There is an old saying in basketball, and it goes, “offense wins games, defense wins championships,” and so far, that seems to be a universal truth versus a catchy basketball proverb from the historians of the game. Still, when we look at how the league measures its players’ value, defense is not the priority, as you can get twice the amount of money as a shooter than you can as a lockdown defender. If we look at the regular season awards that we give out at the end of each year, there is one award for defense while every other individual honor focuses on the other side of the ball.
Even when defense supposedly wins championships, the first stat announced when detailing the series averages of the NBA Finals MVP is always points, and rarely is there a mention of how many steals or blocks the Finals MVP averaged en route to the championship.
If defense wins championships, and championships won are the main criteria by which we measure greatness, then why is it not highlighted more in the league? If the defensive side of the ball is so critical to success in the NBA, then why don’t defensive-minded players make it to the headlines as often as the flashy scorers of the NBA? Honestly, does the league value defense? Or is it just something said in NBA basketball as a catchy sound bite for the league’s most successful teams?
“Defense never goes viral because half the people don’t know what the hell they’re looking at,” Draymond Green said following a win against the Clippers. “It’s easy to say, ‘This guy made a shot. He got hot.’ We all can f—–g see that. So can my kids.”
Perhaps Draymond makes a good point here, as the affinity towards offensive players is simpler to recognize because you see the ball go in the hoop, and you immediately know that a player added points on the board. We look at how a made basket increases the number on the scoreboard, and subconsciously we view basketball as a game where the team that puts more points on the board wins the game.
However, this is not rocket science – a made basket causes the scoreboard to move, but a missed one doesn’t, making one more valuable than another. This way of watching and analyzing the game is precisely why the NBA never markets its defensive stoppers, while over the years working to make scoring easier for smaller and more relatable NBA guards. Again, the preference towards offense is no surprise to anyone, but why is Draymond only bringing this up now?
The Golden State Warriors have dominated the league for the better part of the last decade, winning three championships and posting the best regular-season record in NBA history at 73-9. During the glory years, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant got almost all the praise, with some of the credit spilling over to genius head coach Steve Kerr.
However, in the years that the Warriors struggled, Draymond has been the scapegoat for the media to lash out on. The media were quick to point out his dwindling offensive arsenal as one of the main reasons for Golden State’s struggles. What the media failed to talk about as often is Green’s superb leadership and communication on the defensive end, which has been just as critical to the Warriors’ recent success.
Even today, when we talk about the Golden State Warriors, it’s all about Steph Curry and the emergence of young talents such as Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II. We also talk about the impending return of Klay Thompson and James Wiseman but seem to take Draymond’s contributions for granted because what he does to contribute to winning are all the little things that no one else can and will do for a team.
Draymond keeps the Warriors connected on both ends of the floor, shouting coverages, so teammates know where to be on defensive rotations while playing excellent individual defense without fouling. On the offensive end, he works tirelessly to get his teammates open shots through screens or great assists off of “read and react” situations born out of his relentless will to keep his teammates moving without the ball. None of this shows up on the stat sheet, so none of this ever makes it to news headlines or barbershop conversations amongst NBA fans.
Stephen Curry is the clear favorite to win league MVP this season, and rightfully so, but fans should not make the mistake of thinking that Curry is carrying the team on his shoulders with a set of average role players. The Warriors are not a winning team without Steph, but without the Draymond, they would be just as lost.
Basketball is not purely about putting points on the board, and fans know that, but actions speak louder than words. Right now, we are taking guys like Draymond Green for granted. Green is the heart and soul of this Warriors team and has been for the past few years. He is what makes Golden State a championship contender because of how excellent he is in his role.
We know Draymond doesn’t care if his defensive genius goes viral, but maybe it should because guys like Green make the NBA fun to watch in an era where we see players jacking up three-point shots almost every time down the floor. What Draymond Green does on the basketball court makes the game exciting, not the barrage of three-pointers, unless you’re only watching NBA highlights and not full games.