There have been a lot of unexpected occurrences during the NBA Finals. Stephen Curry has looked awful for a good part of three games. The Warriors can’t hit threes for long stretches. Matthew Dellavedova is a thing.
Yet, the most improbable of them all might be Draymond Green appearing to lose confidence. It’s not just that Green’s playing poorly, but rather that he has no confidence in his shot or playmaking abilities. And if Green doesn’t figure out how to contribute more offensively, a comeback by the Warriors is going to be extremely difficult.
Whether it’s the back issue or just a slump, Green doesn’t want to shoot at all. The Cavaliers are playing Curry-Green pick-and-rolls the same way a lot of teams did this season. The two defenders are trapping Curry and completely disregarding Green as a threat.
That has worked perfectly, as Green is just 1-of-8 on three-pointers so far in the Finals. As bad as the 12.5 percent shooting is, the eight attempts might be worse.
The attempts reflect how many open shots Green has passed up during the series. In a series where the other team is completely selling out to stop Curry and Klay Thompson and pretending Green is invisible when he’s on the perimeter, Green is attempting 1.5 less threes a game than he did during the regular season.
Green isn’t an outstanding shooter, but he was good enough during the regular season (33.7 percent from deep) to keep teams honest. Steve Kerr encouraged Green to take the open looks he got. The entire offense is predicated around Green being able to make teams pay from the top of the key when Curry is trapped.
But Green hasn’t done that in the Finals. He’s been incredibly passive, and his decision-making has been awful.
This wasn’t a Curry-Green pick-and-roll, but it’s a play where the defense made the decision to leave Green to help on Andrew Bogut to make sure Curry didn’t have any room.
Green took the ball on the perimeter and could tell the defense was out of position. This wasn’t some scrub defending him; it was Anthony Davis. He was still able to pump fake a pass, drive to the middle and score.
The difference in this series on these types of plays has been Timofey Mozgov at the rim. Mozgov has been benched late in the game in small lineups, but he’s been spectacular when on the floor.
On this next play, Green had a ton of space to work and a full head of steam heading into Mozgov (via YouTube):
Mozgov somehow maintained verticality and shut Green down at the rim. He’s done that almost every time Green has challenged him.
Green’s been at his best this year when the other team has had to scramble to recover against him while he’s been open on the perimeter. This is usually right after a trap on Curry or Thompson, leaving Green to make a quick read against a scrambling defense in a 4-on-3.
Cleveland hasn’t scrambled at all to get back to him. This means Green has to make them pay, and charging headfirst into a Russian wall every time he gets the chance isn’t always the best idea.
Green needs to start shooting more threes to keep the defense honest. Sure, he hasn’t shot well for the playoffs, but Kerr already decided to live with Green threes as a huge part of the offense. It’s a huge part of the Warriors’ counter to teams trapping Curry, and Green can’t abandon all shots now because he’s in a slump.
If Green continues to shoot at such a horrid rate from deep, then he could at least use some kind of in-between game. Mid-range shots are obviously not the most efficient way to go, but with as much space as Cleveland is affording him, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for Green to step into a couple short jumpers early in Game 4 to get his confidence going. He could also take some floaters before Mozgov can recover, although that’s not a shot he’s used much this season.
The Warriors may be able to get away with reducing Green’s minutes some, but David Lee isn’t going to be playing 40 minutes all of a sudden, and Bogut’s been pretty bad all series as well. If Golden State is going to get back in this series, it’ll likely be with a more confident Green making plays for himself and others. And if Green remains gun shy, the Warriors may not have an answer for the Cavaliers trapping pick-and-rolls all series.