This year, Draymond Green could become just the second player ever to miss a game in the Finals and win Finals MVP that year.
Green has been the Warriors’ best player in this series when on the court. He’s averaging 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8, assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game and playing awesome defense that doesn’t show up in the box score. Golden State is outscoring the Cavaliers by 13.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court – the team’s best mark among the seven players who’ve gotten at least 60 minutes in the Finals.
The Warriors’ Game 5 loss illustrated Green’s value. Without him, their defense sunk appreciably and they lost.
If Golden State closes the series in Game 6 tonight, Green has a strong chance of claiming Finals MVP.
I’m favoring LeBron James right now, but the series winner nearly always gets the Finals MVP. I recognize that my thinking differs from typical voters.
But if Green wins the award, he’d become just the second Finals MVP to miss a Finals game. Willis Reed is the only player to do it so far.
Reed famously injured his leg in Game 5 of the 1970 Finals, missed Game 6 and dramatically returned in Game 7 to inspire the Knicks to a win over the Lakers:
Reed played excellently in that series, leading the Knicks in total points and ranking second in total rebounds despite missing more than a game due to injury. He was limited to seven points in Game 5 before getting hurt and four points in Game 7, but that shows his incredible impact in the first four games – when he averaged 31.8 points per game. And the emotional lift he provided in Game 7 is undeniable.
Importantly, Reed doesn’t deserve any blame for missing Game 6, which the Knicks lost by 22 – by far, the series’ most lopsided game. He got hurt.
Green is at fault for missing Game 5. Even you think he didn’t deserve a flagrant foul – I thought the decision was fair – he at least gave the league reason to suspend him. Green knew he was one flagrant from suspension, and he still couldn’t restrain himself from slapping at LeBron’s groin.
It’s cliché, but the most important ability is availability, and Green was unavailable to his team for one full game – 14% to 17% of these Finals. I wouldn’t disqualify him for Finals MVP, but that should hurt his case.
I suspect many voters will view it differently, that they’ll emphasize Green’s production when on the court and use his one-game absence to underscore his value. I disagree, but that’s fine.
In this series, with no Golden State player playing excellently across five games, even my point of view could lead to Green being the Warrior most deserving of Finals MVP. Again, I wouldn’t hold losing against LeBron as much as others will. He’s my front-runner for Finals MVP entering Game 6.
But Green, “overcoming” suspension to lead Golden State to a championship is a better story. That’s part of the reason Green could win Finals MVP. It’d be a great narrative, something we’ve seen only once before.