The Golden State Warriors recently produced a nearly unprecedented five-year run of trips to the NBA Finals, but one of their best players still harbors regrets about how it all played out.
Injured Dubs forward Draymond Green can’t quite let go of a decision by the league to suspend him for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors were up 3-1 in the series with home court advantage and a chance to cap the most successful regular season ever (73-9) with a second consecutive title. Momentum swung in Green’s absence, however, and the Cavs went on to upset the Warriors in one of the most thrilling Game 7 finishes in Finals history.
Green spoke to former NBA player J.J. Redick and his podcast co-host Tommy Alter on a recent episode of The Old Man & The Three. The highly-decorated Warriors forward talked about how he feels the NBA’s ruling in that series changed the course of history, both his team’s and his own.
“The one thing, when I look back on it, that bothers me is I would’ve been the Finals MVP — and that totally changes the narrative,” Green said. “Good luck leaving me off the NBA 75 if I was Finals MVP. Good luck even having a debate if I’m a Hall of Famer or not if I was Finals MVP.”
“When I look back on that from a selfish standpoint, which I rarely do, I would have been Finals MVP and that changes the course of everything,” he continued.
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Green’s Suspension From 2016 NBA Finals Against Cavs Was Questionable
The play in question occurred during Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals, which took place in Cleveland. Green and James got caught up near half court, which ultimately resulted in Green ending up on the floor. James proceeded to step over Green toward the ongoing play, an action to which the Warriors’ forward took exception.
Video of the incident shows Green scrambling to his feet. As he does, his right arm flails upward and makes contact with James’ midsection area. The scuffle continued on the court, after which both men were assessed fouls.
The decision the NBA was forced to make was whether or not Green swung his fist at James’ private area with intent. Ultimately, the league office decided such intent existed and assessed Green a Flagrant Foul 1. It earned Green his fourth Flagrant Foul point of that year’s playoffs, an amount that required he be suspended by rule, per the Sporting News.
Arguments against Green’s suspension included the contention he had not meant to strike James, as well as the notion that the altercation was minor enough that it should not impact an NBA Finals game.
Green Was Well on His Way To Finals MVP Before Suspension
Green continues to feel that his suspension impacted more than just one Finals game. Based on his comments, Green believes Golden State would have won their second title had he been able to play in Game 5. If the Warriors win, he is the MVP and it alters how he is viewed by basketball fans and analysts for all time.
The Dubs forward came within inches of winning the honor even despite the suspension. Green put up 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-8 from behind the 3-point line, in Game 7 of the series. Those totals were complemented by 15 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals.
Green was on the court 40 minutes per night that series, according to Basketball Reference. He averaged 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks per game across the six contests in which he was allowed to play. But the Cavaliers ended up defeating the Warriors 93-89 in Game 7, after which James claimed his third career championship as well as his third NBA Finals MVP.
Like his teammate Klay Thompson, Green was left off the list of the NBA’s Top 75 players of all-time. The group was compiled by sportswriters from across the country, as well as former NBA players, coaches and executives who all voted on which basketball greats should be included. Members of the NBA 75 were honored as part of the All-Star Game celebration last weekend in Cleveland.
Throughout the course of his 10-year career, Green has played in five NBA Finals, all as a member of the Warriors, and won three championship rings. He has also been a member of two All-NBA teams: the Second Team in 2015-16 and the Third Team in 2016-17.
Furthermore, Green has been named an NBA All Star on four occasions, a member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team four times, a member of the NBA All-Defensive Second Team twice, and also won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award for the 2016-17 season.