Led by two-time MVP Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors have reestablished themselves as an NBA juggernaut and added to an already impressive résumé with convincing victories over three of the top teams in the Western Conference within the last two weeks.
Curry scored 46 points in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies, 33 in a win over the Phoenix Suns and 28 in a win over the Utah Jazz, but he’s hardly the only reason Golden State (28-7) holds the No. 1 spot in the standings and has yet to lose consecutive games this season.
According to Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder, another Warriors player deserves MVP consideration.
“I don’t think I have to qualify this by saying no disrespect to Steph (Curry) or Rudy (Gobert), but Draymond Green is as unique a player and is having as good of a year,” Snyder said.
Prior to Saturday’s game in Utah between the Warriors and Jazz, Snyder lobbied for Green — who was in health and safety protocols — to at least be acknowledged in the MVP discussion.
“If you want to put someone in the MVP conversation, he’s someone to me, that’s maybe the numbers, they don’t match up to the numbers of some other guys put up,” Synder said. “But as far as the way he impacts the game, whether it’s his passing, his defense, which, you obviously know how we feel about Rudy’s versatility and the things that he does and Draymond is like that.”
Upon clearing health and safety protocols, Green spoke after the Warriors’ shootaround on Monday and expressed his appreciation for Snyder’s comments.
“I’m not going to go out and make an MVP case by stacking up numbers against Klay Thompson or Steph Curry or Kevin Durant or Giannis (Antetokounmpo), but I think the things I do on the floor to impact winning, there’s something to be said for that,” Green said. “So I appreciate it and it really meant a lot. That’s someone who I truly respect as a basketball mind.”
Green understands the reality that his offensive averages — 8.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game — aren’t the type typically associated with MVP candidates. He also knows that the Warriors own the top defensive rating in the NBA and he’s appreciative Snyder recognizes the influence Green has on all aspects of Golden State’s performance.
“That is someone who I think is a great basketball mind and truly understands the game,” Green said. “He commands respect not only from his team, but around the league and he definitely has my respect.”
Curry, Nets star Kevin Durant, Bucks great Antetokounmpo, and the reigning MVP, Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, are widely regarded as the leading MVP candidates at this early juncture of the season. Snyder has also suggested Jazz center Gobert belongs in the race in large part because of his defensive contributions.
According to Basketball-Reference, Green leads all NBA players in defensive rating while ranking second to Gobert in defensive win shares. Curry, who ranks third in the NBA with 27.7 points per game, also ranks third in defensive win shares.
“We are a defensive team, that is where it starts and it ends for us,” Green said. “Obviously the offense is beautiful and we have one of the best players in the league when it comes to scoring the basketball, so it’s always going to be cute, but the one thing I’ve always said when we have championship teams here is the thing no one talks about on the championship teams and those scoring teams is we were the best team defensively as well.”
With Klay Thompson nearing his long-awaited return from ACL and Achilles injuries and Andrew Wiggins playing at an All-Star caliber level according to his teammates, the Warriors believe they’re capable of playing an even better brand of basketball this season.
Green knows it’s the only way they’ll realize their championship aspirations.
“In order to win a championship, in January, you better still be improving each and every day,” Green said. “Because if you’re not, there’s someone else out there that is and by the time April, May and June come around, you’ll be on the short end of the stick.”