The Warriors fell a full game behind the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings on Wednesday night with a 108-103 loss in Utah. After a rough stretch early in the season precipitated by injuries to Steph Curry and Draymond Green — and Green’s suspension for going after Kevin Durant about his impending free agency — Golden State has righted the ship for the most part.
While the Warriors are still, for the most part, cruising right along as planned, there are some things that are a bit concerning to the two-time defending champs. As that early stretch proved, depth is certainly a worry depending on which of their stars goes down, but even when healthy they’re not quite clicking on all cylinders.
Much was made of Klay Thompson’s three-point shooting drought early in the year and he’s still only hitting 35 percent of his threes on the season, but he’s showing signs of shaking out of that slump (39 percent on threes the last 12 games). Draymond Green, however, has been dreadful offensively to start the season and, while injuries have contributed to a lack of rhythm for Green, it’s hard to figure out why his shooting has fallen off as hard as it has.
On the season, Green is shooting 42.3 percent from the field (his second worst FG% since becoming a starter in 2014-15), 20.6 percent from three (his worst of his career), and taking just 6.1 shots per game (the fewest since becoming a starter). That last stat is among the most concerning, as Green’s unwillingness to shoot changes the gravity for the Warriors offense as defenders sag way off of him because not only are they not particularly worried about him making a shot, they’re not even worried he’ll take one.
After the loss to the Jazz, Kevin Durant was asked about Green’s shooting this season and said they as a team are trying to encourage him to keep shooting, because they need him to take those shots when wide open, even if they’re not going down all the time.
As Durant notes, the defense and passing are always there with Green. He’s still an elite defender and is one of the best play-making bigs in the league, averaging 7.3 assists per game. The job for the other three stars on the Warriors, however, is made more difficult on offense when Green is no longer a threat to shoot and the spacing he once offered by being on the perimeter is negated by his defender sinking back near the paint.
Durant’s not asking Green to hoist bad shots. He just wants him to stay confident in his shooting and take the wide open looks he gets. As he noted, it is a bit different for Green, who has never been a good shooter, to find his way out of a slump compared to the three sharp-shooters on the squad. Shooters shoot is the mantra for those three, believing that the law of averages will eventually pull them back up. Green, however, isn’t so sure and it’s making him a bit more gun shy about continuing to fire when open.
Some will see headlines and pull quotes of Durant’s comments and see it as him taking a shot at his teammate, but it seems like KD is trying to help take away some of Green’s doubt. Green may be looking around the court and see three elite shooters and scorers and think he’s best off just being a facilitator. He might think that if he were to keep hoisting while shots aren’t falling he’d be taking away from the team. Durant is saying that’s not the case, and wants him to keep firing.
Green’s been an above-average shooter from deep only one time in his career (2015-16 he shot 38.8%) and has lived just above 30 percent the last two seasons. Still, he was taking more than 3.5 attempts from deep per game the last two seasons and forcing defenses to at least consider a closeout on him. This year, he’s taking just two attempts from three per game and is hitting 20 percent. That’s a bad combo, and while it’s understandable he’d want to limit his attempts while they’re not going down, his teammates want him to know the best way out of that slump is to keep firing. For the good of the team.