The season is still in its early stages, but if we wanted to have a conversation about who the NBA’s MVP is, we would start with Steph Curry.
But one could make the argument that there’s another Warrior that has been just as valuable to Golden State’s incredible, put-the-league-on-notice start:
If Curry is the MVP, Green is the Defensive Player of the Year, and Tuesday’s blowout win over the Brooklyn Nets was his best defensive performance to date.
The game in Brooklyn swung as so many Warriors games have over the years — this year proving to be no exception.
The Warriors blew the doors off the Nets in the third quarter.
Curry and the Warriors’ offense deserve incessant praise for the Dubs’ third-quarter surges, including Tuesday, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr would be the first to tell you that the Dubs’ big quarters stem from success on the defensive end.
Which means they stem from Green.
The Warriors turn defense into offense better than any team in the NBA. That’s been the case since before Kerr was even the head coach. If the Dubs get stops, they get to run, and the Warriors on the run are an unstoppable force.
It’s so hard to quantify defensive impact. In a league that’s defined by the 3-point shot and wings like Kevin Durant, defensive success rarely shows up on a box score. Blocks and steals are great, no doubt, but great defense doesn’t necessarily carry flash with it.
And if it’s hard to quantify defensive impact for on-ball defenders, it’s even harder to encapsulate what a great team defender, like Green, does for a team.
Tuesday was an exception, though.
Green’s defensive impact — undeniable to anyone watching the game — showed up in the box score as well.
You just had to look at Durant’s third-quarter line to see it.
The Warriors won the third quarter 35-18 Tuesday. Curry had nine points in that frame, with Jordan Poole adding seven. Green even got in on the action, making all three of his shots and dishing out three assists.
But it was Durant’s 0-for-8 frame that flipped the game.
The Warriors were cooking and the Nets fell apart without Durant to hold them up offensively as the game slipped away.
And who was guarding Durant nearly the entire third quarter?
The Warriors do-it-all big man was in Durant’s pocket on five of his third-quarter shots. Durant couldn’t shake Green, who went stride-for-stride with him for 12 minutes and closed any gap that was created in nanoseconds. The two jumped in unison on so many of Durant’s shot attempts — Green going up at full extension but at an angle where a foul could not be called — that you’d think Durant was telling Green when he was shooting.
In all, Green was plus-17 in the quarter, as the Nets shot 22 percent.
After years of suggestions that he’s washed up — dead weight to a declining team — Green is playing as if he has something to prove.
And while I’d never wish a winter trip to Cleveland on anyone, I think Green is doing an All-Star job in making his point.
Yes, offense sells tickets – as evidenced by the legions of Warriors fans in Brooklyn Tuesday — but defense, well, it is still necessary to win championships. Hate the cliche all you want, but it’s still true in every major sport.
The Warriors’ core three — Curry, Green, and the soon-to-return Klay Thompson — know that truth more than anyone.
So while it’s great that the Dubs’ offense is cooking without Thompson — they’re third in the NBA in points per possession and tops in points per game — let’s also take the time to recognize just how incredible the Warriors’ defense has been so far this year.
One could argue there’s one good defensive team in the league and it’s the Dubs, who are the only team in the NBA to allow fewer than one point per possession.
It’s the backbone of this team’s success so far, just as it was for their late-season run last year and their title teams the years before that.
It’s not just one man. Andre Iguodala, Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney, and yes, Curry, deserve love in this department, too.
I could go on and on — everyone is chipping in.
But Green, of course, is at the center of it all on that side of the court — the Warriors’ best side of the court.
How valuable is that?
Winter is coming
Warriors coach Steve Kerr told media members in Brooklyn Tuesday that Klay Thompson is playing five-on-five and is currently cleared for contact.
While that doesn’t mean Klay’s return is imminent, it’s not far off, either. The reported return date of just before Christmas seems right on track.
How much help does Curry need?
Jokes aside, everyone I have talked to with the Warriors who has seen Klay behind the scenes is raving about how good he looks. It’s not bordering on hyperbole, it likely is.
We’ll see what translates from gym to arena, but if Thompson is a reasonable facsimile of his old self, the Warriors’ offense and defense will go to a new level as the calendar flips.
Exciting times ahead.
The Warriors have seemingly relegated the Nets to New York’s third favorite team as Curry received loud M-V-P chants in Kevin Durant’s home arena.
So much for the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. It turns out that new grass is the Warriors’ property, too.