During media availability prior to tonight’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green was asked about the ongoing battle with the Houston Rockets for the top seeding in the NBA’s Western Conference. As expected, Green did not choose to take the high ground and give credit to a team that has been pushing the Warriors all season.
As it stands now, Golden State holds the second seed in the 2018 NBA Playoffs and this would have implications ranging from home court advantage in the latter stages of the playoffs, to (hopefully) preferable matchups in the early stages. So while the Warriors are right in thinking that they have an excellent chance against any team in the post season it sort of misses the point here.
Here’s the quote (transcribed by yours truly):
I mean, I guess you always want the #1 seed, but it’s not... It is what it is. We’re not going to spend the rest of our year tryin’ to fight for the #1 seed - if it happens, it happens. Our goal is to get better each and every day. So if we’re getting better each and every day, and we’re at the top of our game at the right time of the year, I don’t care who we’re playing. We’ll be just fine.
Sooooo... our goal is just to get better.
Ok, so stick with me here — that sound byte is going to get clipped after the first segment and widely shared: Draymond Green is not wrong.
The Warriors know all too well that success in the NBA regular season does not correlate precisely to post season success. This was a hard lesson that the team learned at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers two years ago when the Warriors’ record-setting 73-win season closed with a heartbreaking loss in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
If you’ll recall, the Warriors limped into that post season and needed miracles from both Shaun Livingston and Klay Thompson to even make it out of the early rounds of the Playoffs. So yeah, it is acceptable to not bust yourself trying to finish with the best record, above all else. And it makes sense for this current team as well. A team that will be playing without three or four players tonight as they deal with various injuries; Green himself has been struggling through a shoulder injury all year after an awkward collision with the backboard early in the season.
Green’s closing sentence about trying to get better every game, and coming into the post season playing their best ball are both accurate. On top of that, he does start the quote by saying they’d want the #1 seed, so this isn’t some super salacious hot take. There is a totally legit school of thought that you just want to focus on coming out and doing your best, rather than chasing some other team.
It’s also fair to point out that the West is frickin’ NUTS right now. There’s no telling if the top seed does a team any favors besides home court advantage. There are only four games separating the #3 team and the #8 team; and the San Antonio Spurs, sitting at #5 and holding the return of Kawhi Leonard in their pocket could quickly sway any advantage by returning him to their lineup and entering as an overpowered 6th or 7th seed.
While Green isn’t wrong with any of that, he is toeing a dangerous line here.
Just based on a quick internet search it looks like the #1 seed has won the NBA title just over 70% of the time. Don’t confuse those percentages with chances though, those aren’t odds. Instead they are a reflection of the correlation between being a good team in the regular season, and being a good team in the postseason.
So no, you don’t want to really chase the #1 seed, but teams should want to be the #1 seed - because it reflects that your team has been better than everyone else. It’s a reflection of a reality that drives straight through meaningless games in February and into the heart of what makes playoff teams successful - the ability to reliably dominate and win.
Secondly, do we really want to further thumb our noses at the Houston Rockets? A team that we were unable to conquer in the regular season?
Anyone remember this one?
Draymond Green on potential WCF meeting with Rockets: "It's been highly publicized that team is designed to beat us. Noted. Great. We'll see y'all soon" https://t.co/HRlvCJPCCO pic.twitter.com/WW9D9gvjgl— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) March 8, 2018
Whether the top seed or two really matters or not is yet to be seen, but these are the sort of “shots across the bow” that teams take note of.