively guard Capela. He highlighted the fact that Draymond is “arguably the best defensive player in the league” largely because of the level of intelligence that he possesses.

“They’re good at it,” D’Antoni replied. “Because Draymond comes to face it, then goes back to Clint. We probably have to go a little bit stronger to the rim and finish.

“They’re smart. They play the in-between game pretty well, and Draymond is arguably the best defensive player in the league. He’s smart.

“There are some things that we can do (to improve), and we’ll see how it goes on Saturday.”

By reducing the lob threat as a relief option for the Rockets, they have been forced to rely heavily on their perimeter playmakers like Harden, Eric Gordon, Chris Paul, and Austin Rivers. The burden has become too great for Houston’s top offensive options because they have been forced to produce great results directly against tough wing defenders like Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Kevin Durant.

Houston’s defense has also experienced problems because of Green. The Rockets have tried to send additional ball pressure to Golden State’s playmakers and the Warriors have countered by having Green set higher ball screens and through utilizing his facilitation abilities. These sequences have often led to easy dunks off lob passes and led to his dynamic teammates being put into comfortable positions to succeed.

It is very rare to find a front-court player that can defend with such versatility as Green, let along one that can pass as well as him too. While he may not the scorer or shooter like Durant, Green, or Thompson, the versatile skill-set that he provides is as close to a perfect complement to them as possible.

There are times when Green seems to be under-appreciated by many, but he has been able to show why he is so valuable to this Warriors team.