Draymond Green attacks defense with an effort matched by few. It’s why he can switch onto quicker guards without missing a step. It’s why he can box out bigger men like Dwight Howard despite his 6’7 frame.
He wants it more, and it’s why he’s heralded as one of the best defenders the NBA has to offer. It also explains why he so badly wanted to win Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17. Thanks to the NBA voters, that goal is now a reality.
“I’m trying to make it to a point this year where it’ll be hard to deny me that award, that’s my focus, that’s what I’m gonna try to do,” said Green on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski in November. “I’m not a selfish guy when it comes to awards or stats, I really could care less. This is one thing I’m really selfish about. I wanna win that Defensive Player of the Year award bad.”
He sure stated his case with two incredible defensive plays late to seal Golden State’s 105-100 win over Atlanta early in the season.
Protecting a four-point lead with under a minute left, Green found himself on the perimeter checking Hawks speedster Dennis Schröder. Green gave up the baseline and quickly recovered before denying Schröder at the rim.
Out of bounds, Warriors ball.
On the ensuing possession, Golden State was still up four and Atlanta entered desperation mode with just 20 seconds left. Kent Bazemore beat Stephen Curry off the dribble, but Green stepped over to contest and block the layup.
Out of bounds, Warriors ball.
.@Money23Green coming up HUGE on defense down the stretch tonight. pic.twitter.com/J7tqbsvPtw— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) November 29, 2016
Green isn’t the most athletically gifted player in the NBA. He’s not jumping out of the gym, nor is he checking speedy guards in a foot race. But Green’s desire to shut his opponent down on a nightly basis is the backbone of his team’s third trip to the NBA Finals in as many years.
“The thing about defense is you have to want it. I’ve talked about that my whole career, and it’s very few guys who want it defensively,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said after the win over Atlanta. “It’s not any tricks or anything special to it, you just gotta want it. And you’ve got a guy (Draymond) that really wants it, puts his heart and passion into it, and he’s very smart. It’s gonna take him a long way, and he’ll have a few Defensive Player of the Year (awards).”
He’s always been this good a defender and has consecutive DPOY runners-up to prove it. But Green admitted to being fueled by something extra: he was ticked at criticism of his Warriors defense. In order to land Kevin Durant in free agency, Golden State had to part ways with Andrew Bogut, who played an integral part of their defensive schemes.
"The world says we traded our defense away when we got KD," Green said after blocking four shots against Atlanta, via ESPN. “I disagree. So, I think our defense actually has the upside to be better with the length and everything that we have, the speed, the athleticism. That pissed me off more than anything, that it's kind of like, 'Yeah, their defense is going to suck now.' I take that personally. So that pushes me more than anything else."
Green wants the Defensive Player of the Year award, an accolade Leonard has edged him out for in each of the past two seasons. He acknowledged Leonard is one helluva defender, but this year, Draymond Green finally took home the trophy.
And the Warriors were better for it.
This was originally published on November 29.