Don't Assume the Draymond Green Suspension Will Affect the NBA Finals
The league announced on Monday that Draymond Green will be suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Green was retroactively assessed a flagrant foul for an incident that occurred in the dying minutes of Game 4. That ruling pushes him over the limit for flagrant foul points in the playoffs, which results in an automatic one-game suspension.
Here's the play in question, which occurred with 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4:
This marks the third time in just the last two rounds of this postseason that Green has been singled out for hitting another player in the genitals (incidents from which all of his previous flagrant foul points came).
There are debates raging on in NBA circles everywhere about Green's aggressive play and whether or not he's a dirty player, but that kind of commentary is not really our thing.
Instead, here's a look at how the numbers suggest the Warriors will be able to perform in Game 5 without Green, including how our algorithms differ in projecting the outcome both with and without Draymond in the fold.
Stephen Curry may have been the first unanimous MVP in league history this season, but it's still normal to question if he's even been the most important player on his own team this year.
Draymond Green finished seventh in MVP voting himself, while being named to the All-Defensive First Team and All-NBA Second Team. The Warriors losing him -- even if it's only for one game and they already have a 3-1 series lead -- has the potential to be a big deal.
Here's how the Warriors have performed this postseason with Green on the floor versus how they've done when he's been on the bench:
|Situation||MIN||Off Rtg||Def Rtg||Net Rtg||REB%||eFG%||PACE|
|Draymond on the floor||792||112.1||100.4||11.6||49.2%||54.9%||100.74|
|Draymond on the bench||221||102.2||103.5||-1.3||47.0%||49.6%||98.01|
As you can see, the Warriors are simply better with Draymond on the floor than without him.
With him, they have a much better Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions) and Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions), grab a larger percentage of the available rebounds (Rebound Percentage), shoot a better Effective Field Goal Percentage (weighted twos and threes), and do a better job of pushing the pace (possessions per 48 minutes).
Part of the discrepancy between his on/off splits can be attributed to the fact that he generally plays a lot with fellow All-Stars Curry and Klay Thompson, but Green's 12.9-point difference in Net Rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) between his time on and off the floor is the highest differential on the team. He also leads the team in On-Court Plus-Minus this postseason at +153, while the Warriors are a team-worst -15 during his time on the bench. In fact, he's the only Warrior to even have a negative Off-Court Plus-Minus this postseason.
With Curry and Thompson both struggling with their shot at different points in this series, Green was becoming a heavy favorite for Finals MVP, thanks to his averages of 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.3 blocks per contest through four games. His absence, even for only one game, has the potential to be a problem for Golden State.
One of the big advantages of having a player like Green on your team is that his positional versatility unlocks so many interesting lineup combinations.
The best example of this is the Warriors' infamous "Death Lineup", which consists of Curry, Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond -- a former small forward -- at center. In 35 minutes of action this postseason, that lineup has a ridiculous Net Rating of 30.5, based on an otherworldly Offensive Rating of 130.7 and a Defensive Rating of 100.2.
Of the Warriors' seven most-used lineups this postseason (all the ones with over 25 minutes of action), Draymond is involved in all but one of them.
The only one he's not part of has a Net Rating of -8.5 in 25 minutes of use, while all the rest that he is a part of have a positive Net Rating. The next most-used non-Draymond lineup is one with Shaun Livingston, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes, and Marreese Speights, and that combo has a Net Rating of -26.2 in only 12 minutes of action.
In fact, there's only one lineup that the Warriors have used for more than 10 minutes this postseason that doesn't include Green but still has a positive Net Rating. The combination of Curry, Livingston, Iguodala, Barnes, and Festus Ezeli has a Net Rating of 44.4 in a barely-countable 11 minutes of action.
Put simply, Warriors coach Steve Kerr is going to have a challenge on his hands when it comes to finding good lineups and a logical rotation without Draymond -- his swiss army knife -- in his toolkit.
Conclusion and Projection
Draymond Green has only missed one game this entire season and the Warriors lost that one by two points to the 33-49 Denver Nuggets.
That said, the 73-9 Warriors are still one of the best teams of all time and have a full complement of weapons beyond Green. They haven't yet proven that they can adjust to life without Draymond for a game, but with a 3-1 series lead and things shifting back to Oakland (where Cleveland hasn't won a game since Game 2 of last year's NBA Finals), they are still firmly in the driver's seat.
If you're wondering, the absence of Green from tonight's contest barely moves the needle for our projections anyway.
Pre-suspension, we had the Warriors at 94.44% to close out this series. Draymond's absence from Game 5 only bumps that astronomically high projection down to 94.24%.
In terms of Game 5's outcome on its own? We had the Warriors at 66.38% to close things out tonight at home and that has only dropped to 63.68% -- not even a 3% difference.
After all, this is still an all-time great team in a position (up 3-1) in which 95.7% of the teams in NBA history have gone on to win the series (according to WhoWins.com). Even if Golden State doesn't manage to clinch tonight due to the absence of one of their most important players, they still have this one in the bag. In the end, this suspension will likely serve as nothing more than an interesting footnote on an otherwise dominant season by a championship team.
Not even a swipe at The King's jewels is likely to change that.