How Draymond Green’s playmaking has helped power Steph Curry’s MVP-caliber season

Peninsula Premier Admin

Late in the second quarter of the Warriors’ 129-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Chase Center Monday night, Draymond Green dribbled into a handoff to Stephen Curry then surprised Curry’s defender with a screen to set up a clean 3-pointer.

Having spent the better part of this season blanketed by defenders, Curry swished the shot, grinned and high-fived Green before running back on defense. Curry has benefited from Green’s playmaking for nearly a decade, but their two-man game has never been more important than during this season. This dance has come to embody the Warriors’ identity.

“What’s fun is their innovation,” head coach Steve Kerr said of Green and Curry. “It’s like sandlot football. They just draw up a play in the dirt and figure out a way to get a guy open.”

With Klay Thompson sidelined for the second straight season with an Achilles injury and the team working in new players such as Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and James Wiseman, the Warriors are counting on MVP-caliber production from Curry. Green’s ability to make things easier for Curry is an important factor in that. Now the two are feeding off each other as they enjoy one of the best stretches of their careers.

Curry has taken a torch to his scoring numbers. He’s averaging 37.3 points in February, shooting 59.2% from the field and 50.6% from 3-point range, making at least half of his shots in a career-best streak of 10 straight games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Curry is the first guard since Michael Jordan (1995-96) to score at least 25 points while shooting at least 50% from the field in 10 consecutive games.

Meanwhile Green, playing center while Kevon Looney (left ankle sprain) and Wiseman (left wrist sprain) are sidelined, has tallied 15, 15, 10, 11, 11, eight and 16 assists in the last six games. His 16 against the Cavaliers Monday is tied for a career high. Green, who usually hovers around seven assists per game for his career, is leading the league with 93 assists for the month of February.

“I think this team is built for him to handle the ball,” Kerr said, adding Green is in the best shape of his season. “Playing center opens up the floor for him too, so when he’s the center and handling the ball it completely changes the chessboard.”

Without a traditional 7-footer to clog up the lane, Green is surrounded by four shooters at all times. His patience and anticipation is unmatched as he stands at the top of the key and surveys the floor, timing an array of bounce passes, one-armed bullets and lobs to spring teammates open.

Curry has been the primary beneficiary — 76 of his makes have been assisted by Green this season. But with so much attention being paid to Curry and Green’s two-man game, it’s allowed supporting players to slip open for drives and open jumpers.

Wiggins is shooting career highs from the floor (46.6%) and beyond the arc (36.9%) as more than half his shots have come with a defender more than 4 feet away, according to’s tracking data. Forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, starting in place of a traditional center, is establishing himself as a core part of the rotation by exploiting Curry’s gravity. When defenders overload on Curry, Toscano-Anderson is adept at diving to the rim, where Green can find him with a pinpoint pass.

“He is on a different level when it comes to IQ,” Toscano-Anderson said of Green. “Sometimes he will throw me a pass before I am even there … He sees those plays before anyone else does.”

Though Green’s own scoring numbers are down, it’s not limiting his impact on offense. Not since his rookie season has Green averaged fewer points (5.2), attempts (5.4) or shot a worse percentage (36.2), yet the Warriors’ offense is scoring 10.4 points per 100 possessions more when Green is on the court in any capacity.

Green playing center has been even more effective. The Warriors have the 20th-ranked offense in the league but, with Green at center, their offensive rating lifts to 124.3, per Cleaning The Glass. That would top the NBA by a wide margin (the Milwaukee Bucks are currently first with an offensive rating of 118.8).

Those lineups do give up quite a bit on defense and don’t rebound especially well, but it provides the toughest matchup for opponents. Green has been so effective as a point center that Kerr expects to find minutes for him even when the injured big men return.

“This is only going to go on for another couple of games whenever James and Kevon are back and we go back to playing big,” Kerr said, “but we’ll find some spots within the game to play small as well.”

Finding those spots could be as simple going small for the final few minutes of each half, as Kerr did during the Finals years. It could also come at an expense to Eric Paschall, who thrived earlier in the season as a small-ball center on the second unit but hasn’t been as impactful in recent weeks.

However the Warriors do it, ensuring that Green and Curry are in positions to succeed will be key in their playoff push.

“He’s picking teams apart and obviously playing at the five has helped as well,” Curry said of Green. “So we’ll try to maintain that.”

Contributed by local news sources

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