How Warriors’ Draymond Green Makes The Lineup Deadly

Draymond Green told reporters after Sunday’s practice at Chase Center that he didn’t want to get caught up in The Lineup hype just yet. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr had only used the small-ball formation of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Green for about five minutes in Game 1.

But after another offensive outburst from that group in Game 2, Kerr’s experiment is starting to pay off. And the discoveries were deadly.

“You’ve got playmakers, you’ve got scorers, you’ve got guys who can defend,” Green said. “It’s a great mix.”

Through two playoff games, The Lineup is plus-29 in just 11 minutes overall, with an offensive rating of 204.3 and a net rating of 129.3. The highest net of the NBA’s top five teams in the regular season in 10 minutes together was 90.3. The roster ranks first in offensive rating (204.3), net rating (129.3) and assist ratio (29.4), and second in defensive rating (86.2), out of all combination of five players to play more than 10 minutes this playoffs on all teams. , according to It tops the next two best formations in net ranking by more than 82 dots.

A three-headed attack from Curry, Thompson and Poole is obviously formidable. Wiggins has returned to the efficient play that made him an All-Star this season in recent weeks. But part of what makes this group so effective on both ends is green.

“What makes him great is his competitiveness,” Kerr said. “He’s obviously incredibly smart. He’s a skilled passer and he’s never going to be one of the most skilled offensive players in the league. But he’s as competitive as anyone I’ve seen and as smart as anyone I’ve seen. It’s a very good combination when you play in the playoffs.

Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green against the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference 1st Round Playoff Series at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 18, 2022.

Scott Strazzante / The Chronicle

The momentum Green built in the final weeks of the regular season carried over into the playoffs. He has always been the type of player who sets the pace by involving others. When he’s on the court with Curry, Thompson, Poole and Wiggins, he’s like a kid in a candy store.

Green, Curry and Thompson know each other’s games from years of experience together. Green knows where Curry and Thompson’s spots are. He knows how to put them in the best position to score, how to use dribbling transfers and screen defenders to open them up. Wiggins can be effective as a cutter or point shooter, which gives Green another outlet for buckets in The Lineup. And now that Poole has developed off-ball scoring habits and movements similar to Curry, the offense is flowing naturally.

“Jordan is doing the same thing as Steph and it’s tough,” Green said. “You’re going to plan a game for Steph and you’re going to plan a game for Klay, but now you have to plan a game for Jordan. It’s a different beast. You trick Steph. OK. Well, if you trap Steph and you also have Jordan on the ground, it’s hard to trap two guys. You swing the ball to the second side, and you know, a big one is going to come back, like it’s hard.

Because of their mastery of team concepts, Kerr doesn’t even have to call plays with those five on the court.

“It’s a smuggler’s paradise for me,” Green said. “You have Steph and Klay – I mean Steph and Jordan, they roam differently than Klay. Theirs is smoother. You need to keep an eye out for them as they move everywhere.

“Klay is different. He won’t wander off when it’s time for him to get to a spot for a shot. With these two guys, it’s different to read Klay. But nevertheless, you have these three guys there at the same time and with me as the setter, for me, it’s heaven. Then the only “weak” shooter out there around me with this group is (Wiggins) and I think he’s shooting like 37% on three or something. For me, you can’t ask for anything more on the attacking side or more options than that.

When the Warriors get small with Green at 5, they can take advantage of teams with bigger, less mobile centers, as we’ve seen so far in this series with the Nuggets and Nikola Jokić. Because Green likes to distribute the ball and set up screens to open up his teammates, it forces a Jokić away from the paint and out on the perimeter. When Kevon Looney is in the game, defenders can sag a bit as he is not a threat to shoot the ball deep. Although Green is a 31.5 percent 3-point shooter for his career, he can make streaks from distance, so opponents have to respect him.

This creates wide open traffic lanes for Curry, Thompson, Poole and Wiggins. In the Warriors’ first two playoff games against Denver with The Lineup on the ground, all they have to do is beat their dribble man for an easy layup. If the defense turns in time, then it’s just a drive-and-kick until someone can get to the edge or get wide open beyond the arc for three.

“Just do what (we) do,” Kerr said. “Draymond in the top pick and the floor is out. And once the ball is in motion, it’s drives and kicks. So it’s more about concepts than games, but we’ll call one on a dead ball maybe just to change it up. But not very often.

It all hinges on Green performing at his peak, a prospect that seemed in doubt as recently as last month.

Draymond Green (23) shakes a fan's fist before the Golden State Warriors take on the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs first round at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 18 2022.

Draymond Green (23) shakes a fan’s fist before the Golden State Warriors take on the Denver Nuggets in Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs first round at Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 18 2022.

Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

After Green missed 29 games with a lower back injury – the longest missed streak of his career – it was unclear how long it would take the 34-year-old to return to his usual form. During a four-game losing streak at the end of March, Green said the Warriors were “definitely worse” with him on the floor.

Green seemed to turn the page against Phoenix and Utah at the end of the regular season. He again passed the ball with precision, breaking the glass, finishing on the edge and crushing his opponents with his physical game. He didn’t rest with the other veterans throughout the regular season because he needed reps. And if you ask Green, he’ll tell you he saved the best for last.

“I feel like two of my best games since coming back (were) at New Orleans and San Antonio,” Green said of his play in the last two regular season games – a final one. tune-up for the playoffs while helping clinch the Western Conference No. 3 seeds. “I just started to turn that corner and feel like myself again.”

Now the Warriors offense is rolling. And none of that works as well without Green on the court.

CJ Holmes covers the Warriors for The San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @CjHolmes22

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