NBA Finals 2017: Kevin Love vs. Draymond Green
The NBA Finals will feature the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors for the third consecutive season. LeBron James and Stephen Curry will attempt to lead their teams to a victory in the rubber match between two of the most dominating teams in NBA postseason history. Both teams have controlled the road to the Finals combining for a 24-1 record, which is the best-combined record in NBA Finals history.
The marquee matchup between the league's top two teams feature a number of NBA All-Stars. Analysts are raising many questions such as how will Kyrie Irving matchup against Steph Curry or how will Kevin Durant matchup against LeBron James? One matchup that is flying under the radar, is that of the power forwards. Kevin Love vs. Draymond Green is a pivotal matchup that could be a determining factor in this year’s finals.
This postseason Love is averaging 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. While Green is averaging 13.9 points 8.7 rebounds and 7.2 assist per game. Both players give their respective teams great options on offense. When LeBron drives towards the lane, he often looks to kick it out to Love for an open-three. When the Warriors run one of their favorite plays, the pick-and-pop at the top of the key, Green is usually the one taking the shot. Both players are shooting the ball well from beyond the arc. Green is shooting .472 percent, the second best on the team, while Love has attempted 27 more three pointers and is shooting .475 percent.
The advantage on offense has to go towards Green. Not only is he a threat to score from all around the floor, he is also an extremely underrated passer. Love may have mastered the full-court pass, but overall Green is still the better passer. On defense, the advantage also goes towards Green. Green is arguably one of the best defenders in the league. In the past three seasons, including this year, Green finished in the top three for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
A year ago, there would be no debating which player is more significant to their teams. Green’s versatility allowed the Warriors to play a small, up-tempo lineup also known as the “Death Lineup.” His play was vital to the team’s success. During the 2016 Finals, Love disappeared. He averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting .362 from the field. Despite struggling, the Cavaliers were still able to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Green’s suspension in Game 5 is also credited to helping the Cavs rally back.
This year, if Love post numbers similar to those, the Warriors will end the series in four games. There is no doubt that the Cavaliers need Love to play extremely well in order to win the NBA Finals. With the addition of Kevin Durant, the Warriors can afford Green struggling. It’s a luxury adding one of the top five player in the league gives you. Love must continue to score and rebound to help take the load off LeBron.
The matchup between these two All-Stars has already begun heating up, even before tip off. Back in October, Green said if Cleveland were to head to the NBA Finals, he wanted to “destroy” and “annihilate” them. Love did not forget those comments and reminded Green that he “wanted us” and now “he has us starting next Thursday.” A little trash talking never hurt anyone and just adds extra fuel to a series that never needed anymore. Oh boy, this should be fun.
The highly anticipated heavyweight matchup begins on June 1.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference, ESPN, Cavaliersnation