Over the past four or so NBA seasons, there's been a growing sentiment among basketball fans: The Golden State Warriors have made the league boring.
Three titles in four years? Check. A never-ending amalgamation of superstars in The Bay? Check. A fifth Finals appearance in as many seasons? Check Nobody's ruling it out.
But even if the product on the court—as beautiful as it is when done right—doesn't always grab your attention because "you already know how it's going to end," this league, as we see once again with the Dubs, is never boring.
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
Story with @MarcJSpearsESPN and me: Late game exchange between Kevin Durant/Draymond Green carried into locker room Monday night, w/ teammates loudly confronting Green for decision-making on final play of regulation. Scene described as one of most intense of this G-State era.
Context is key here. For starters, this isn't an isolated incident. Kevin Durant and Draymond Green have a history, and while the cliche "winning solves everything" comes to mind, it's a cliche for a reason—it's partly true, partly wayyy overused without any tangible evidence. There's also 2019 free agency to think about. And this is where it gets tricky, because if Durant wants to stick around but is not thrilled about the makeup of the roster (or at least one very specific part of it at starting power forward), the Warriors will have a dilemma on their hands.
Which brings us to the ultimate question: Who ya got?
If the KD-Dray relationship remains (or becomes) as contentious and unpredictable as it appears on the surface, there's a very real-world scenario in which it becomes one or the other. Who should Golden State as an organization prefer? Who should Golden State as a fanbase prefer? Who would opponents rather see in the Finals: Warriors without Durant or Dubs sans Green?
B/R has these answers and more as the NBA proves once again you must always have your popcorn ready.
Who Ya Got If You're The Warriors?
It's tempting to say Green—and not for contrarian's sake. His defensive versatility and ability to orchestrate offense as a fully functioning center mean almost as much to this system's success as Stephen Curry's pull-up splashes.
But the answer is Durant, who looks and plays like he was created in a basketball factory.
He can manufacture scoring opportunities out of thin air and finish them with either a rim-rattling dunk or a Finals-closing three bomb. He's a better playmaker than people think (5.3 assists per game as a Warrior), and when fully engaged, he can do a pretty convincing impression of Green as a small-ball paint protector (he was Green's early DPOY pick last season, remember).
Now, could the Warriors function the same without Green? No, but refashioning a play style around the talents of Durant, Curry and Klay Thompson still sounds like a coach's dream.
Green is on a short list of the game's best defenders. Durant is firmly in the discussion of its best all-around players. If there was ever a time to choose a player like Green over Durant, it certainly isn't in the scoring-crazed, perimeter-oriented world of 2018-19.
Who Ya Got If You're the Warriors Fans?
The dispute between Durant and Green is very much a battle between the head and the heart. Durant's scoring, shooting, versatility and the general ability to shoulder the offense are important and look great on paper. He's the better player, but does that mean he's the more important one?
Green is fiery with emotion—Exhibit A being the kerfuffle in question. He is not a robot, but a brilliant basketball mind. He's an elite defender and de facto point guard. He's unselfish and unequivocally a winner.
Green has been a part of the development of this team over the years, so it's understandable that a section of the Warriors fanbase would have a greater affinity for him. But Durant is a top-three player in the NBA. He can do some of the things Green does—defense and playmaking, albeit not at the same level—but also gives the Warriors the element of a second dynamic scorer, something Green simply cannot offer.
If it comes to the point where the Warriors have to let go of one of these cornerstone pieces, regardless of who it is, the fallout could be destructive. The Warriors had a great deal of success before Durant, so pushing him out may seem like the easy answer, but how will the rest of the core function after that? Pushing out Green may seem logical because of the questions about how he will age and whether his contract will be valuable should he get a supermax deal. Also fair. Durant may be a safer bet on a long-term deal, but it would certainly sting the fans to lose Green.
Who Ya Want Gone If You're The Lakers?
In many ways, Green is the heart of the Warriors. In their offense, he's their de facto point guard from the forward position. Defensively, Green is their most versatile, physical player, and his strength offsets any height disadvantage he might face. The Warriors won their first NBA title before Durant arrived, when Green emerged as the prototype small-ball center.
All that said, the Los Angeles Lakers would undoubtedly prefer Durant off the Warriors' roster. Durant's ability to score is elite. His offensive skills—as a 7-footer with guard attributes and a tremendous shooting stroke—have been the most significant factor in their back-to-back titles. Durant has also grown to be a very disruptive defender with his long, long arms. Not only would the Lakers like for him to leave Golden State, but they'd also love for him to join LeBron James in Los Angeles.
