There is a tension at the heart of the Warriors’ offense. Movement is fundamental to its design. If Steve Kerr had his way, every possession would be a cyclone—a swirl of shooters forever moving the ball and themselves. It’s through the pull of Stephen Curry that the chaos of that style assumes a natural order. When an entire system is built around the flight of the most dangerous shooter in NBA history, the defense is left with little choice but to chase him. From that need comes endless possibility.
The goal of every opponent is to tear the Warriors from that flow. They overplay on the perimeter, stalling passes by sparking a flicker of doubt. When Curry or Klay Thompson curl toward the ball, they fight through bumps and holds that disrupt their timing. Some, like, the Rockets, will switch on every screen as a means of keeping as many threats covered as possible—even at the risk of creating mismatches in the process.
Enter Durant, and with him, the tension. Durant’s height makes him uniquely punishing for mismatched opponents; he is never more than a few dribbles away from a clean look over the top of his defender. This gives Golden State a way out of any jam, but also a way out of its offense. The most pragmatic approach often functions as a departure from what the Warriors do best.
Golden State’s superstars are not, themselves, at odds—only the ideologies they represent. Between the push and pull of those dual modes is a resolution best embodied through another Warrior: Draymond Green.
Green is the reason the Warriors don’t have to pick and choose. It may seem as though Golden State—even while blowing out opponents—teeters between approaches. There are the Curry Warriors, freewheeling and explosive, and there are the Durant Warriors, deliberate and overwhelming. Green is the fulcrum between them. His playmaking is a reminder that what shapes the Warriors is not a matter of philosophy, but calibration.
It was through Green that Curry worked himself back into a rhythm in Game 3. Before erupting with a 26-point second half, Curry made his work on back cuts while Green quarterbacked the play:
“When you have a guy whose eyes are surveying the floor, knowing where our advantages are, it’s always a confidence builder,” Curry said (via The Mercury News). Green has a gift for quickly diagnosing and understanding those advantages. Sometimes that involves reading from the top of the floor as Curry dekes overly aggressive defenders. On other possessions, Green will reroute an action in progress to get the ball to Durant in a position of advantage.
What makes the Warriors so frustrating to play against is the ease with which they can pivot. Overplay the three-point line, and Curry darts backdoor. Switch to keep him in check, and Durant will use that scheme as his own weapon. Commit anything more than a single defender to Durant, and Golden State will move the ball through Green and Andre Iguodala to find the open man.
What are the Warriors, after all, if not a living embodiment of having your cake and eating it, too? Green is the delivery system—the fork, as it were—that makes their delightful gluttony possible. He’s the reason why, in the most practical terms, Golden State can run its best scorers off the ball simultaneously to wreak havoc and manipulate matchups. Green is both the catalyst behind the Warriors’ most dominant runs and the anchor who best understands how to center their offense when it veers off course.
Green pulled down 15 defensive rebounds in Game 3 and pushed the pace relentlessly. From those pushes came layups for Durant and Thompson along with open looks for Curry—all because the big leading the break isn’t some novelty act, but a first-class playmaker at the heart of everything the Warriors do.
Dig deeper and you’ll find that Green is often in position to get those rebounds because the Rockets, in their own mismatch hunting, don’t dare to challenge him. So stout is Green’s defense that Houston aims to keep him away from their primary action whenever possible. Often that positions Green to mind the middle for rebounds, whether by putting a body on Clint Capela or darting in from the perimeter. Once he collects the miss, Golden State launches into the break. It’s defense as offense through the subtlest deterrence—all in a way that feels characteristic to how this team plays.
Simply, the Warriors are only the Warriors when Green is involved. That isn’t to say that they won’t post Durant, but rather that Green offers them the flexibility to do so in the most productive fashion possible. He jump-starts enough offense on the break to keep the isolations in moderation. His ability to locate shooters and cutters prevents opponents from doubling Durant, even when they ought to. Most important in all of Curry and Durant’s on-court contributions is the way that they alleviate pressure on the rest of the offense. Green connects their influences, elevating the entire operation beyond the superstar binary.