I’m still recovering from Game 5 over here. Can we get some more of that please?!?
LeBron was sensational. Kyrie reached new levels. And let’s not forget about Klay keeping the Warriors in it for as long as he could.
So who can we thank for such an amazing game? Draymond Green and Kevin Love — for completely different reasons.
What Steph and Klay do is breathtaking. The Warriors wouldn’t be here without the Splash Brothers. But you can make a real argument that Draymond is the most valuable player on Golden State when you simply focus on one aspect — winning.
Having the Splash Brothers is a luxury, but you only really NEED one of them to go off to win a game. Green’s rim protection (going straight up without fouling), one-on-one defense, rebounding, playmaking and energy are irreplaceable.
In shorter terms, Draymond is the most undervalued player in the NBA (and the Warriors’ MVP) and it was highlighted in Game 5.
Here are some of the most Undervalued Players on teams that have made a run to the Finals and won it all…
2011 Dallas Mavericks
The 2011 NBA Finals were all about LeBron’s new super team. The storyline soon changed when Dirk’s Mavs won it in six, but none of this was possible without the sixth man. Dallas had a thin roster with guys like Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion and an aging J-Kidd. Terry averaged 18 points during the series playing just the fifth most minutes on the team coming off the bench. JET wasn’t more valuable than Dirk, but he was close.
2008 Boston Celtics
As a Celtics fan I’ll never forget the contributions of Posey. Easily one of the most forgettable names on Boston’s championship roster, there might be no title without “Big Game James”. Posey played the fifth most minutes for the C’s in the finals behind “The Big Three” and a young Rondo — really playing the same amount as Rondo and having identical stats outside of assists. Posey was crucial on the defensive end in that playoff run, often finishing games in place of Kendrick Perkins.
2003, 2005, 2007 San Antonio Spurs
If Bruce wasn’t breaking down games for us everyday with goofy bowties on SportsCenter this dude would be long forgotten. Like Posey his numbers don’t say much, but lockdown defense and timely 3-pointers mean the world in the NBA Finals. Remarkably, Bowen played in all 82 games all five years during the span in which he won three title with the Spurs, which isn’t a coincidence. When a team’s scoring is in place, a Bowen type player is the most valuable piece you can add.
1991-1993 Chicago Bulls
1996-1998 Chicago Bulls
Had to fit both Bulls’ three-peats in here somehow. Obviously, Jordan did it all. MJ is the largest individual talent of the modern era in terms of contributing the most to his team winning. Pippen was a fantastic wingman. Rodman’s effort and rebounding was much needed. BUT maybe, just maybe, without these two guys the Bulls falter just one year and Jordan has five titles instead of six. Grant and Kukoc were the third scorers on their respective three-peat squads, and were counted on to knock down shots — Grant even more so. There’s no way to tell for sure exactly where NBA history stands without these guys. We’d like to believe Jordan gets it done either way because that’s the type of competitor he was. But who knows?
1994-1995 Houston Rockets
2000-2002 Los Angeles Lakers
2005, 2007 San Antonio Spurs
Sure, some of it was luck, but “Big Shot Bob” doesn’t have seven rings by accident. He had kind of a weird career where his individual play peaked early, and it looked like he could develop into a star, before settling in as a role player on great teams. Horry’s career averages of roughly 7 points, 5 boards and 2 assists don’t tell the story. He helped Houston win as a young role player, contributing with his athleticism. He helped the Lakers win by playing major minutes off the bench and always being ready for the big shot, even with Shaq and Kobe there. Then he played limited minutes for the Spurs, but maintained all the same qualities in the big moments — highlighted by 21 points in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 5 of the 2005 finals (including the game-winner) that likely single handedly gave Duncan and the Spurs another title.
Draymond would have to top the list for the reasons mentioned, though. All these guys were major contributors to championships, but Green gets the nod for the top spot. Think about it — the back-to-back MVP may not actually be the MVP of his own team.
Then we have Kevin Love. Yes, it’s a tough role to be the guy behind LeBron and Kyrie, but Chris Bosh was never this bad this consistently in Miami. I’m of the belief that putting up All-Star caliber numbers doesn’t mean you’re capable of being a winning player, although often the two go hand-in-hand. When it comes down to it, Love is the most over valued player in the league.
You know what’s coming next — the most Overvalued Players to help take a team to the Finals….
2009-2010 Los Angeles Lakers
Remember this guy? He’s not hard to pick out now — the seven-footer with a bleach blonde ‘fro drinking beer at the NBA Finals with the fans. Bynum was considered one of the top-3 centers in the NBA for a couple of seasons. He had the skills, but was really being held together by a strong Kobe/Pau Lakers core. As soon as he was traded away we never heard from him again. But even in L.A., Bynum never played the role in helping his team win that many thought he was capable of.
2009 Orlando Magic
Bynum was traded for Howard who also didn’t help the Lakers win. However, his 2009 trip to the finals was a joke. Helped out by guys like Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis knocking down all their shots, and Kevin Garnett being sidelined for the postseason, Howard was able to sneak Orlando into the finals. The Magic got destroyed by the Lakers, and we’ve since seen that even if you pair Dwight with Kobe or James Harden he still can’t figure it out. Howard’s about to take his talents to some other lucky team and give it another go…
Gary Payton/Karl Malone
2004 Los Angeles Lakers
The 2003-04 Lakers were supposed to be the greatest team of all-time. The Spurs dethroned the Lakers after their three-peat, so L.A. went out the next season and added these two HOF players. You’ll hear plenty of chatter about how dysfunctional the locker room was, and it’s pretty much all true. The bottom line is that this team still made it to the Finals, and had they gotten anything from Payton or Malone they could have won. Payton averaged 4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists over 33.6 minutes. Malone averaged 5.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 30.5 minutes before being forced to miss the game in which Detroit closed them out. For comparison, Payton started all 82 games in the regular season and averaged 14.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.5 assist in 34.5 minutes. The Mailman was injured, but managed to play in 42 games, posting 13.2 points, 8.2 boards and 3.9 helpers while playing 32.7 minutes.
2002-2003 New Jersey Nets
Credit to Jason Kidd for taking advantage of a horrible Eastern Conference. That said, this guy is a top player on a team that made consecutive Finals appearances? I’m not buying it. Unlike Love, Kidd was a great player. But as we saw later in his career with Dallas, he was a third or fourth option on a team that wins. Again, you have to take yourself back in time here, Kidd was thought of as a top-3 player in the league with Duncan and Shaq in the early 2000’s. Beating up on a young Paul Pierce with almost nothing around him then getting blown out of the Finals by Shaq and then Duncan (of course) doesn’t equal Kidd’s hype.
1990, 1992 Portland Trailblazers
Drexler was a fantastic player, but let’s time travel to the early ’90’s. Here’s the debate — Best SG in the NBA: Jordan or Drexler? You can solve that one yourself. Drexler took a couple teams to the Finals after Magic’s Lakers started fading out, but could never win one. Clyde would probably be ranked on the list of greats that never won somewhere around Reggie Miller territory. But instead he got one courtesy of Olajuwon in Houston during a year Jordan was out of the league. It still counts, but getting that ring doesn’t take away from the fact that Drexler was never quite what people expected him to be.
Kevin Love is unlike any of these players. He’s the worst player of the group, but is/was still thought of as one of the better players in the league. Outside of Bynum, all these players did take teams to the Finals on their backs, something Love could never dream of doing.
Remember when the Timberwolves wanted a package built around Klay Thompson for Kevin Love?!? I think Golden State is pretty happy with its decision to pass on that one.
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