The André Roberson Treatment

Updated: June 13, 2022

Throughout the golden years of the Warriors’ Dynasty, Steve Kerr always had a break in case of emergency lineup to fall back on. It was a different era though, despite it only being a handful of years back, the stunning effect of going small has lost its oomph and vibrato to the point where it has almost become predictable. Especially in this current situation for the Warriors where the only difference between a traditional lineup and their so-called death lineup is the fact that their 5 in the middle is 6 inches shorter than the opponent on the other end. The advantage created by small-ball lineups is supposed to eliminate the non-shooting big off the floor for a more explosive offensive attack while giving up size and presence in the paint. Unfortunately for Curry, Klay, Kerr, and young Jordan Poole, the game 3 adjustments from the Celtics in Boston was to give Draymond Green the full-blown André Roberson treatment.

On a dozen or so possessions, reigning defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart, was given the green light to rove as a free safety off of Green without an ounce of fear of any repercussions. It wasn’t a few feet of space to shade off a non-shooter to cheat towards the flame thrower dressed in 30, but an entire 15 feet of space in the paint with Green stood uselessly outside the arc. Even in the plays when the ball came to Green, defenders would close out towards the shooter nearby in anticipation for the pass rather than towards the ball, since everyone in TD Garden was well aware Draymond had zero desire to attack the basket.

The assumed easy solution would be for Draymond to fire a couple of early shots from distance to make the defense respect him outside the arc, but there simply hasn’t been any proof throughout these playoffs that leaving Green butt-naked from 3 is any sort of threat. Even if he were to make a few first-half heaves from 23 feet out, the Dubs and Celtics alike would know that these prayers would be nothing but fool’s gold. The hope for Kerr and his swiss army knife is that his defensive juggernaut at the very least be a play-making weapon and begin to attack the basket like he did in the Dallas series.

However, there are two troubling variables in this equation. 1 is that due to Draymond being completely ignored and the overall size of the rim protection from Boston, there isn’t much of a lane for this unathletic forward to exploit. The 2nd problem though, which no one saw coming, is that the Warriors have been substantially better on the Defensive end of the floor in the non-Draymond minutes where Looney is the sole big in the center.

Draymond’s offensive limitations have always weighed in the Warriors’ favor with his presence as the primary facilitator as a passing turret and the overwhelming upside of his IQ as the head of the snake of their top-tier defense. But in this series, not only has Green scored a total of 15 points in 3 games while collecting 15 personal fouls, the Dubs’ defensive rating with Green on the floor is an abysmal 113.6. With him off the floor? 105.1. This would’ve been the #1 rated defense in the NBA above none other than the Boston Celtics’ 105.9 defensive rating in the regular season.

The simple fact is, that Draymond has always been able to apply his will on the glass against giants, but the combination of Time Lord, Big Al, and 6’10” Tatum has eliminated his presence on the boards. In contrast with the lineups that have Looney as the sole big, despite only being 6’9”, Kevon appears to be the best rebounder on the floor for either team. Not only that, but Looney also appears to be the better on-ball defender for Tatum since Jason prefers being the bigger player in ISO situations.

Here stands the ironic situation Kerr finds himself in…the final ace up his sleeve is going Big in his “small-ball lineup.” Not by double-dipping with non-shooters like he’s been doing with the tandem of Dray and Loon as the 4/5 combo in the front court but by adding an additional offensive weapon in the place of Green and allowing Looney to man the paint. The Poole Party lineup has been abandoned because of the belief it is too small against the enormous Celtics front line but maybe the issue isn’t Jordan but Draymond.

Jordan Poole has overwhelmingly played better as the starting 2 guard rather than his role as the microwave scoring 6th man off the bench. Regardless of where and when he is inserted in the game, Poole will be hunted on the defensive end. But in order to combat the offensive attack of the Celtics, the Warriors will need their own firepower from distance. He has also played better off-ball in these playoffs rather than being utilized as the second unit primary facilitator. With Draymond coming off the bench as the point forward, he can command the ship on the offensive side of the ball and apply his will on the fatigued Boston starting unit.

Not only does this lineup eliminate a non-shooter in the starting and closing minutes and include Golden State’s only elite rebounder, but Kevon’s presence on the offensive floor also demands more respect than Green’s due to Looney’s ability to roll and finish at the rim. With his recent evolution and growth as an offensive weapon at the basket, Boston simply cannot ignore him the way they did in game 3 on Green. And if they choose to do so, and Looney plays the 30+ minutes he should in game 4, he will absorb the offensive rebounds like a sponge, creating additional possessions for the shooters around him.

The perception of a player is almost as important as his actual production due to the gravitational effects created by the game plan of the defensive. Similar to how despite his poor shooting, the fear of Klay’s trigger from distance draws defenders towards him, Draymond has had the opposite effect with his unwillingness to attack and shoot wide-open jumpers. Looney, when operating as the sole big on the floor, has been a more efficient passing big, because the threat he possesses as a scorer draws defenders towards him creating higher quality looks for his shooters out on the perimeter.

Whether it is inserting Poole, JPII, or Porter into the lineup at the 4 next to Looney, the elimination of the Draymond + Kevon front court has become a requisite for the necessary spacing to allow Curry to cook without burning all his fuel as an ISO scorer. The question though is, will Kerr be brave enough to bench the so-called heart of the dynasty for the greater good of the whole? Look, no one saw this growth coming from Looney prior to the playoffs and before the trade deadline, every Warriors fan considered using his 5-million-dollar contract as the additional fat to upgrade at the 5. But the fact he has been a plus defender on the perimeter in combination with his elite rebounding presence and adequate passing and scoring on the offensive end has made Kevon the small ball successor to the Draymond Green era.

Traditional centers are hunted out on the perimeter in the playoffs, and it is why we have seen even the most elite 7-footers played off the floor. Looney and Green both share the ability to cover 1-5, the difference that has been highlighted in this series though, is against these young bouncing bigs, Draymond simply cannot hold up on the glass whereas Kevon somehow at 6’9″ feels like a true Footer on the boards.

Dray should be utilized as a microwave defender off the bench and boost their attack on a fatigued Boston lineup as the Warriors’ second unit point-center. It would limit the need for the Bjelica minutes and create an opportunity to try and incorporate Kuminga and Moody into the fold of the late 1st and early 2nd quarter minutes with Draymond as the floor general on both sides of the ball. Unquestionably, this theory has been risen in the last 24 hours of film sessions by the Warriors’ coaching staff and the desire of at least 1 of the decision-makers at the table. Ultimately though, it will be Kerr’s hands with the keys and nuclear codes that will decide to bench the 3-time champion. If his track record means anything in the equation of this pivotal decision though, he will likely ride or die with Draymond at the 5.


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