Stephen Curry may have won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2015-16 season, helping his team secure an NBA record 73 wins while putting up some astronomical numbers and hitting unbelievable shots all season. There’s still, however, some debate as to whether he’s really the most valuable player to his team.
The reason being that the Warriors, who played without Stephen Curry for four and a half games, went 3-1 in the games he didn’t play and outscored the Rockets by 27 in the second half of Game 4 without the MVP. Most of that, is due to who I believe to be the most important and valuable player to the Warriors: Draymond Green.
In that important Game 4, Green had 13 points on 5-8 shooting, including 3-5 from downtown, with four rebounds and an assist while playing in all 12 third-quarter minutes in that game as the Warriors outscored the Rockets by 21. For the game, he finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists with a plus/minus of +34.
The following series against Portland, Green averaged 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.8 steals, and 3.2 blocks per game while averaging a plus/minus of +9.8 points. Klay Thompson gets a lot of the credit in that Blazers series for carrying the Warriors offense through the first three games without Curry, who came up with 40 points in his return in Game 4. However, it was Green who stopped every Mason Plumee or Ed Davis roll to the basket and assisted on 19 of Klay Thompson’s 46 made field goals in the series (with Shaun Livingston being the next highest, assisting him 11 times in the series).
Cavs fans have seen the numbers that Green can put up as well as the drastic effect he’s had both offensively for his team and defensively on the opponents. Not to take anything away from Curry’s great, even historic, season, but Draymond just does everything for the Warriors, including being the Warriors vocal and emotional leader.
This is why he’s the Warriors clear-cut, most important player, and why his absence in Game 5 of the NBA Finals will be greatly felt.
In four games, Green is averaging 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game with a plus/minus of +9 points per game. On top of that, Green is holding his opponents to below-average shooting percentages when he’s the primary defender. According to NBA.com/stats, his defense gets better as his opponents get closer to the basket. While the Cavalier he’s defending shoots an average of 58.7% inside of 10 feet, he’s holding them to just 44.9%. Inside of six feet, they shoot an average of 63.3% and Green is holding them to just 46.2%.
Now that Draymond will miss Game 5, the Cavs should have a much easier time scoring. The stats show that when Andre Iguodala is off the floor, the Warriors get outscored by 19.5 points per 48 minutes. The next guy the Warriors can’t do without is Green, as they’re getting outscored by an average of 8.5 points per 48 minutes when he’s on the bench.
Green’s suspension was a result of his continual disregard for the rules and in the end, the flagrant foul points that have added up to his suspension could provide a spark the Cavs need in Game 5 to try and force a Game 6 back at the Q.
Realistically, this is a game the Cavaliers should win. Not another blowout, but a game that shouldn’t be too close down the stretch and late in the fourth. It’s worth mentioning that the Warriors lost their only game without him, a two-point loss at Denver during the regular season. The numbers show that the Warriors are far worse without Green on the court this season, both offensively and defensively. Whether the Cavs can take advantage of his absence remains to be seen. Cleveland should still be physical and get into the two-headed monster of Curry and Thompson, who can win games simply on offense, but Green does so much for the Golden State offense that it may be hard for them to function as well without him on a stage as huge as the NBA Finals.