Draymond Green lays into Warriors’ poor defense: ‘We can’t guard nobody’

Draymond Green lays into Warriors’ poor defense: ‘We can’t guard nobody’

MEMPHIS — Draymond Green took 12 minutes to describe the ways in which the Warriors defense has failed.

One sentence summed it up.

“Individually our defense sucks,” Green said. “So in turn, our team defense sucks.”

Bold assessment from the guy fresh off an indefinite suspension, but few others understand just how much another ugly loss to a Memphis Grizzlies team playing without half its star-studded roster speaks to the dynasty’s overarching descent. Why a core, aging at that, that’s won four championships gets run over by contenders and out-hustled by pretenders not only physically, but mentally.

Three numbers will be the hitting points diving into film from this loss on Monday: Memphis’ 20 3s and 40 free throws and their own 19 turnovers. Coach Steve Kerr pointed to the turnovers and offense as their biggest downfall in Memphis. A night of carelessness after combining for 13 turnovers in their previous two games.

But what Green identifies as the root cause is an emotional undoing. Communication was their biggest flaw, and Green’s return to the fold after a 16-game absence, 12 due to suspension, was supposed to shore up the defensive connection.

In Memphis, he found no pieces to glue. Without naming names, Green called out his teammates for playing timid one-on-one defense. A lack of purpose individually on defense that gives every opponent hope that they’ll score.

“Just have to have pride in yourself as a man that I’m not going to let my guys score,” Green said. “Closeouts were too soft, rotations were too slow. So there’s just no pride. Until every guy takes pride and wants to stop the guy in front of them, we’ll suck…We can’t guard nobody. Until we guard, we’ll lose.”

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson’s generational scoring abilities propped this dynasty into the stratosphere, but consistently having a Top 10 defense underlies all of Golden State’s success. Looking back: their 101.4 defensive rating in 2014-15 ranked first and 103.8 rating in the 73-9 year ranked fifth. The next year, with Kevin Durant, a 104.0 rating was second-best and they ranked in the top 10 the next two seasons.

Their 106.9 rating during the 2021-22 title run ranked first — just two years ago.

Now? Golden State’s 118.4 defensive rating ranks fifth worst in the league. It’s worse,122.3, with Green sidelined for more than half the games this year. Andrew Wiggins excelled at locking down opponents’ best scorer that last championship year, now he has a 121.4 defensive rating. Jonathan Kuminga, another one-on-one defender they rely on, has a 118.9 rating. Klay Thompson’s — now responsible for locking up less mobile forwards — is 120.9.

And as Green puts it, his voice and impact alone won’t help matters much. Superstars and roster hopefuls alike have consistently gotten open, easy looks from beyond the arc or in the paint all season.

Just look at Monday’s collapse. The Warriors held a seven-point lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter with an opportunity to go up double-digits heading into the final frame.

“Let’s get a stop! Two stops!” Kerr shouted from the sideline.

The next play, Grizzlies guard David Roddy nearly fumbled the ball in the half court but got a pass off to Jacob Gilyard in the corner, who’d lost his defender Jonathan Kuminga for a second long enough to get a corner 3-pointer up and in. Trying to answer back, Dario Saric threw a bad baseline pass for a turnover, leading to a wide-open 3 for Roddy at the top of the arc — the entire Warriors defense with Trayce Jackson-Davis, Jonathan Kuminga, Saric, Lester Quinones and Brandin Podziemski sagging off the line while still leaving Santi Aldama wide open under the basket. Roddy made the 3 and Golden State’s lead was trimmed to one.

That type of sequence has become the norm.

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“If we have guys that will take pride in themselves and play defense 1-through-17, then it is solvable,” Green said. “If guys won’t take pride, it won’t. It’s very simple. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.. Can worry about trapping the box and help side, but if you don’t take pride in one-on-one defense, none of that matters.”

Green’s return was supposed to glue this broken team — now 18-22 and out of the play-in still — with the added question of how much his voice still carries after serving nearly half the year in league suspension. All this may solidify is that the there’s nothing Green can fix alone.

The Warriors historically lean on rock solid defenses to win titles. If they want to win another one, they’ll need to dig up some pride on defense — or look elsewhere for it.