As you know quite well by now, Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green will be suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals after being retroactively assessed another flagrant foul this season.
Obviously, there are all kinds of conspiracy theories out there but Kiki VanDeWeghe has been open about this reasoning for the decision — which was apparently the subject of a spousal debate at home — in multiple interviews with media, including this Q&A with Sam Amick of USA Today.
"Again, what’s important is that this was – you look at this play on a standalone basis – other things were going on in the game, obviously – but this was viewed as a Flagrant One on its own. It wasn’t that we suspended him, it was that it triggered the suspension. And so we have our rules and our point system is in place, everybody knows it. Draymond was on notice, certainly, and certainly after the last contact to the groin with Adams, so what’s important I think is to understand that this was one point, it was viewed as a Flagrant One, and you can’t make an exception. You have to do the right thing for the play."
We could moan and groan about this all day, but I want to move on to actual basketball talk so I'll just leave you with two takes:
1. For anyone mad at Green, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post explains how the very emotion that got Green in this situation has been essential for this team all season
2. For anyone mad at the NBA, all they've done is set up the ultimate #ArrogantSZN celebration if the Warriors finish off a team that has spent a year being salty at home without an All-NBA player.
In fact, I'm struggling to think of anything more satisfying than winning the title at home without Green while the Cavs and their fans try to conjure up a new set of excuses to be mad about.
Sources: If the Warriors win Game 5 to close out the series Monday, Draymond Green is allowed in arena AFTER the game for title celebration.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 12, 2016
Going to be great when the Warriors win tomorrow and Draymond descends from the rafters during the trophy presentation.— Sean Highkin (@highkin) June 12, 2016
That's not to ignore the very real fact that Green has had a major impact on this series thus far and is near-impossible to replace, but if the Warriors want to stay true to that "Strength In Numbers" slogan — which Green initially considered corny — then now is yet another chance to prove the substance behind the rhetoric.
Draymond Green has Warriors' best +/- during 2016 playoffs (+7.3). He ranks 2nd to LeBron James (+166) in raw +/- during playoffs (+153).— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 12, 2016
During NBA Finals vs. Cavaliers...— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 12, 2016
Draymond Green on court: Warriors +36 in 152 mins
Draymond Green off court: Warriors -7 in 40 mins
Who will start in place of Green?
The first question to answer is who Warriors coach Steve Kerr will select as Green's replacement in the starting lineup. It's not that he lacks options, but that each choice comes with consequences to the team's rotation.
The obvious option to replace Green in the lineup based on either last year's Finals or what's happened in this year's playoffs is Andre Iguodala, as Matt Moore of CBS Sports writes.
With Green out, expect the Warriors to move Iguodala into the starting lineup, with a modified smallball unit featuring Andrew Bogut at center. Their smallball advantage is less with Bogut on the floor, but their versatility at 1-4 still gives them an advantage, especially since the Cavaliers will still be starting Tristan Thompson. Mo Speights likely gets more time, and that helps the Cavs, but if the Warriors simply shoot the lights out as they are prone to at any time and especially at home, Golden State can still secure the title.
Kevin Pelton of ESPN wrote earlier today that the Warriors should still be favored at home even without Green, but that the defensive versatility that Green brings will be the most difficult thing to replace. For that, he suggested that James Michael McAdoo could play a bigger role in Game 5.
Defensively, the closest facsimile to the Death Lineup will have James Michael McAdoo in the middle in place of Green. McAdoo, who had not previously been used in the Finals or conference finals, came off the bench for seven minutes in Game 4 and could assume a larger role in Green's absence. McAdoo is the remaining center option best suited to switching out defensively on smaller guards. Offensively, however, he provides none of Green's shooting or playmaking. Starting Iguodala and playing Barnes at power forward also stretches Kerr's perimeter rotation. In Game 4, Iguodala and Shaun Livingston were the two reserves he used on the perimeter, with Leandro Barbosa picking up a DNP-CD.
However, another option that some people have floated on Twitter is starting Brandon Rush.
Starting Rush is an option & shooting could stretch court on offense, but I worry about his speed/agility when switching on D.— Fast Break (@GSWFastBreak) June 12, 2016
And before you dismiss the possibility of Rush starting because he has barely played this series, consider that he was the starter against the Cavs in the Warriors' Christmas Day win at Oracle and probably didn't get as much recognition as he should have for defending LeBron James, as reported by Curtis Uemera of SFBay.ca — if he's capable of giving a few good defensive minutes along with guys like Harrison Barnes (who was unavailable for that Christmas Day game), Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and, sure, James Michael McAdoo, the Warriors might be able to hold the Cavs well enough on the defensive end and hope for big nights from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the offensive end.