In buying out Luol Deng's contract over the summer, the Lakers lined up just enough potential cap space for the summer of 2019, just in case Durant decides to defect to the southland.
Who Ya Got In a Fight?
I'm not sure this should even be a question—and not just because physical altercations over basketball dynamics are actually dumb.
Officially, KD has two inches and 10 pounds on Green. Unofficially, he has six inches and probably negative-20 pounds on him. He can hold up against NBA defenses because he's so slippery—and because there are rules. Put him in a confined space with Green and throw away league-imposed etiquette, and evasive maneuvers won't serve him too well.
Never mind that Dray's feet are like magnets for other peoples' groins. He seems to relish confrontation, both verbal and physical. He's hardly Semi Ojeleye-shredded, but he has a freight-truck build that moves at runaway-train speed.
A more reserved setting, like an officiated boxing match, might help Durant. Still, how much power is he generating with his jabs and hooks? I've seen penne noodles with larger circumferences than his arms and concrete walls with more definition than his chest.
To be clear: This isn't a knock against Durant. He is very good at basketball and very, very, very over-analyzed as a person and social media user. He is a franchise cornerstone in a way Green never could be.
But let's be real: If a genuine fight breaks out between these two, Durant's best chance to win is sending in DeMarcus Cousins as his proxy.
Who Ya Got If You're Stephen Curry?
The Warriors have been arguably the most dominant team in NBA history in the four-plus years since this run began. But they've taken it to another level since adding Durant in the summer of 2016. They were hard enough to guard when Curry had only one Splash Brother—he and Thompson being two of the five best shooters ever. Adding a third has made it a lost cause for opponents, and Durant's versatility and improvement through the years on the defensive end have made him even more indispensable—especially when it comes to making life easy on the two-time MVP.
For better or worse, Green has been the emotional heartbeat of this Warriors era, but outside of the 73-win season, he hasn't been much of a threat to shoot from the outside. Curry's shot should age well, but he is inevitably going to decline. And when he does, the next five or so years of Durant would be a more useful pairing alongside Curry than Green would be for the rest of his career, which has a much more bleak prognosis when it comes to how he'll age.
Who Ya Got If You're DeMarcus Cousins?
Durant, the two-time Finals MVP and 2013-14 NBA MVP, may very well be the best player in the league today, and yet, there is seemingly no one DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins would rather go to war with than Green.
"I like to put people around me who are just genuine and real," Cousins told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears. "He (Green) is going to always keep it real; that's something I enjoy."
Green was in many ways the air traffic controller waving orange batons as Boogie landed in San Francisco following his departure from good friend Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans. He earned Boogie's trust from the very start. The two have always practiced a raucous style of friendship. But when Green spoke to the team this past September and professed that it needed to support the big man through his ups and downs, Cousins' response was an emotional one.
"It felt amazing," Cousins told The Undefeated. "I never had a teammate speak up for me in any matter or actually try to understand my situation in any moment. Shows he cares. Shows his leadership qualities are through the roof."
Cousins even moved to the same street as Green. Green often lets himself into Boogie's home unannounced and the two enjoy Caribbean food and expensive wine, per Spears.
"We just clicked, man," Cousins said. "That's how we f--king cut from the same cloth. It's a natural thing."
Boogie is real about their relationship. He told Spears that the two of them fight every day. They each know where the other stands. But when Cousins shared a double ejection last season as a New Orleans Pelican against the Warriors, it wasn't Green on the receiving end of Boogie's invitation to a postgame chat—it was Durant he was ready to go to war with...although "against" is really more like it.
Who Ya Want Gone If You're a Finals Opponent?
Durant is perhaps the most offensively gifted player of this era. Green fits nearly every role the Warriors ask of him and is the ideal glue to hold their trio of high-scoring stars together. Having witnessed up close the damage each has done to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals the past few years, it's easy to pinpoint whom I'd rather face the Warriors without.
While Green's suspension in Game 5 of the 2016 Finals helped ignite Cleveland's incredible comeback, it's been Durant who's lifted this team into a new stratosphere. The NBA's best player outside of LeBron James, Durant is making the Warriors 25.3 points per 100 possessions better this season compared to Green's 6.0, per Basketball Reference. Durant can dominate a game with both his scoring and defense, something Green cannot.
Green is a special player who fuels the Warriors engine, but Durant will go down as one of the best ever.