Even with the Golden State Warriors having cooled off slightly in recent weeks, the team is still an absurd 35-2.
Though they’re still the best team in basketball, sporting the best record, best offense, and fourth-best defense, they’ve been slowed marginally by injuries.
Stephen Curry has had to sit out some games (including their second loss of the season) and has been dealing with a shin contusion that may take weeks to heal.
Now the Warriors are facing another injury to a key player, and it may be a bigger problem than Curry’s injury.
According to Marcus Thompson of the San Jose Mercury News, Draymond Green has been battling “discomfort in both lower extremities” and often sits out fourth quarters with his legs completely wrapped in ice. Thompson says that Green is bound to have to sit some games, much like Curry did, despite his resistance to it.
While Curry is indisputably the Warriors’ best player, Green might be the most important. He’s putting up mind-boggling stats this year: 15 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and one block per game, with 47.5% shooting, 42% from three. With Green on the court, the Warriors are outscoring teams by 21 points per 100 possessions, best on the team behind Curry.
But Green’s importance goes beyond stats; he’s the linchpin to what makes the Warriors so versatile. At 6-foot-6, Green has the strength to play center, despite being undersized. Whether he’s playing the four or the five, he spreads the court with his shooting, and makes slower opponents pay by breaking down the defense and setting up open shots for his teammates. Even with Curry and Klay Thompson’s lethal shooting, he’s the key to the Warriors’ deadly small-ball lineup.
Without him, the Warriors are suddenly a less versatile team. There’s no doubt that when healthy, the Warriors have the talent to survive with a more traditional makeup with actual big men manning the fourt and five positions. The question is how the Warriors will fair without being able to go to some of their more radical lineups in Green’s absence. They could play small-ball with a real center on the court, but again, it’s Green’s multi-positional skills that make that lineup so deadly. Even if he’s paired next to a big man like Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli, Green’s versatility still brings a different dimension to the Warriors on both ends.
As Thompson notes, finding time to rest Green might be difficult. The Warriors face three easier teams in the Nuggets, Lakers, and Pistons before a second Finals rematch with the Cavaliers on Monday. However, the Nuggets have proven a tough outing for the Warriors this season, Green may cherish another game with Kobe Bryant against the Lakers, and Thompson says Green won’t sit out when they visit Detroit, as Green is born and raised in Michigan. He certainly won’t miss the Cavs game.
Green will have to make a sacrifice somewhere along the line to get much-needed rest, and the Warriors will get to see what they look like without one of the NBA’s most unique players.