NBA

NBA Playoffs: Why Draymond Green is the Key to the Warriors’ Title Defense, and how it got That Way

Golden State Warriors' defensive stalwart Draymond Green played heavier for most of the regular season, but he shed more than 20 pounds before the playoffs.

The Golden State Warriors are going for their fourth championship in the past five seasons this year, including their third straight. If the Warriors do complete the three-peat, then Draymond Green will have a big role in the team continuing its winning ways. That might sound absurd considering the Warriors have elite players such as NBA playoff record-setter Stephen Curry and superstar Kevin Durant on the roster, but Green holds the key to the Warriors’ playoff success.

Green’s 2018-19 regular season

Draymond Green averaged just 7.4 points in the 66 games he played during the regular season, which represents his lowest points-per-game average since 2013-14, when he only started 12 games. His rebounding was also down, averaging 7.3 boards per game. He seemed to get better toward the end of the regular season, though, as he recorded some of his best games late in the campaign.

Green scored a season-high 20 points in the Warriors’ April 5 win against the Cavs, and he grabbed 10 rebounds in two of his final seven games. Most players start to wear down as the season goes on, but there’s a reason behind Green’s apparent resurgence at the end of the regular season.

He lost 23 pounds ahead of the playoffs

Green’s turnaround is due, at least in part, to a drastic change in his diet. Six weeks before the playoffs started, he began a mission to lose 23 pounds during that period. Some nagging injuries prevented him from training as much as he would have liked, so Green worked with a nutritionist and the Warriors’ training staff to help him get into better shape. The plan: cut sugar, fried foods, and alcohol out of his diet.

Green told The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson that he knew he “wasn’t in good shape” but that he knows how to get in shape quickly, and that he has “been doing it all [his] life.” The result of the dietary change was a 23-pound weight loss just in time for the playoffs, and the benefits of Green’s lighter frame showed in his performance toward the end of the regular season.

Draymond Green is the Warriors’ defensive linchpin. The whole team plays well at that end of the floor, but Green might be the best of the bunch. He’s playing at a lighter weight now, which should improve his endurance and production at both ends of the floor. His 2019 postseason is already off to a great start.

Green’s 2019 playoffs to date

Golden State Warriors' defensive stalwart Draymond Green shed more than 20 pounds before the playoffs.
Draymond Green is playing leaner during this playoff run. | Tim Warner/Getty Images

In the Warriors’ six-game opening series against the Clippers, Green reached double-digit points in four of the games, with a high of 17 points in the opener. He ended that series with a 16-point triple-double effort. In that final game against the Clippers, in addition to his 16 points, Green recorded 14 rebounds and 10 assists. And he has been even better in the first three games of the team’s second-round series with the Rockets. He opened the best-of-seven series with a 14-point, nine-rebound game. He followed that up with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Then in the third game of the series, Green recorded his second triple-double of the postseason, recording 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. That overtime game also saw Green play the most minutes of the season, 44:30.

How much longer will Draymond Green play for the Warriors?

The Warriors selected Green in the second round of the 2012 draft, and he has played for them for the past seven seasons. He has one year left on his contract before he becomes a free agent following the 2019-20 season. He took a smaller contract — five years, $82 million — in 2015 to pave the way for the Warriors to sign Kevin Durant the following year, so he is unlikely to give the team a hometown discount when he reaches the open market after next season. That could lead to Green signing with another team and ending his tenure with the Warriors. If that is the case, he’ll leave the Bay Area with at least three NBA titles — and possibly five.