Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson would not be four-time NBA champions as members of the Golden State Warriors if it weren't for Kevin Durant, at least according to Green.
During a live show Tuesday that promoted both his and JJ Redick's podcasts, Green said the Dubs "would not have beat the Cavs coming back around without Kevin [Durant]" in 2017 and 2018.
Green explained further (h/t Jack Maloney of CBS Sports):
"I personally don't think at that point Steph Curry had figured out 'I'm going to get a bucket whenever I want to.' I don't think he was capable of that yet, I think he was still growing into that. Because of that, once teams started to figure our offense out, we were starting to struggle more and more. I'm not sure if you remember that series with OKC where we were down 3-1 and had to come back. That's because teams had started to figure it out.
"What then in turn ended up happing was, Steph still creates all the havoc he creates. Like I tweeted, Steph faced so many double teams and Kevin didn't. That's a fact. You can go look at the numbers or just watch the game. If you watch the game then you see that Steph's getting double-teamed, and then [then-Cleveland Cavaliers head coach] Ty Lue goes publicly and says 'I'm double-teaming Steph Curry every chance I get.' Kevin wasn't getting double-teamed.
"The reality is, we got to a point where we needed to be able to give someone the ball that can just go get a bucket. Kevin was already there. I don't think Steph was there yet. So, it gets us through those two years. We get those two championships. While we're doing that, Steph is continuing to work and evolve, and most importantly, becoming the strongest dude on our team. To this day he's the strongest guy on the team. That allowed him to score whenever he wanted because you can no longer bump him off his path."
Green does have a point in his comments about the 2017 NBA Finals.
While Curry averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 9.4 assists and 2.2 steals, he was often double-teamed and not really able to open up his game. For comparison, he averaged 31.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in the 2022 Finals against the Boston Celtics.
That said, Curry has gotten much stronger and has become an even better player since the 2017 Finals.
Still, Cleveland's decision to double-team Curry gave Durant many open looks against a Cavs team that included Kyrie Irving, LeBron James and Kevin Love. Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.6 blocks in that series.
In the 2018 Finals, the Warriors were dominant, sweeping the Cavaliers, and it's quite possible the Dubs would have defeated Cleveland without Durant because the Cavs traded Irving to the Boston Celtics and weren't the same dominant team they once were.
While Green spent time reflecting on the past, he also discussed the possibility of James and Irving teaming up again for the Lakers in 2022-23 in an interview with Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg:
"With LeBron James, if you give them someone like Kyrie… they'll have a chance because of the way Kyrie can score the basketball. LeBron will only put him in a position to do that. Kyrie has not proven to be a great leader. LeBron will put an umbrella over that. If you can do what you're good at, you have LeBron leading.
"They could contend, but they won’t beat us."
The rumors of Irving potentially joining the Lakers were squashed when the veteran point guard opted into his player option for the 2022-23 season.
Still, Green obviously isn't worried about potentially matching up against James and Irving again in the postseason, even without Durant.