Draymond Green says the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t stand a chance against the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green’s recent comments should be “chalkboard material” for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In an interview with Clay Skipper of GQ Magazine, Green smack-talked the Cavs – while in the office of LeBron James’ friend and business partner Maverick Carter no less!
“They didn’t stand a [expletive] chance,” he says of the Cavs, who lost in five games. “It pissed me off we didn’t sweep them, though.”
They didn’t stand a chance? A chance? With the best player in the world in James, maybe the best iso scorer in the NBA in Kyrie Irving, a bevy of three-point shooters, a 1-1 record against them in the NBA Finals (with Irving and Kevin Love injured throughout the 2015 NBA Finals) and multiple games that went down to the wire in the 2017 NBA Finals?
The addition of Kevin Durant must have bolstered Green’s confidence tremendously.
True enough, Durant was deadly in the 2017 NBA Finals.
On his way to winning Finals MVP, he averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.0 steal per game. He had a 50/40/90 slash in a championship series, shooting 55.6 percent from the field, 47.4 percent from three-point range and 92.7 percent from the free-throw line. He was as dominant as his numbers, coming up with quite a few impact plays on defense and killing the Cavs with his length while torching every defender in his wake on offense.
He was incredibly efficient and “in the zone” throughout the series.
Still, many feel that Durant was simply excelling in a role because of the way the Warriors offense creates easy shots for players. Meanwhile the Cavs’ offense lived and died with James and Irving’s ability to score in isolation.
The Golden State Warriors have been the best and least likable team in the NBA for the last two seasons. Many factors, like the Warriors team personnel, the defensive principles preached by former head coach Mark Jackson, the offense run by current head coach Steve Kerr and the moves made by general manager Bob Myers, have led to them being the best team in the league for the last three seasons. Fewer factors, like Durant’s decision to sign with the Warriors immediately after losing to their team in the Western Conference Finals (I may or may not feel the way about Durant that Kobe Bryant felt about Dwight Howard) and the cocky, abrasive vernacular (and on-court antics) of Green.
“That’d never been done!” Green exclaims. “They don’t come out and hit [an NBA-record] twenty-four threes and they’re swept. And that’s the second best team in the world. It’s pretty [expletive] sick to see how everybody is just in a [expletive] panic about what to do. You sit back and think, like, these [expletive], they know. That’s the fun part about it: They know they don’t stand a chance.”
It’s impossible to say that without hitting 24 threes in Game 4 that the Cavs would have been swept. There are plenty of factors that contribute to wins and losses.
However, while the idea that teams have no idea how to beat the Warriors may be true of most teams in the league, it’s not true of the Cavs.
What the Cavs needed in the 2017 NBA Finals was a player to defend Durant well, playmakers that allowed James to rest and more player and ball movement. With the additions of Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose and Jeff Green and the swap of Irving for Isaiah Thomas, the Cavs all those things.
Even if Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were to come to Cleveland in the place of Irving and Love, the Cavs would have had the athleticism they wanted in the frontcourt, the versatility they needed on defense and the potency they needed on offense. Whoever was calling the shots this summer, the Cavs are in a better position to defeat the Warriors this time around.
The biggest additions for the Warriors have been two shooters (Nick Young and Omri Casspi) to replace Matt Barnes and James Michael McAdoo on the wings. The difference between Young and Barnes is negligible, given that Young isn’t known as a tough defender like Barnes is but is a more dangerous shooter from three-point range. Casspi is definitely an upgrade over McAdoo in terms of his shooting ability and NBA experience but he’s as injury-prone as they come.
Rookie Jordan Bell is another player the Warriors like. He’s an athletic and defensive-minded big man who could let Green rest a bit more than usual.
Even with these additions though, the Warriors will essentially be bringing back the same team. Durant, Green, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Zaza Pachulia, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, David West and JaVale McGee are all expected to be in the Warriors rotation.
In addition to those nine players, Young, Casspi, Bell and Patrick McCaw will also get minutes. Young and Casspi will find their time when the Warriors need to keep the floor balanced; McCaw is a stat-stuffer in the backcourt; and Bell, as previously mentioned, could be a great fill-in in a Draymond Green-like role with his versatility.
By pure virtue of matching up with them the past three Finals, the Cavs have a leg up on understanding how to defend the Warriors though.
It’s understood that the Cavs need to put a great defender on Durant and to put a physical, preferably bigger guard on superstar point guard Stephen Curry, the Cavs won’t expect to stop the Warriors two MVPs but to make it tougher for them. The Cavs knew they needed more talent on their bench and more players capable of switching and playing solid perimeter defense after the last Finals.
The Cavs also need to make crisper rotations on defense and consider blitzing the ball-handler to create turnovers and transition opportunities while covering for Love’s lack of agility. Occasionally, they’ll leave Green and Andre Iguodala open on the perimeter.
On offense, movement helps but so does having twice as many playmakers on the perimeter. In addition, with their depth there will be more rest, and thus dominance, from James.
Still, the Cavs’ top five scorers (Thomas, James, Love, Wade, Rose) averaged a combined 110.6 points per game last season. Sans Love, this group averaged a combined 22.8 assists per game last season. They have a 34 combined All-Star appearances and 496 combined playoff appearances. Without even factoring in players like Crowder, Smith and Kyle Korver this could be a dangerous offense.
If Lue can use the collective basketball IQ and athleticism on his roster correctly (which includes players like Green, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson), the Cavs should be a solid defensive unit in addition to having a potent offense.
The idea that they didn’t or don’t stand a chance is ridiculous. The Warriors are a tough team to beat but they’re not so formidable that they’re literally impossible to beat.
*All stats gathered from www.basketball-reference.com