Speaking of Curry, I have to come back to a point I ranted about a bit on our most recent podcast: people who began repeating the stupidest takes about Curry because he had a couple of poor games either don't understand the ebbs and flows of basketball very well or haven't been watching this season.
I don't want to waste anymore space on this because ESPN's Scott Van Pelt already made the point perfectly.
FanPost of the Week: How important has Shaun Livingston been during the Finals?
With Curry having a few off games and Green getting suspended, the Finals MVP race will be pretty interesting insofar as no single player can take responsibility for dictating the direction of this series as Iguodala (or James in defeat, for whatever it's worth) did last season.
Through two games, it certainly appeared to be between Green and Iguodala, as Band of Brothers wrote in a FanPost after Game 2. But Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight Sports point out that Shaun Livingston has actually been the most impactful player — by a fairly wide margin among Warriors players — thus far in this series.
Granted, Livingston has averaged 10 points per game (compared to Curry’s 21.5), but he has done it on 16 of 25 shots, for an effective field goal percentage of 64 percent (the highest on the Warriors of anyone with over 20 shots). More importantly, in his 89 minutes of play (Curry has 131), Livingston has also been an extremely effective defender, with his opponents’ effective shooting coming in at a team-low 28 percent. Livingston has been involved in fewer plays than many of his teammates, but his per-play contribution has more than made up for that deficit.
Qrux, who has written a series of great FanPosts during the Finals, added that Shaun Livingston has made one of the most significant improvements from last year's Finals to this year's Finals through four games.
Harrison Barnes still stands to get rich in free agency
Rusty Simmons of the S.F. Chronicle has made the case that the enigmatic Harrison Barnes is also worthy of consideration for Finals MVP, albeit for contributions that might not show up in the box score quite as well.
There’s a valid argument that Barnes is the leader in the clubhouse on a Warriors team that has truly used everyone in its locker room to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NBA Finals against Cleveland...Barnes is averaging 12.5 points per game in the series — fourth on the team in production but, by far, first in efficiency. He’s shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from three-point range...Barnes is spending the majority of his time defending James and Kyrie Irving as Cleveland runs the 1-4 pick-and-roll as often as the Warriors launch three-pointers. James is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from three-point range, and Irving is shooting 42.7 percent from the floor and 30 percent from beyond the arc.
And Barnes, who will be a restricted free agent after the season ends, really has a chance to leave an impression with a big performance in Green's absence. Nevertheless, as it stands now, the Warriors are ready to match any offer that Barnes receives as a restricted free agent, as reported by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
I've already offered my thoughts on Barnes in the past: he has a unique combination of efficiency and versatility that is probably more valuable to the Warrior' current roster than would be to any other team. The Warriors also did quite well with Brandon Rush starting in his place earlier this season — and by quite well, I mean 24-0 — so I've questioned his worth as a max contract player on principle, even if the salary cap will rise significantly.
Why "Strength In Numbers" is a fitting slogan for the 2016 postseason run
John Bauman of FanSided wrote a great piece about "The joys of seeing James Michael McAdoo play in the NBA Finals" in which, I think, he perfectly articulated what makes the 2015-16 Warriors a great team: whereas last year there was plenty to be said about the team's lack of adversity, this year just about every player has not only missed time but also missed time at a critical point in the season. It cost them a game or two here and there, but if they end up winning Game 5 without Draymond Green that almost has to become the defining narrative of the postseason if not the season as a whole.
Between Scott Ostler's piece in the S.F. Chronicle about the story behind the Warriors' team building vision and Jackie MacMullan's ESPN article about how the Warriors modeled their philosophy off the San Antonio Spurs' strategy designed to beat LeBron's Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals, you can really get the sense that the Warriors are the pinnacle of professional basketball in a number of ways.
Perhaps Green's absence, Curry's struggles, and a big game from a non-All-Star will help us both appreciate the architecture of this team in the present and define a legacy for this team in what was seemingly going to become an uneventful championship series at first.
There are certainly other links, tweets, vines, and videos that I have missed, so feel free to drop links from this morning in the comments, create a FanShot with links that we can share on our social channels, or write a FanPost if you have a longer commentary to share with the community. There has almost been so much great content in the community sidebars and I've been trying to just refer you there during rather than making these posts any longer with them — please rec the ones you really like so we can promote the best ones to the front page.
And since Kurt Rambis has reminded us all that people other can actually view your "likes" on Twitter, feel free to check up on what I've been keeping track of during the week by following me at @NateP_SBN and letting me know what I've missed.