The Warriors are on the quest to becoming one of six teams in NBA history to win three championships in a row. While three is great, five titles in a row would be even better.
A singular moment stopped the Warriors from having the chance to become the first team since the 1960s Boston Celtics to win five straight championships: Draymond Green’s suspension in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
Green’s suspension came after he received a flagrant foul for swiping at LeBron James’ groin in Game 4, triggering an automatic suspension for his fourth flagrant of the playoffs. James and the Cavs used Green’s absence to come back from a three-games-to-one Finals deficit for the first time in NBA history.
But what if Green didn’t get suspended in the 2016 Finals? How would history have changed?
“The Warriors would definitely have had a different history if Draymond Green played that whole series,” former Dubs forward and current NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Kelenna Azubuike said. “They definitely would have won that series and won that championship.”
“There’s no debate with me I think we win,” said NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors analyst Garry St. Jean.
This hypothetical stretches farther than winning or losing the 2016 Finals. If the Warriors win the title in 2016, does Kevin Durant -- who received so much criticism for joining Golden State -- still come to the Bay?
“My suspicion is Kevin Durant would have still come to the Warriors,” NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Monte Poole said. “ I think he was curious about who the Warriors were, curious about the Bay Area and wanted to see how their culture is.”
“Kevin Durant’s even made it clear there were points in which he looked at the Warriors team and thought that if they had won it wouldn’t have been the right situation for him to join.” Warriors Outsiders host Grant Liffmann said. “It seemed like the perfect situation for him once it became clear the team was a little bit in transition and was able to lose in the finals.”
Durant and the Thunder, of course, were up three-games-to-one in the 2016 Western Conference Finals before the Warriors rallied to win the series.
“It felt like that whole thing was set up for me to leave,” Durant said in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, “especially after they blew a lead in the Finals, because I damn sure wasn’t going there if they’d won. But after Game 7, I called up my agent and said, ‘Damn, dude, Golden State – what if?’ ”
The Warriors infamously sent Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to Kevin Durant’s free agent meeting in the Hamptons that summer. Azubuike believes the Finals loss cracked open the door for the path to Durant.
“KD is unselfish but he does have an ego, a superstar ego. You want to feel like a team needs you and a team wants you.” Azubuike said. “Obviously after the Warriors lost that series they were able to go to KD ‘hey we need you’.”
If we continue the "What if" game, what if Durant decided not to sign with the Warriors in 2016? Do they bring back Harrison Barnes -- who signed a four-year, $94 million deal with the Mavericks -- and Andrew Bogut?
"I’ve asked Joe Lacob this very question, ‘What if KD doesn’t come here? He danced and danced and danced around the answer," Poole said. "And I said would you have brought back Harrison Barnes and he danced and danced and danced around the answer. He never gave me a straight answer and I don’t think he has ever given anyone a straight answer. It was pretty clear his heart was set on Durant and when he got him he was elated.”
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Luckily for Warriors fans, they don’t have to play the "What if" game much.