The Golden State Warriors are so much better, in the regular season, when Draymond Green is hitting 3.
Draymond Green is such an interesting player to talk about. There are plenty of NBA fans who think his stardom is insane, considering his relatively low scoring totals throughout the Golden State Warriors’ ascension to becoming a dynasty.
There are just as many fans, however who understand that Green is secretly greatly important to Golden State. Without Draymond being able to defend centers and guards alike while being the team’s lead passer starting back in 2014-15, there is no Dubs dynasty now.
In addition to those two skills, which haven’t really wavered since 2014, Green can shoot the ball. Well, sometimes he can. Draymond was a capable 3-point shooter in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 NBA regular seasons, connecting on a combined 35.9 percent from deep those years.
Draymond being a weapon from 3-point line is what made the so-called “Lineup of Death”, featuring Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Harrison Barnes, so devastatingly good. During the 2014-15 regular season, the Lineup of Death beat teams by 21.8 points per 100 possessions, which seems like a mammoth number until you check the next season’s. The 2015-16 Lineup of Death massacred the opposition by an incredible 47.0 points per 100 possessions.
That lineup of course has not appeared together since the 2016 NBA Finals, as Barnes left and the team added Kevin Durant. Like every other Warrior, Draymond has been somewhat less vital since Durant joined the team.
The new version of the Lineup of Death, the Hamptons 5, is unsurprisingly still very good. In Durant’s first year on the team, it outscored opponents by 23.9 points per 100 possessions. This regular season it was somewhat less effective, as the Warriors were just 8.4 points per 100 possessions better than other teams with the Hamptons 5 on the floor.
Lots of factors could be used to explain why Golden State’s small-ball squad was less effective this past regular season. Iguodala basically coasting all year until the playoffs is a big one to be sure. General exhaustion on the part of Golden State could be cited as well.
It’s no coincidence, though, that the worst year for the Warriors’ super lineup happened while Draymond Green was struggling mightily to hit 3-point shots. Green shot 30.1 percent from 3 this year, his worst mark since his first season. It’s likely also not coincidental that Draymond’s best shooting season of the last four was 2015-16, when Golden State’s Lineup of Death was at its absolute peak.
If the 2014-15 Lineup of Death and the 2016-17 Hamptons 5 combined their margins of outscoring opponents, it still wouldn’t be as high as the 2015-16 Lineup of Death’s. Curry had his best regular season (and one of the best seasons by any player, ever) that year as well, which obviously matters.
Still, the whole point of the Warriors’ top lineups is that they succeed because everybody is a threat. There’s nowhere to help off of, meaning either Curry cooks whoever is defending him or he finds an open player who can get an easy bucket. It’s demoralizing trying to stop them. Just ask the Cavs about it.
Other teams being able to help off of Draymond, and him missing the shots he does take from deep, make it more possible to contain that group. It’s still incredibly difficult, especially since KD arrived, but it becomes more feasible.
The reason “in the regular season” has been so carefully stressed thus far is that everything above applies only to the regular season. Draymond Green’s shooting really matters to how well Golden State, and their best lineups, do in the regular season. In the playoffs, it becomes less consequential.
Steve Kerr, more than almost any other coach, strives to foster an environment where everybody feels involved. The ball zips around and players are encouraged to shoot in Golden State. The NBA Playoffs do not completely erase that philosophy, as evidenced by the infamous Quinn Cook shot, but playoff basketball is just different.
Great team chemistry and deep benches aren’t nearly as helpful in the playoffs. The 2017-18 Toronto Raptors were the East’s best team all year, because their bench was so effective. None of that mattered when LeBron James and the Cavs showed up and swept them in the postseason.
Star players need to emerge for teams to win when the stakes are highest. Role players always matter, but the top tier talent bends everything else to its will. With Steph Curry and Kevin Durant around, that swings the pendulum towards Golden State pretty much always.
The Warriors have always had less assists per game in the postseason than they did in the accompanying regular season in the Kerr era. Draymond’s shooting, which seemed so important in the regular seasons, has no correlation to the Dubs’ top lineups in the postseason.
The Lineup of Death was plus 15.7 per 100 possessions in 2014-15 and minus 5.3 in 2015-16. Green shot 26.4 percent from deep and 36.5 percent from deep, respectively, in those seasons.
Meanwhile, the Hamptons 5 has blitzed teams in both of its postseasons, outscoring them by 32.9 points and 24.8 points per 100 possessions in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively. Draymond shot 41.0 percent and 26.6 percent in those two playoff runs.
His best shooting postseason saw the Lineup of Death get outscored and the Warriors lose in the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, Draymond’s worst year in that run saw Golden State murder other teams (and battle with the Houston Rockets) and sweep Cleveland in the Finals.
It’s become a cliche, but it’s true: the NBA Playoffs are a different game than the regular season. The Golden State Warriors, very much aware of that, added Kevin Durant to tip the postseason scales in their favor in any series. That tactic may have turned public opinion squarely against Golden State, but the results are unquestionable.
It could be argued that Draymond’s shooting numbers vary depending on how the team’s best lineups do, and not vice versa. Maybe that’s true. Either way, it seems apparent that the link dissolves in the playoffs, when games often come down to Curry or Durant ending a team’s hopes with a dagger three.
It should be stated that Green is still very, very important to the Warriors in the playoffs even if his accuracy from deep isn’t as much of a factor. Shooting aside, his ball movement and defensive versatility and skill help the team out in every single series. The Warriors aren’t the Warriors without Draymond Green, whether KD is there or not.