OAKLAND -- Draymond Green should be starting for the Warriors. As a matter of fact, the second-year guard out of Michigan State should never come out of the game unless he taps his head for a breather. At least until Andre Iguodala gets back.
Because where the Warriors are now, struggling to stay afloat through injuries, Green has what they need. He showed as much in Wednesday's thrilling 95-93 win over visiting Dallas. He had five points, two assists, two rebounds and a steal in the fourth quarter.
It was just enough to set up Stephen Curry's heroics. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 33 points, 10 assists, three steals and one of the most clutch performances of his career. So clutch -- a four-point play with just over a minute left, the game-winning 19-footer -- his eight turnovers will be an afterthought.
None of it happens without Green. In times like these, potential takes a back seat to intangibles like toughness. Statistical prowess is trumped by the little things. Defensive skill is preferred over offensive firepower.
Green hangs his hat on winning. It's why Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, despite all the talent he's coached, still holds a special place in his heart for the scruffy bearded kid from Saginaw. Winning is how he balances out the scales from not being the most athletic, not being skilled like the elite. His resolve is to exact revenge by winning. Let everyone else get stats and highlights. He's going to do what it takes to get the win.
And the Warriors need victories.
"Draymond Green was spectacular," coach Mark Jackson said.
To that end, Green needs to be on the court at the beginning of games, while Iguodala recovers. He will bring the defensive intensity the Warriors seem to lack until they get behind double digits. Wednesday marked the seventh time in the last eight games Golden State lost the first quarter.
Green needs to be on the court at the end of games. He has the IQ to know his limitations and stay in his lane, which is vital since execution is the difference down the stretch of ball games. And he can guard four positions on the court.
Wednesday, he went back and forth on Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. Sometimes on the same possession. He was able to stay in front of Ellis, whose go-ahead jumper rimmed out after his lane to the basket was cut off by Green. He was able to contest Nowitzki's teardrop jumpers without fouling.
"He's definitely shown how valuable he is to the team," Curry said of Green. "We saw it last year, but he's better this year. The way he impacts the game is definitely noticeable and puts us in position to win games. Like Draymond is ready every time his number's called, everybody on the team has to be ready."
Green needs to be on the court in the middle of games. He can help keep guys from getting going. He can inject some toughness and physicality. He keeps the star players honest, as its clear when he is the hardest working player on the court.
What really has made Green so valuable is the vast improvement of his jumper. He finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting on Wednesday. He is sticking the open 3 well enough to aptly play the role of the stretch four (outside shooting power forward) Golden State needs to open the court.
Marreese Speights is barely seeing action and isn't giving the Warriors much when he is on the court. Harrison Barnes is hot and cold despite the increased minutes. The Warriors have no other options.
Green played shy of 28 minutes on Wednesday. He should have played 40. The Warriors outscored Dallas by five when he was on the court.
As long as he's sticking that jumper, and playing defense the way he is, how can you keep him off the court?