SAN FRANCISCO — As he prepares to face off against the Boston Celtics and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart in the NBA Finals, Draymond Green disagrees with voters that there were five defenders better than him this season.
The Golden State Warriors’ defensive leader is vexed that he was elected NBA All-Defensive Second Team earlier this month. Green was the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year until he suffered a back injury in early January and only played in 46 games this season.
“For me, it’s a slight,” Green said when asked if he took his second-team designation as a compliment or slight. “When I look at the first team, I am not sure I can pinpoint, definitely not five guys that had a better defensive season than me. And there are no [games played] requirements [for All-Defensive voting]. There is not some amount that you have to play in. If there was an amount that you had to play, then I would be an idiot sitting here and saying that.”
Green added: “What you had to see, I think it would be hard for someone to come and show me better [defense this season]. Especially not five guys [better]. It is more of a slight to me than anything.”
Voters named Smart the Defensive Player of the year ahead of Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges and Utah’s Rudy Gobert. Those three, along with Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr. were voted to the All-Defensive First Team.
Green finished on the second team along with Miami’s Bam Adebayo, Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle and Boston’s Robert Williams III. The Golden State power forward garnered five first-team votes and 24 second-team votes.
“It goes on the resume as an All-Defensive team, so I will take it,” Green said after practice. “But I was a little shocked when [I heard the unveiling of] the first team and I was like, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting. Maybe I didn’t make it at all.’ But then the fact that I made the second team, there are more than five defenders [better] … you had to totally take me off and then I’ll be like, alright, they voted on the amount of games [played]. But it makes absolutely no sense to say, well, he was a second team All-Defensive player because then you can’t be taking the amount of games into consideration. And if you are taking the amount of games into consideration and say, ‘Oh this guy is second team,’ then you are just making stuff up.
“I think it was more of a slight. But seven out of 10 years on the All-Defensive team, it ain’t so bad.”
The NBA Finals matchup between the Warriors and Celtics will feature two of the best defenders in the game in Smart and Green. Warriors coach Steve Kerr recently likened Smart to “the guard version of Draymond” because of his ability to read angles, switch and defend all five positions, his basketball IQ and versatility.
“Yeah for sure,” Green, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, said of seeing the comparison. “He’s their emotional leader, he’s the anchor on their defense, in a way. Robert Williams is the anchor in a way, Al Horford is actually an anchor in a way. But Marcus Smart is like your real anchor on that defense. And then on the offensive end, he’s the one getting everybody involved, he’s the one calling the sets.
“That is a guy I have a lot of respect for. To see him coming into his own and to see him once again looking like the Marcus Smart that came out of Oklahoma State, that had so much promise, to see him back playing that way and at that level, has been fun to watch.”
Green caused a bit of a stir last week with the Miami Heat when he said on a TNT broadcast before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals that the Warriors were “going to play Boston” in the Finals. The Heat forced a Game 7 and Miami forward Udonis Haslem told Yahoo Sports that Green “broke the code” by saying that.
“I didn’t really predict it,” Green said Tuesday. “I think I just know a little about basketball. If you know a little bit about basketball and you saw the two teams, I just thought Boston was the better team. It wasn’t a prediction or a slight at anybody. were the better team and clearly I wasn’t far off.”
Green had nothing but praise for the Celtics.
“We’ve been watching for months now, where their defense is absolutely incredible,” Green said. “They have a good offense, and more importantly on offense, they have a guy that is one of them guys. Jaylen Brown is absolutely a very good player but Jayson Tatum is one of them guys.
“And when you have that, you always have a chance at winning, when you have a guy like that. You couple that with all the pieces around him, the defense around him, they have veteran leadership… you look and say, ‘Wow, they actually have what it takes.’