Warriors star Draymond Green knows a few things about playing in the NBA Finals. He has done it five times in his nine seasons in the league and this year will mark his first non-Finals postseason since 2014.
His opinion on how the remainder of the NBA’s season will play out carries some weight, then. While he had one team—the Clippers—slated as the favorite to win this year’s championship for most of the year, when the season resumes on July 30 in Orlando, Green says he doesn’t have the Clippers at the top of the list anymore.
He’s got the Lakers now and there’s one very important reason: They have LeBron James. But it’s not just for his talent. It’s because James is the star player best equipped to keep his teammates in line in Orlando.
“I think going into this bubble, the Lakers got to be the favorite because they got LeBron and he can kind of adjust to anything,” Green told the Jalen & Jacoby show this week.
— Jalen & Jacoby (@JalenandJacoby) June 30, 2020
Clippers Were Favorites When Season Suspended, Green Says
Based on talent, depth, and the way the team is constructed, Green had plenty of reasons to favor the Clippers. Though the Lakers are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and, with a 5.5-game lead over the Clippers are a near-lock to maintain that position heading into the playoffs, the Clippers have a variety of ways to attack opponents.
They had not been fully healthy all year but were nearly 100% when the season was put on hold because of the novel coronavirus outbreak in March. The Clippers did beat the Lakers in their first two meetings this year but the Lakers came back with an impressive win just three days before league play was suspended. Green said:
I think going into the season and all season long, the Clippers were the favorite. Just when you look at their team, I think they have someone that checks every box, from a defender, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Patrick Beverley. When you’re talking great size – Kawhi, Paul George, Marcus Morris. You know, they check all the boxes. They can match up with any team well. And they have shooting. They have Montrezl [Harrell] down low. They have everything that you need to win a championship.
NBA Bubble Requires LeBron James-Style Discipline
But the circumstances of the NBA’s restart, as Green sees it, will work in favor of James and the Lakers. Again, Green has some familiarity here. In four of the five Finals in which he has appeared, James and the Cavaliers were the Eastern Conference opponent. He’s seen up close the way that James’ approach to the game can have an impact on himself and his teammates.
James, Green said, is disciplined and diligent. In the awkward circumstances that the “bubble” environment will create at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex—with players prohibited from leaving and unable to see their families until after the first round of the postseason–the teams that can maintain the best focus will have an advantage.
“I think he’s probably the most disciplined player we’ve ever seen in the NBA,” Green said, “and that’s going to matter going into this bubble. You know, having LeBron on your team going into this bubble gives you a slight advantage.”
With 17 seasons and nine NBA Finals under his belt, James commands some respect—he sets an example and his teammates tend to follow it. At age 35, he is taking seriously this opportunity to lock up another championship. That could be a big advantage for the Lakers.