With Kevin Durant sidelined, the Western Conference Finals were supposed to be about Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Instead, it was Draymond Green who flexed his star power as the Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers to advance to a fifth straight NBA Finals. Golden State became the first team in over 50 years to accomplish this feat, joining the legendary Boston Celtics of the 1960s as the only franchise to reach at least five straight Finals.
Green had been relatively quiet for the Warriors during the regular season, averaging 7.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. His statistics have been relatively consistent over his career, but the presence of Durant caused Green’s stats to decline in recent years.
Here’s a closer look at Green’s numbers over the last five seasons, with the first two coming before KD arrived in the Bay Area.
|Draymond Green’s Splits (via NBA.com)||Points||Assists||Rebounds||FG %||3-point %||Offensive Rating||Defensive Rating|
|2016-17 (first season with Durant)||10.2||7.0||7.9||41.8||30.8||115.4||100.2|
But Green’s impact for Golden State has always gone beyond the statistics.
He’s the focal point defensively for the Warriors and can create off the dribble offensively. In Golden State’s 4-0 sweep of the Blazers, Green’s frantic pace was the difference.
On makes or misses, he would rapidly push the ball up the floor, creating immediate pressure on Portland’s defense, and the Warriors were able to consistently take advantage of Green’s pace. According to NBA.com/stats, his average pace in the conference finals was 101.00. That’s up from his 97.5 average pace in the previous round against the Houston Rockets.
This change of pace reflected positively in Green’s overall numbers and was a throwback to Golden State’s pre-Durant style of play. The Warriors were playing a more collective, open brand of basketball against Portland rather than settling for Durant’s isolations, with Green being the catalyst for this style.
|Draymond Green’s 2018-19 Playoff Splits||Points||Assists||Rebounds||FG %||3-point %||Basketball-Reference Game Score|
|First 12 Playoff Games (First and Second Round)||12.6||8.0||9.3||51.2||20.0||14.2|
|Western Conference Finals||16.5||8.8||11.8||54.2||25.0||18.4|
Although the Warriors fell behind by double digits in three of their four contests against Portland, it was Green’s relentless attacking that eventually propelled the team to comeback victories each time.
“We’re never out of the fight, that’s just always our mindset,” Green told reporters after a 119-117 overtime win in Game 4. “We know we can cover 17 points in a matter of 3 to 4 minutes. We always try to keep that mindset that we’re never out of the game.”
Although the power forward was struggling to connect from behind the arc, he hit a big triple to give the Warriors a 119-115 lead in overtime. And even though Green wasn’t the first choice to take the shot, he stepped up when Golden State needed him.
“In that situation, we want Steph to have the ball. We want Steph or Klay taking a shot in that situation,” Green revealed. “He [Steph] passed me the ball, I just let it go. When I shot it, it felt good.”
This has been Green’s role since he joined the Warriors as a second-round pick in 2012.
He won’t command the ball, but he’ll step up when the team needs him the most. His stardom on both ends of the floor lies not in the raw numbers, but in the details.
Curry and Thompson are the faces of the franchise, but Green is the heart. His 11.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game over the last five seasons has only been accomplished once in a single season by a player designated as a forward or center. That player was, coincidentally, former Warrior Wilt Chamberlain.
Green and Curry also became the first duo in NBA playoff history to each record a triple-double in the same game. And despite the success, Green, a former Defensive Player of the Year and three-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team, knows nothing is guaranteed in the NBA.
“Basketball careers aren’t that long; if you can get 10 [seasons] out of it, you’re lucky,” Green said after Game 4. “To be to five straight Finals, I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s what you play for. This is our goal every year; to get here five straight times is special.”
Golden State will now look to complete its historic run with a three-peat, something only three franchises have done in NBA history.
“We’re trying to go win this thing, it’s never the goal just to get there,” remarked Green.
“I’ve been to a Finals and lost — it’s no fun.”