After finishing off the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 in Game 5, the Golden State Warriors are your 2017 NBA champions.
Part of the conversation over the next few days will undoubtedly surround LeBron James and the fact that he's now 3-5 in NBA Finals. However, we're going to ignore that narrative for now and focus instead on the Warriors and what brought them their second title in three seasons.
The Cavaliers are a strong team. They proved that last year when they came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals. Getting past that team in five games was no easy task. Even if you consider this edition of the Warriors to be an all-time great NBA team, you have to admire the team effort it took to earn another ring.
Let's take a look at the members of this championship team who were most instrumental in capturing the 2017 title.
A former foe was the biggest difference between this Warriors team and the one that blew a 3-1 lead last year. Once Kevin Durant decided his Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't get past Golden State—the Thunder blew their own 3-1 lead in the conference final last year—he decided to join the Dubs.
His decision paid off in a big way, as Durant won his first championship and was named Finals MVP in the process—and deservedly so. Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game in the series.
Averaging 35.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, & 5.4 APG, Kevin Durant is the 2017 Bill Russell #NBAFinals MVP! #ThisIsWhyWePlay https://t.co/BMkARRinMm2017-6-13 04:02:16
Ultimately, the Cavaliers simply couldn't find an answer for Durant the way the team was able to find answers in the 2016 Finals. It's hard for any team to find an answer for a 6'9" star who can shoot from the perimeter and take it to the hole with equal skill.
Trying to stop such a player on a team also filled with terrific long-range shooters is virtually impossible.
Some, including former NBA star Paul Pierce, believe that Durant has even surpassed James as the best player in the NBA.
"What we're witnessing is the changing of the guard. [Kevin Durant is] the new best player in the NBA," Pierce said after Game 2, per Colin Ward-Henniger of CBSSports.com.
The reality is that the passing of the torch may still be a season or two away. Let's not forget that James just averaged a triple-double in a series against one of the best teams we've ever seen. When paired with Golden State, though, Durant may indeed be the most unstoppable player in the league.
"I'm just so happy to be a part of it, man," Durant said during the ABC postgame, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. "I can't wait to celebrate with my teammates in the locker room."
Stephen Curry was the heart of the Warriors before Durant arrived, and he was still a very big part of the team afterward. His ability to stretch the court and drop bombs from virtually anywhere on the floor was perhaps the biggest reason Durant frequently found open lanes to the basket.
However, Curry's long shot wasn't the only asset he brought to the Finals this year. Curry often ran the floor offensively and he certainly stepped up in the rebounding department. He wasn't too far off from matching James' triple-double for the series.
Curry averaged 26.8 points, 9.4 assists and 8.0 rebounds in the Finals.
Durant and Curry have proved to be an elite duo and a championship pairing. While Curry will undoubtedly still face some criticism—plenty of folks are sure to say that he had to add Durant to get past a healthy Cavs team—his performance this series has helped silence the criticism he's faced since losing last year's Finals.
Marcus Thomas II of the Mercury News wrote the following after Game 5:
"On the biggest stage, and healthy, Curry proved he wasn't a flash in the pan. That his two MVPs and 2015 championship wasn't a fluke. Despite not having the freakish size of the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, he proved he belongs. LeBron made it clear there is nobody in the NBA better than he. But there should be no more doubt Curry is in the mix with the game's elite."
Curry didn't lean on Durant so much as complement him in the Finals. There should be no more questions about whether the two can coexist and many more questions about how many titles these two can win together.
Draymond Green may not have been as prolific in the Finals as guys like Durant and Curry, but he was an integral part of the team's run to a title. He helped give the team a defensive identity and he was the ultimate team player in the postseason.
Green led the Warriors in the playoffs with 9.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game. In the finals, he averaged 10.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 11 points per game.
Did the Warriors really need Green's 11 points each night? Probably not. However, they definitely benefited from his ability to come down with the ball and to produce second-chance opportunities. Green did chip in 26 points over the past two games, though.
That's more points than even Klay Thompson added to close out the series.
Curry and Durant are definitely the offensive centerpieces of this Warriors team, but it's role players like Green who truly make it a championship team.