Draymond Green's five-game suspension for putting Rudy Gobert in a chokehold-like manuever is now complete, and all indications are that he will make his return to the floor in a crucial In-Season Tournament matchup against the budding rival Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. The Golden State Warriors went 2-4 in his absence (including the loss to the Timberwolves in which Green was ejected 103 seconds into the game), so it's not too much of a leap to suggest that the Warriors (8-9 overall) will get back on track once they have their veteran offensive and defensive engine back in the fold.
Don't be so sure.
Let's take a look at Golden State's biggest problems on both ends of the floor, and explore why Green doesn't necessarily solve them.
'We're fouling too much'
At 33 years old, Green is still undoubtedly one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and he serves a special function for the Warriors as their quarterback, calling out coverages and organizing his teammates. Over the last six games without Green, Golden State has allowed 116 points per 100 possessions, the equivalent of a bottom-10 NBA defense.
But Warriors head coach Steve Kerr isn't counting on Green to be the elixir that suddenly cures all the team's defensive ailments. He insists that one area is the true culprit for the slippage, and it will require a full team effort to remedy.
"We're fouling like crazy," Kerr said on Friday. "We've gotten undisciplined in the last couple of weeks. We're fouling too much. Our opponents are not only getting free points, but setting up their defense makes it harder to score at the other end. So that's, to me, the number one issue."
Golden State has committed the third-most fouls per 100 possessions in the league and, consequently, their opponents take the fourth-most free throws. That number hasn't changed significantly this season with or without Green on the floor.
Kerr said early in the season that this version of the Warriors isn't going to be able to "out-talent" teams like they did back in the Kevin Durant era. They're going to need to win games on the margins, and reducing the number of fouls per game is an essential part of that. Green can certainly help get his teammates in the right positions and offer stronger help to avoid fouls, but, ultimately, it's going to come down to individual commitment and discipline.
Steph still needs help
It doesn't take the basketball mind of Dr. Jack Ramsay to identify the Warriors' primary offensive issue. Even with Klay Thompson , there simply isn't enough help for Stephen Curry, who's off to one of the best starts of his career.
The Warriors average 114 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor. When he's off, it plummets to 109 -- the equivalent of a bottom-five NBA offense.
Say what you want about Jordan Poole, but the guy averaged 20 points last season and played all 82 games. He wasn't always efficient, but you could at least count on his production on a nightly basis. When the offense broke down, he could get you a bucket -- even if it wasn't always pretty.
The exact opposite has been the case for Chris Paul, the nominal replacement for Poole, whose efficiency is off the charts but has reached double-digit scoring in just eight of the Warriors' 17 games this season. He's scored six points or fewer in six of them, including 11 combined in Golden State's last two games.
Paul is a master at setting up teammates and making the right play, but at his age he cannot consistently create a shot for himself. And even when he does, he's made just 40% of his field goals and 32% of his 3s so far this season.
What Golden State needs is another bucket-getter besides Curry, and that's why adding Green back into the mix isn't necessarily going to get them past the middle of the pack in offensive efficiency (they ranked 14th as of Sunday night).
Green is essentially another Paul -- an elite playmaker with an off-the-charts basketball IQ who can't be counted on to score 10 points on a regular basis. Thompson has never been an elite one-on-one scorer, and has clearly experienced even more trouble separating from defenders this season. Andrew Wiggins is completely lost, while Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody haven't made the leap. So where does the scoring come from?
That's the question Golden State will attempt to answer all year long, and -- despite his plethora of talents -- Green clearly isn't the solution.