Draymond Green cost the Warriors a title last year. Now he’s going to win them one.

A punch to the groin will keep the Golden State Warriors from completing the greatest three-year run in NBA history next month.

Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers might have completed their historic comeback anyway. But in the instant before Draymond Green reached up from the ground to connect with LeBron James’ nether regions, the Warriors had all the momentum. They were up 10 points in Game 4, a victory that gave them a 3-1 series lead, and … well, you know.

Green knows all that. “I’m not afraid to say that it’s my fault,” he told Oakland Tribune columnist Marcus Thompson after Cavs won Game 7. “I think it was.” It’s the next part of that quote that matters more now, as the teams prepare for a third consecutive meeting in the Finals: “But this ain’t the last that you’ll see from us.”

Yes, it was Green’s fault. Whether stupidly reckless or recklessly stupid, the Warriors power forward and emotional leader never should have let his temper or uncontainable limbs get the best of him in the moment.

That was compounded by Ayesha Curry and Klay Thompson calling out James for his complaints. And that chain of events led to James averaging 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 3.0 steals, 3.0 blocks and 2.7 turnovers per game over arguably the greatest three-game stretch by any player in NBA history.

And all that is one sliver of why Draymond Green will be named 2017 NBA Finals MVP in roughly two weeks.

The rationale for the popular picks are self-evident. There’s James (2.6-to-1 payout), if you believe the Cavaliers can pull off the upset again. There’s Stephen Curry (2.1-to-1), who is having the best postseason of his career and has a lot to prove after a poor performance in last year’s Finals. There’s Kevin Durant (also 2.1-to-1), the new guy in the mix, who joined the Warriors to win a title and would face endless scrutiny for it if they fall short.

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But this series is leaning in the direction of Green, the 5.5-to-1 underdog for the award. It’s ripe for his plucking. Here are six quick reasons why:

  1. He was the Warriors’ best player during last year’s Finals, averaging 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.7 steals a game. If they win Game 6, he wins MVP. (By Game 7, James probably had that locked up win or lose.) He’s also been great this postseason.
  2. Green’s role this season has become even more specialized. He was named to the All-NBA third team despite averaging 10.2 points a game. His defense and playmaking are so revered that if he can score like he did last year, he will reap a ton of praise.
  3. Curry and Durant are arguably the two best scorers in the NBA, but they offset each other in regular-season MVP discussions and may again do that in the Finals. That puts an even greater emphasis on what Green does.
  4. The Cavaliers had the worst transition defense in the NBA during the regular season, and Green is a master of exploiting that by grabbing defensive rebounds and immediately turning them into breaks. If Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love struggle to recover on D, the paint will be open for Green, as will kick-out passes to his shooters.
  5. The Warriors should win. Las Vegas has them as heavy favorites, and their playoff dominance has been incredible to watch; they could be the first team to go undefeated through the postseason if they can someone pull off a sweep. The Warriors were even better this season than last, while the Cavaliers were worse.
  6. He hasn’t had a flagrant foul all postseason. So … maybe he’s learning?

No one’s going to blame you for picking the Cavs or picking James to win Finals MVP regardless of outcome. But the bet here is that Draymond Green has something to prove and won’t let anyone — or any groin — get in his way.

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