Draymond Green always knew Warriors would return to NBA Finals after two-year hiatus

·4-min read

The Golden State Warriors haven't just missed the NBA Finals for the past two seasons, they haven't even been to the NBA postseason since 2019. Those down years made Warriors forward Draymond Green appreciative of the previous five trips he and the duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson made to the Finals, and the time away from the title chase also made him hungrier and even more confident.

Now, on the eve of the Warriors' return to the Finals against a resurgent Boston Celtics squad, Green told Andscape's Marc J. Spears he always believed Golden State would play in a championship series again.

And his reasoning is classic Draymond:

"Because nobody had beat us. No one has ever beaten us whole. Ever. Has not happened yet. In 2016, I got suspended from [Game 5]. In 2019, Kevin Durant goes down [in Game 5 with a ruptured Achilles]. But then you follow that over to Cleveland, no one has ever beat us whole. So just say, ‘Oh, you’re done,’ but no one has proven that yet. So, even more so than my belief, there was no reason not to believe, because no one had done it. Still happened. I just didn’t believe that people had us figured out. We just had some unfortunate things happen. That happens. That happens to everybody. But I just didn’t think because of that we were done. Like I thought, ‘All right, we’ll get back out there, and we’ll be fine.’"

He's not completely wrong here. The Warriors cruised to Finals victories in 2015, 2017 and 2018 but lost the 2016 and 2019 Finals in very strange ways.

For those that don't remember, Golden State blew a 3-1 series lead to LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2016 Finals thanks in part to Green's Game 5 suspension following a flagrant foul on James in Game 4. The Cavaliers stormed back to win the next three games to win the title. Then in 2019, the Warriors lost to Kawhi Leonard's Toronto Raptors in six games after Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 and Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6.

Draymond Green missed Game 5 with a suspension that helped the Cavaliers climb back to win the 2016 Finals.(Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)
Draymond Green missed Game 5 with a suspension that helped the Cavaliers climb back to win the 2016 Finals. (Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images)

So in Green's eyes, the 2022 version is more similar to the teams that won in '15, '17 and '18 than the ones that lost in '16 and '19 because of how "whole" the Warriors are this postseason. Curry, Thompson and Green are healthy, albeit older and less deadly than those earlier Warriors teams. Even Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala are still around. The supporting cast is just as intriguing, but a little bit less experienced: Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, Otto Porter Jr., Damion Lee and rookie Jonathan Kuminga are all solid contributors who don't have any Finals experience.

Facing the Celtics

The Celtics offer perhaps one of the hardest matchups the Warriors could have faced this season. The defensive acumen of Boston combined with the offensive potential of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart make the Celtics a tough out for the resurgent Warriors. Green understands they're just as hungry for a title as Golden State is this season.

Draymond Green is ready for the 2022 NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Draymond Green is ready for the 2022 NBA Finals. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

"They’re a very good team. They have it on the offensive end, they have it on the defensive end. They have a culture that they believe in, which I think is extremely important, and they’re a hungry team. That’s a team that’s been to the conference finals what, four out of the last five years, or four out of the last six years, or something like that, and hadn’t been able to get over the hump, and now they’re over that hump. And that comes with a different confidence. For pretty much since January, that’s been the best team in our league, and what can we do to combat some of their strengths and not play into their hands, try to expose some of their weaknesses? I think for us, that’s what we have to figure out."

Regardless of the outcome this year, Green believes the legacy of the Warriors will remain on the same level as the Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.

"This didn’t change nothing," he added. "It just amplified it. But we were already that."