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Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and how postseasons can shape a legacy

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Kevin Durant won Finals MVP, but Steph Curry was outstanding after his return from injury and it was Draymond Green who got the Warriors off to a good start in the playoffs.

2018 NBA Finals - Game One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After the Golden State Warriors eliminated the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs, coach Steve Kerr framed Draymond Green’s to the team by describing him as ”a future Hall of Famer,” as reported by Melissa Rohlin of the Bay Area News Group.

“The guy has huge energy, amazing defense, incredible basketball intellect,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s right in his prime right now but this guy, he is the perfect modern-day NBA big He can guard everybody. He can step out and make 3s. He can handle the ball in transition. This is what the NBA has become and you have to have somebody like Draymond to have a good team, so we’re lucky to have him.”

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton followed up on Kerr‘s claim about a week ago and explained why Green probably needs a little more time before he’s considered a lock — the reality is that his unique versatility doesn't result in gaudy box score stats that people are used to seeing on Hall-of-Fame resumes for players who are still in their 20’s. Yet Pelton also describes the primary factor working in Green‘s favor as a Hall of Fame candidate: his unique versatility has been at the forefront of this new era of positionless basketball.

A couple of other factors may work in Green’s favor. First, as Kerr also noted in the same quote, Green is perhaps the finest example of the modern versatile big man, having started his career as a small forward and now playing frequently as an undersized center. Green’s impact on the evolution of frontcourt play will work to his benefit in terms of historical legacy.

Look no further than the recently-concluded 2018 playoff run as further evidence of Green’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

Draymond Green’s legacy and the 2018 playoffs

Entering this year‘s playoffs, Anthony Slater and Marcus Thompson from The Athletic wrote separate articles describing the pressure that comes from the huge responsibilities resting on his shoulders entering the playoffs.

Slater described how Kevin Durant had successfully made it through his big ”pivot point” last year. Steph Curry‘s injury entering the postseason had some people doubting whether the Warriors would even make it out of the first round. Green was heading into the playoffs banged up after a down season with pundits just waiting for the Warriors to fail so they could rev up the Anthony Davis rumors in earnest.

...he is feeling the effects of his emotional and physical load. Being at the top of his game for four straight seasons, in high-stakes basketball, takes a toll. And unlike his All-Star counterparts, he doesn’t have the Hall of Fame tangibles to lean on. He’s been thriving on intangibles — intelligence, toughness, energy — with his skills as the supporting cast. On top of that, he is playing through a shoulder injury that is limiting him...Behind Stephen Curry, Green is the most indispensable Warrior. And if the second unit struggles in the playoffs, he becomes even more vital because he plays — and has to be good — on both units.

Although both Slater and Thompson were talking specifically about Green’s value in anticipation of contract talk over the next couple of offseasons, that conversation and his Hall of Fame candidacy were, in some ways, inextricably linked during this past postseason — to succeed in bearing those responsibilities Thompson described this postseason would be to bolster that primary factor working in his favor for his Hall of Fame case.

And Green wasted no time proving his value.

Green powers the Warriors through the first two rounds

In the first round against the San Antonio Spurs with Curry out, Green had two particularly Draymondian games: a Game 3 performance that was very much a quintessential Draymond Green performance and a near-triple double performance by Closeout Draymond in Game 5.

The second round was more of the same: Green remained a triple-double threat and Closeout Draymond finished off the New Orleans Pelicans. And, once again, I’ll turn to Marcus Thompson II to describe his impact on Game 1 against the Pelicans and really his value to the Warriors all series.

...in Green they have a defensive version of Curry. He is one of the greatest to ever play defense. Similar to the way Curry torments opposing defenses, Green does it to opposing offenses. It’s not enough to say he’s a good defender. He can demoralize a team like few others, and he was in that zone on Saturday.

He powered a defense that allowed 40 points on 31.4 percent shooting over the second and third quarters, turning a close game into a holistic destruction. The Warriors led by as many as 31, suffocating the Pelicans’ offense that looked so unstoppable in the first round against Portland.

That’s before we even get to the fact that Kerr started the Hamptons 5 for the first time ever in Game 4, a move that would not even be possible — or at least not nearly as effective or frightening — without the presence of Draymond Green.

We came into this postseason knowing that Draymond Green would have to be his best self after downplaying the regular season. He not only did that through the first two rounds, but reaffirmed his value to this franchise and his legacy as one of the all-time greats on one of the all-time great teams.

For Warriors fans, calling Green a Hall of Famer is probably not all that controversial — we’ve seen what the guy has done night-in and night-out. We appreciate his value on the defensive end. For others, as Chris Webber awkwardly alluded to during the first round, it’s still unclear what value has outside of his association to three other current All-Stars.

Maybe another championship run next year as part of a three-peat will help build a wider range of believers in his ability.

Curry picked up where Green left off in the final two rounds

We’ve already discussed the whole Finals MVP thing at length and, based on our little poll, Steph Curry was our choice.

In his extremely impressive Western Conference Finals, Curry gave us this unforgettable moment in a career full of unforgettable moments.

And after returning to action in the second round, Steph really emerged during the final two rounds of the playoffs.

He hit a NBA Finals record nine threes against the Cavs. He defended LeBron James. He defended against the Rockets. He closed out the Rockets.

There has been a ton of talk about how he hasn’t won a Finals MVP and, before that nonsense, a ton of talk about how he hasn’t had a big postseason moment. And, let’s face it, it’s not easy to stand out on this stacked Warriors team, especially when you’re the kind of leader who’s just as willing to dominate a game without shooting as you are to drop 37 points in 38 minutes.

But can we at least stop saying he hasn’t had a great postseason run? Curry led the Warriors past a Houston Rockets team that was the best non-Warriors team in years and would not have swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in such dominant fashion without him.

Curry and Green very much defined this playoff run — Curry as a revolutionary offensive player and Green as “a defensive version of Curry” — even as Durant got the Finals MVP spotlight. So let’s not forget any of this when people trot out the same trash storylines next year.

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder for the *entire* 2018 NBA Playoffs?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Steph Curry
    (1140 votes)
  • 20%
    Draymond Green
    (367 votes)
  • 14%
    Kevin Durant
    (273 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (54 votes)
1834 votes total Vote Now