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Draymond Green’s Leap Into Stardom Is Worth Watching

Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry gets and deserves the most credit for the Warriors’ “Oh dear God; they’re better!” start to the 2015-16 NBA season. He’s the guy drilling the impossible shots and bending defenses’ spines beyond the point of chiropractic help.

But the prime beneficiary of Curry’s scheme-destroying genius — and the guy taking, by far, the most advantage of it — is Draymond Green.

Here’s something to know about Green or, more accurately, something to know about explaining him: Up until now, you were invariably left at a loss in conveying why he’s so good to those who hadn’t seen him play. You had to fall back on the tired “trust me, just watch him” or the even lamer “if you don’t realize how important he is, you’re not actually paying attention.” I’ve certainly been guilty of both.

Because it was hard to laud a guy for taking a half step to his left in anticipation of a necessary help rotation that nobody else on the court sensed. And pointing out how a power forward who can push the ball from basket to basket in transition (even if nothing comes of the play) is tricky. Saying Green was great at boxing out wasn’t a good selling point.

At least that’s how it used to be. Where Green’s brilliance was once a study in nuance revealed through close viewing, it’s now clock-you-in-the-face conspicuous.

It’s easy to pull up highlights showing the way his passing eye has evolved beyond the point of merely being good for a forward. You can sit someone down in front of a Green YouTube playlist — even someone who’s seen just a few minutes of actual Warriors game footage this season — and wait confidently for them to say something along the lines of “Holy s–t, what a pass!”

For the Warriors, it had to be this way. As teams gradually realized Curry had to be attacked with two defenders in high pick-and-rolls, Green, often the screener, became the easy outlet valve. And while it took him some time to get comfortable with the shoot-pass-drive decision tree that presented itself in the resulting 4-on-3 situations (if we can even say a year or so is “some time”), he has now mastered the practice.

You want dead-eye, decisive shooting from deep when no help defender rushes him? Cool, Green’s hitting a career-best 40.4 percent of his treys through his first 12 games.

You want a forceful, head-on drive to the hole when rotations are slow to shut down the lane? Not a problem. He’s converting 63.5 percent of his shots from 0-3 feet for his career (though he’s at just 50 percent so far this year, so at least he has something to work on).

Pinpoint dimes to the corners? Check. Feathery lobs of the Blake-to-DeAndre variety? Yeah, he’s got those, too:

And digest for a second that this is a power forward barreling into the middle from 25 feet out, making split-second reads and finding teammates or finishing. Power forwards don’t do this, 6’6″ power forwards who anchor the league’s best five-man unit as a center don’t do this, and power forwards whose principal value is actually on defense definitely have no business even trying any of this.

He’s averaging 12.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 34.0 minutes per game this season. Only four players in the entire league have more total assists than Green’s 83.

Green has grown into a fulcrum for the NBA’s best offense while also rating as one of the absolute best defensive players in the league. He capably battles 7-footers in the paint, doing it well enough in last year’s playoffs to help the Dubs to a title. And he has no problem switching out onto the quickest guards.

And as much as Green’s on-court bravado fuels the Warriors (oh yeah, he’s the emotional leader of the team, too), he doesn’t operate like a diva (via Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press):

“I play with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes knocking down shots,” Green said. “Andre (Iguodala), (Andrew) Bogut in the middle. Festus (Ezeli) getting all them dunks. They make shots. I think I’ve been playing more as a playmaker this year, but they still knocking down shots. I can throw all the good passes I want, but if they don’t make shots, it’s not an assist. You got to attribute that to my teammates.”

Build the perfect, do-it-all, positionless hybrid winner in a lab and you’ve got Green, who’ll be an All-Star this year for the first time — book it.

Yes, it’s Curry who makes all of Green’s offensive growth possible. But Green’s the guy out there executing, adding new dimensions to an offense that already had too many facets to be fair.

And if you don’t appreciate how great this two-way star is, well, you’re not watching.

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