Click here if you’re unable to view the gallery on your mobile device.
OAKLAND — Only three players in NBA history now have more playoff triple-doubles than Draymond Green. Magic Johnson has 30. LeBron James has 23. Jason Kidd has 11. That’s it.
Green, in the Warriors’ season-ending loss in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, posted his 10th career postseason triple-double and sixth of these playoffs.
Yet the future first-ballot Hall of Famer’s 11 points, 13 assists and whopping 19 rebounds in Golden State’s 114-110 loss to the first-time NBA champion Toronto Raptors weren’t enough on Thursday night. Instead of leaving the Oracle Arena court for the last time celebrating his all-around prowess and flying to Toronto for Game 7, Green snaked his way through the masses congratulating Raptors players and coaches with his ring-less season over, and possibly the Warriors dynasty as we know it, too.
Of the four best players on this Warriors juggernaut, it’s possible only two play next season. Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 and will miss the entire 2019-20 season. Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6 and might, too. They might not both be Warriors, anyway, as both enter unrestricted free agency next month.
That leaves Stephen Curry and Green as the two remaining healthy cornerstones under contract with the team next season, and Green now rises from fourth-best player to second-best on a Warriors team suddenly a shell of the beast it’s been in recent years.
“I think everybody thinks it’s kind of the end of us, but that’s just not smart,” Green said. “We’re not done yet. We lost this year. Clearly just wasn’t our year, but that’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes. But yeah, I hear a lot of that noise, ‘It’s the end of a run’ and all that jazz. I don’t see it happening though. We’ll be back.”
That quote came before Green knew Thompson tore his ACL. He might still say the same after the fact.
The reality, however, is that these dynastic Warriors will take a hiatus at the very least. Best case scenario is that hiatus only lasts one year before Durant and Thompson return to all-star form with the Warriors in late 2020. Worst case is both Durant and Thompson leave in free agency, then return to all-star form with other teams in two seasons. Most likely case is the Warriors return to their dynasty’s roots – Curry, Thompson and Green, with no Durant – in the 2020-21 season with Durant expected to leave in free agency either this year or next.
The one certainty is Golden State will be without Durant and Thompson for most of next season, if not all of it, and because of that Green’s role will be magnified. He’s always been this dynasty’s emotional leader, but now he’ll have to be more to keep the Warriors relevant. As their season ended prematurely he showed, again, that he can be more.
Green skied for every missed shot in his zip code. He floated perfect lobs to Andre Iguodala for thunderous slams. He even sunk a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, which was just about the only uncharacteristic part of Green’s game Thursday night.
“Draymond was fighting like crazy all night,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
That’s who Green is. He fights like crazy every night. Because of it, the Warriors are in good hands, even if Green being their second-best player means they’re far from championship contenders.
At the very least, the Warriors won’t be absent championship spirit as long as Green dons their jersey, even if actual title hopes are faint without Durant and Thompson. Game 6, and every playoff game preceding it, showed just as much.
“We know what this team has been made of all along,” Green said. “I said it over and over again. The pretty offense will always be the story line, but this team, a ton of heart. Everybody that steps on that floor displayed a ton of heart, so it’s no shocker to us that we continue to fight.”
And continue to fight Green will, as the other Warriors follow his lead, regardless of who’s on the floor next season.