Draymond Green is coming off of a dominant season with the Warriors. Beyond setting new career highs in a number of categories, he joined Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Grant Hill and John Havlicek as the only players at his position to average at least 13.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. He’s just one of four forwards/centers to record at least 590 assists in a single season, too, which has only been done one other time since 1972.
The reason that matters is because Kevin Durant’s arrival will impact Green’s game in a number of ways. While his shot attempts are expected to dwindle — as will Stephen Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s — his style of play should fit in well with Durant despite there being some skill and positional overlap. Some believe Green’s role will change for the worse because of it, but he could put together better all-around numbers with Durant on the roster by focusing more on what he does best.
To get a better understanding of why that might be the case, let’s look at a few ways Green will thrive next to Durant.
They get their points in different ways
The reason Durant could impact Thompson the most out of the existing core is simple: They’re both perimeter players who are amongst the league’s best at playing without the ball in their hands. Green, on the contrary, is comfortable scoring in areas Durant generally stays away from. He might not get as many shot attempts as he did last season, but Durant won’t necessarily step on his toes when it comes to how he scores his points.
Consider: Over a third of Durant’s shot attempts came out of isolation and as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll last season, according to NBA.com. For Green, those made up just 10 percent of his offense. Green was at his best as the roll man in pick-and-rolls and spotting-up for jump shots, where 32.3 percent of his overall points came from compared to just 16.5 percent for Durant.
|P&R Ball Handler||P&R Roll Man||Isolation||Transition||Spot-Up||Post-Up|
It also sheds some light on how they’ll mesh together on the court. Since Durant is an isolation-heavy scorer, Green’s ability to spot-up as a power forward or center will draw the opposing big man out of the paint — similar to how Serge Ibaka made his mark with the Thunder. The Warriors will be able to alternate between using Green in pick-and-rolls with Curry and Durant. Both will yield similar looks with some of the league’s best shooters spacing the floor by putting their gravity to work.
Durant is basically another Splash Brother
What makes Green special at his position is his court vision. Whether it’s finding an open shooter in transition…
…finding cutters from the post…
…or doing it from the top of the perimeter…
…the Warriors often give Green the ball and make the most of his passing ability by having their shooters run off of screens. That proved to be a deadly combination with just Curry and Thompson in the lineup, and they’re basically getting another Splash Brother by adding Durant to the mix — only one standing at 7-feet tall.
While not quite as efficient as the Splash Brothers, Durant proved to be one of the best shooters out of spot-ups and coming off screens last season when he averaged 1.13 points per spot-up possession (88.1st percentile) and 0.97 points per off-screen possession (58.5th percentile).
Durant brings a lot more to the table than Harrison Barnes did, but the Warriors would be silly not to make the most of his shooting ability by having him play a similar role at times. His knack for dominating without the ball in his hands will also help make a seamless transition for himself and everyone else involved.
Just imagine Golden State’s split-cuts with Curry and Thompson exchanging screens on one side of the court as Durant comes off of a pin down screen from Zaza Pachulia on the other. Green will have a field day as the facilitator in those positions given his ability to make the right read.
Durant covers up Green’s weaknesses
The Thunder were at their best against the Warriors in the playoffs when they went small and played Durant in a role similar to Green’s, which created some doubt over how they would coexist once they became teammates.
The truth is Durant does fill a huge void for the Warriors in that department. One of the areas the Warriors have been lacking is post-up scoring — only four teams converted them at a lower rate (0.80 points per possession) last season. Knowing Green isn’t as comfortable scoring with his back to the basket, teams like the Cavaliers quickly figured out switching could slow down the NBA’s most dominant pick-and-roll combination as long as they had a big quick enough to stick with Curry.
If that were to happen again, the Warriors will be able to unleash Durant in ways they haven’t been able to with Green. While not a volume scorer in the post, Durant likes to slow everything down and post-up his opponent particularly when a guard switches onto him. It proved to be unstoppable when he was in the Thunder — a team that didn’t have the perimeter shooting the Warriors do — so it’ll only become harder to contain within Golden State’s spread offense. It’ll give them another dimension when they get deeper into the shot clock with Durant acting as a safety valve.
Since Durant is comfortable operating as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll as opposed to being the roll man, the Warriors won’t likely put him in those situations as often as they do with Green. Either way, Green will help when they do by pulling the opposing big from the paint. His 1.01 points per spot-up possession ranked in the 67.1 percentile last season, which was greater than Ryan Anderson, Carmelo Anthony and Danny Green.
There really isn’t a positional overlap
Durant has played 68 percent of his career minutes at small forward, according to Basketball Reference, compared to 31 percent at power forward. As for Green, he has played 66 percent of his minutes at power forward compared to 10 percent at center — as well as 22 percent at small forward and two percent at shooting guard because the league had no idea what to make of him coming out of Michigan State.
That could change next season (and almost certainly will once we reach the postseason), but one won’t negate the other. If Durant comes close to spending 50 percent of his minutes at power forward, Green will likely log a greater number of minutes at center. Remember: Green was at his best last season at center with averages of 19.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes, according to Nylon Calculus. He checked out as one of the NBA’s best rim protectors by holding opponents to 46.8 percent shooting at the basket, too, which was a similar rate to Marc Gasol, Hassan Whiteside and DeAndre Jordan.
It’s why many voters made Green their selection for center on the All-NBA First Team despite the fact that he logged 20 percent of his minutes there on the season.
The combination of Durant at power forward and Green at center will make Golden State’s “Death Lineup” even scarier. Putting Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Durant and Green on the court, for example, gives them shooting at every position and ball handlers who can make plays for themselves and others. The three forwards can also switch onto guards on defense and smother them with their length, which will give the league’s best scorers trouble.
There is no doubt it’ll take some sacrifice for everyone to make Golden State’s offense hum like it did last season again. Even little things like Green having the green light to push the ball in transition off of defensive rebounds will be different since Durant can do it just as well — if not better. But rather than minimizing their overall impact, players like Green will be able to focus on their strengths.
Plus, Green has never been a high usage player. His usage rating of 19.5 last season ranked No. 131 in the entire league and No. 27 amongst power forwards. With 71.5 percent of his baskets coming within two seconds of possession, Green has learned how to make snap decisions when he has the ball in his hands.
It’s also easy to forget how effective Green is in that role. Golden State’s offensive rating dropped by 13.9 points per 100 possessions when he took a seat on the bench last season, which was basically the difference between the Warriors at the top of the leaderboard and the Suns at the bottom.
No matter how you look at it, Green’s ability to shoot, pass, protect the rim and switch onto guards at his position is incredibly unique. Durant’s presence shouldn’t impact that negatively as much as it should make Green’s tools more valuable.