What do you get when you lose a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals after posting the best regular season record in NBA history? Kevin Durant, a former league MVP, super efficient scorer, and the biggest obstacle to your ability to reach the NBA Finals to join your team. This addition comes down to the fact that stars and superstars all across the NBA understanding that they cannot beat LeBron James without having 3 Hall of Famers on your team. His 2 losses to the Spurs (Duncan, Parker, Ginobli), and 1 loss to the Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Green) prove this. The one outlier in his Finals losses is the 2011 Mavericks who only had 2 Hall of Famers on their roster in Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki. What does this fear of LeBron James have to do with this year’s rubber match of the Finals? The Cavaliers, even with the Warriors adding Kevin Durant, will be your 2017 NBA Champions.
When you have the best player in the world on your team, it is very hard to pick against them. Basketball is one of the few games where when you have the best player, you have a chance in any game. LeBron James is that. That is the simple answer as to why the Cavaliers will win this finals, but there is much more that will go in to this winning effort that will begin June 1st.
Between Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry, you have a positional battle that essentially cancels out. Both are suspect defenders, but as seen in these playoffs and this year Curry has begun to improve his effort on that end, and seen in the past Uncle Drew takes these matchups with Curry personally and his effort rises to another level defensively. Curry is shooting 43% from 3 this postseason and playing at a tremendous level, but will he fall into his old ways of playing below his elite level in the Finals? Can the Cavaliers rough him up with more physical play that tends to happen in the Finals? Kyrie Irving showed all he was capable of last year in the finals as well as putting on an absolute show in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. His ability to take and hit the biggest of shots as well as having the best handle in the league is a lethal combination. Kyrie has gotten the best of this matchup in the past, and I expect the same this year.
Klay Thompson has gotten lost in the shuffle of this new Warriors team. Now that does not mean he is gone completely, I mean the guy put up 60 points only dribbling 11 times. That is flat out absurd. But in these playoffs, he is down 6% shooting from the field (38%) and 6% from 3 (36%). To put that in perspective, Harrison Barnes, the Achilles heel for Golden State last year shot 38% from the field and 34% from 3. Now, I am not dumb enough to say that the Cavaliers best strategy is to just leave Klay Thompson like they did with Barnes, but right now out of the Warriors’ big 4, he is the weakest link. J.R. Smith will still have his hands full, with the combination of Iman Shumpert, and Kyle Korver off the bench it won’t be easy, but his play being down is an advantage to the defending champs.
Draymond Green is the better of the “power forwards” in this series. He is leading the Warriors in rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. He obviously impacts the game in all aspects and in the past has gotten the best of Kevin Love. But, Kevin Love is not the same Kevin Love he was last season. This playoffs he is unconscious from distance, shooting at nearly 48% from 3 and leading the Cavaliers in rebounds with over 10 a game. He has finally found his role with this team in year 3 and if he can continue to play like this he will have a bigger impact in 2017 than he did in 2016.
My X-Factor in the series in Tristan Thompson. The guy is the definition of starring in his role, doing the dirty work, and just flat out playing within himself to the highest level. The Warriors do not have a good matchup for the Cavaliers big who is grabbing 4 offensive rebounds a game. ZaZa is too slow, and Javale McGee you never know what you’ll get from. Thompson is king of consistency, gives the Cavaliers versatility on defense, and creates a ton of second chance opportunities for one of the most efficient offenses in the league. If he can continue to dominate the glass, it will be tough for the Warriors to find an answer to stopping him. Hack-a-Tristan hasn’t worked thus far either, as he has increased his free throw percentage 9% from last postseason up to 67% this year. The guy is playing at an extremely high level and will need to be dominant if the Cavaliers want to repeat.
The best matchup is the one everyone in the NBA world thought we would be getting regularly after the 2012 NBA Finals: LeBron James and Kevin Durant squaring off. They will have to be guarding each other in crunch time for sure, and for more than half of gameplay based on the other matchups on the floor. This is what everyone wants. This is what will make the series memorable. LeBron will win this matchup in my opinion. Until he is dethroned for good, he will remain the king. It will be closer than in the past, but look for LeBron to take the underdog storyline as well as past words said by Warriors players (Draymond wanting to annihilate the Cavs) and using them as fuel just like he did when Klay told him his feelings were hurt. Don’t poke the bear (or in this case the King).
The bench play of the Cavaliers has significantly improved since last year. Deron Williams is the spark off the bench in the point guard role that they needed and adding another sharpshooter in Korver is always important. The Warriors have lost some players that were important last year when they pursued Durant, but that tradeoff is something any GM would take 11 out of 10 times. The key is to see whether or not it pays off with a ring.
Cavaliers in 6. They take the championship home on their home court this year. LeBron will have an absolute historic performance, Kyrie will dominate one game completely to carry a win, and K-Love will hit a 3 late in one of the games to cement a victory.
Written by: Brennan