Draymond Green is headed back to a final four.
This time, it's as a key cog of one of the most exciting NBA teams in a long time, and a team that's an astounding 75-17 in 92 total games played this year. The Warriors are winning games at a historic rate, and Draymond, a former 2nd round pick and someone who was mocked by Bill Simmons for taking a crunch time three in a playoff game just two years ago, is a huge reason why.
Draymond Green taking a 3 in the 4th quarter of a road playoff game = high comedy. That's my new favorite moment of the playoffs.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 24, 2013
To be fair to our dear friend Bill, shooting from the perimeter is about the only thing that Draymond isn't doing well at the moment. In the last 3 games, all Warriors victories, Green is shooting 4/18 from distance, equating to a paltry 22%. In the last two games, Draymond is just 1/10.
Still, Steve Kerr isn't relying on Draymond to be a three point shooter. If he's hitting them, it's merely a bonus, and even if he's cold, opponents still have to respect the fact that he can and will shoot from deep. This allows the Warriors to have the floor spacing that is of course such a key part of their success.
It also helps when your best player is doing things like this:
That was the turning point of the clinching Game 6 for Golden State, and now they get set to take on the Houston Rockets, a team fresh off one of the most improbable 3-1 series comebacks in NBA history. If you're a long-suffering Los Angeles Clippers fan, it's by far the most heartbreaking.
Having just survived against of the best power forward-center tandems in the NBA in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, Golden State now has to figure out how to deal with Dwight Howard, one of the hottest players in the league in Josh Smith, and a guy in Terrence Jones who's averaging over 11 points a game off the bench for Houston throughout this postseason.
While the Warriors are battle-tested having just dealt with Gasol-Randolph, the Rockets tandem of Smith and Howard presents a much different challenge than the Gasol-Randolph duo did.
Like we saw for a large portion of the Conference Semi's against Gasol and Randolph, expect to see a ton of doubles down low against Dwight Howard in the Conference Finals. At times, Steve Kerr elected to leave Draymond alone against Marc Gasol, which provided mixed results for the Warriors. For the most part, Draymond held his own, and at the very least made Gasol exert energy and forced him into tough makes.
Against the Rockets, I wouldn't expect to see Draymond matched up against Dwight alone, unless he's forced to on a switch or comes over to help. Draymond, as tough as he is in the paint and as much as held his own against Gasol and Randolph, just gives up too much in size to be expected to defend Howard by himself without disastrous results for the Warriors.
Leaving Andrew Bogut alone on Dwight also is not favorable for Golden State, so again, expect to see plenty of double teams. The sudden emergence of David Lee as a once-again viable NBA playoff option aides the Warriors in this regard, as he has fouls to use and can spell Draymond and Bogut. Of course, Steve Kerr will also throw Festus Ezeli at Dwight as a fresh body and to use up fouls, if nothing else.
On the other hand, the Warriors should feel plenty comfortable in allowing to Draymond to guard Josh Smith 1 on 1, as while Draymond gives up some length to the scapegoat of the 2013-14 Detroit Pistons, he has the quickness to stay with him on the perimeter and strength inside to not allow Smith to be completely dominant in the paint. While Smith is a tough matchup for anyone when he's actually playing to his strengths, Green has a good enough skill-set defensively for Steve Kerr to feel okay about that matchup.
Also, and potentially of benefit to the Warriors, Josh Smith's tendency to develop irrational confidence with every outside shot that he hits is well-documented. If you're Josh Smith, at what other time in your career would you have more confidence than you do at this moment? Rockets head coach Kevin McHale has given Smith the green light to shoot from outside for floor spacing reasons, and to this point it hasn't really hurt the Rockets. I'd expect the Warriors' defense to reflect the fact that they're not all that concerned about Smith beating them from deep.
Offensively, Draymond just has to continue what he's been doing. Make good passes, set good screens, continue to run the floor well and handle the ball when needed. As mentioned above, perimeter shots being made from Draymond at an efficient rate are just a bonus and not needed for the Warriors to be successful, especially with Harrison Barnes playing as well as he is right now and the way that Andre Iguodala shot the ball from distance against the Grizzlies.
We'll get our first look at Warriors-Rockets on Tuesday night for Game 1, as the series opens up at what should be a deafening Oracle Arena.