Draymond Green is usually multiple inches shorter and tens of pounds lighter than the opponents he bangs with in the post. But his relatively small stature hasn’t stopped the Golden State Warriors from becoming basketball’s top defensive team, or the 6-7, 230-pound forward from emerging as perhaps the leading candidate Defensive Player of the Year.
On-court evidence only matters so much to some, though. There’s a vocal group of league analysts and followers that believes the 46-11 Warriors are ill-equipped to win biggest come playoff time. TNT’s Charles Barkley is among them, and indirectly cites the presence of Green as why Golden State will fail when the stakes are highest.
In response to Barkley’s critique that his team is not “tough enough” and too small to win a title, Green said the Hall-of-Famer’s own lack of postseason credentials renders his assessment is meaningless.
Via Diamong Leung of The Bay Area News Group:
“I think he was shorter than me. You would think he would support me,” said Green, who at 6-foot-7 noted he used to watch tape of Barkley’s playing days to improve himself. “But hey, maybe he thinks I can’t win one (championship) because he ain’t got one. So if he’s the same size, and he can’t win a championship, we’ll see what happens. I’ve got a lot more years to do it than he’s got, you know?
“A guy who’s not a champion can’t talk too much about championships, can he? I’m not sure how much he won anything in his career team-wise. Been to the finals, but… For him to say that – they won’t win because he’s too small – maybe that’s why he didn’t win. Because he was too small.”
The notion that a lack of championships should decide a player’s historical standing in the NBA hierarchy is outdated. We’ve learned time and again that too many ancillary factors – quality of teammates, injuries, general luck – can influence a playoff series to make sweeping judgements of an individual’s quality. Barkley, Karl Malone and John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, and other 1990s luminaries are worthy Hall-of-Famers despite not having won a title – it’s not their fault for having played at a time when the Chicago Bulls juggernaut ruled the league.
Regardless, kudos to Green for sticking up for himself and the Warriors. We’d expect nothing less from a player whom we consider to be among the most physically and mentally tough in the game.
And the statistics – or yes, analytics – not only support that appraisal, but also precisely refute Barkley’s overall decree of Golden State.
Despite a substandard February, Steve Kerr’s team still leads the NBA in defensive rating at 97.7. Lineups featuring the Dubs’ starting frontcourt of Green and Andrew Bogut pull down 78.1 percent of available defensive rebounds, a number that would tie the Indiana Pacers’ second-best overall mark.
Golden State ranks ninth in the league by allowing opponents to shoot just 58.1 percent from the restricted area. The other team shoots a paltry 40.5 percent at the rim against the seven-foot Bogut, and only 48 percent against the diminutive Green – they are one of two pairs of teammates to each rank among basketball’s top-17 players in that category.
Barkley, though, prefers the simple eye-test to using every tool available to glean meaningful analysis. Might that be the reason he’s convinced Golden State’s frontcourt will doom it this spring? Not exactly. Green and Bogut are something close to basketball goons; they grab, hold, snarl, and generally intimidate by most any means possible, and will openly skirt rules and sportsmanship to do it.
Chuck is wrong, basically. And though Green’s response to his critique doesn’t hold water, either, it’s just yet another obvious example of the toughness Barkley believes Dray and his teammates lack.
*Statistical support for this post provided by nba.com/stats.