Heading into the NBA Finals, one of the big X-Factors for the Golden State Warriors was supposed to be Draymond Green. An All-Defensive team member and the Defensive Player of the Year runner up, Green has been a great offensive playmaker for the Warriors all year offensively, and can legitimately defend one through five,. That, in theory, includes LeBron James. How the Cleveland Cavaliers managed Green seemed like an important factor.
Through three games, though, it's been Tristan Thompson who's been getting lauded for his defensive versatility, Andre Iguodala has been the Warrior who's had the most success defending LeBron, and Green has been mostly forgettable. Shooting 26.7 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from three for the series, Green has been rendered an afterthought on offense and the Warriors have been at their best defensively WITHOUT Green on the floor. He's averaging 5.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game, and while he's registering 2.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, the Warriors have been 31 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor, and their best defensive lineups (usually those featuring an Andre Iguodala/Harrison Barnes forward pairing) have come with Green off the floor.
Green hasn't looked like his usual self in the series, either, to the point that Stephen Curry had to field questions about Green's confidence after Game 3. The usually brash trash talker has been left timid when driving and complaining about calls and no-calls, and his effectiveness has seemed to be extremely limited by the overall physicality of the series. Particularly, it's been fascinating to watch how Thompson and Timofey Mozgov have appeared to short-circuit Green so far in the series.
Green through the first two games shied away from taking threes, as he's not a great 3-point shooter and is better driving to the basket. Last night though, we saw four of Green's 10 field goal attempts come on 3-pointers, and he seemed unwilling to drive to the basket from the second quarter on. One of the main reasons for this has been that the Cavs have done a great job of making sure Green gets contact on every drive. Whether it's Thompson staying with him while guarding him or Mozgov rotating over, here's a sampling of What Green's attempts at the rim have looked like:
Thompson has done a great job of defending Green, staying with him and running him away from the center of the lane, and when Andrew Bogut is in, thanks to his lack of threat as a scorer, Mozgov is free to rotate as he pleases around the interior, and Green has continually run into the Russian wall when he tries to get shots up inside. Because of that, Green began to look more timid in attacking last night, especially when Mozgov was lurking. Here's one where Green had a free PNR roll to the basket, but chose to back off and pass instead:
That timidness left him taking a bunch of threes last night, and when you're trusting Green to be able to take advantage of tiny cracks in the defense by getting to the rim, but he's not trusting himself to get there, it can really disrupt what the Warriors do around him.
Green's also really struggled on the defensive glass, and hasn't been able to stop Tristan Thompson from gathering offensive rebounds like they're Pokemon. Thompson has an astounding 17 offensive rebounds for the series, and he's getting a majority of them when he's matched up with Green, who has the power, but not the athleticism to be able to consistently keep Thompson boxed out. Green's defensive rebound rate in the regular season was 21.8, but that's dipped to 15.8 so far in this series. Thompson's been an animal on the glass, and that's probably also contributing to Draymond's struggles.
The issues on offense and with rebounding have carried over to defense too. Green has spent most of his time guarding Thompson, and because Green has to account for TT on the glass, he can't rotate as freely as he wants to in order to contest shots. He's also not quick enough to be able to guard LeBron consistently without fouling, and since Game 1, hasn't spent much time in that matchup, even when both are at the four. Golden State's really had to adapt their defensive gameplan from what they did in Game 1 because of this, and Green got only 30 minutes after 39 in Game 1 and 43 in Game 2, as the Warriors went with Festus Ezeli and David Lee for extended minutes instead of Green and Bogut (Who's also been a shell of himself).
Green was supposed to be the Warriors' glue guy, someone the Cavs might really struggle to beat defensively and guard offensively. So far, though, they've done a great job at keeping Green from being effective. They're daring Green to attack Mozgov on offense, and he's struggling to play to his potential defensively because Thompson is terrorizing him on the glass and LeBron is beating him off the dribble. If the Cavs win two more games, there will be a lot of reasons why; LeBron's offense, Dellavedova's defense, Curry going cold, etc.; but forcing Green's collapse as a lynchpin of everything Golden State does has been just as big for them in this series so far.