Now that the insanely long break between the conference and NBA Finals is over (so much for parity), it’s time for “The Trilogy” to commence. For the third straight year, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors (Dubs) will meet for the Larry O’Brien trophy and title of World Champion. The previous two meetings have been split, including LeBron James finally bringing a championship home to Cleveland last year. Now our experts tell you why each team will win, what it will mean to their legacies, and if this is the last of the Cavs-Dubs Finals.
1Why The Warriors Will Win The NBA Finals
For me, there are three reasons the Dubs will take home the NBA Finals title: Revenge, Kevin Durant, Defense.
For the rest of eternity, Golden State will be remembered as the team that blew a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals. That is, of course, unless they win it this year. Then, they will be known as a franchise that won two titles in three years, winning a league record 73 games in between. The revenge factor is a huge motivator, especially after the aforementioned 73 wins.
Adding to this idea of revenge is that Golden State went out and got the third best player in the game (behind LeBron and Curry). If you thought the criticism for blowing it last year was bad, imagine the firestorm hurled at the Warriors and Kevin Durant if they don’t win it this time around? It also helps, surprisingly, that he got hurt and doesn’t have the rigors of a full season on his body.
Finally, despite their offensive prowess, it all begins with defense in Oakland. During the regular season, they ranked third in defensive boards at 35.0 per game. The Warriors were also first in steals per game with 9.6. Those numbers are what allow them to get up and down the court and score a league-best 115.9 points per game. Oh, and when you get into the paint, they also led the league in blocks with 6.8 per game.
There is not much arguing with Christian here. This Warriors team might be the most talented team in history, on paper anyway (more on that later, kids). They won 73 games last season and added the third best player in the league to their team. Christian did get one thing wrong, Kawhi Leonard is the second best player in the league. The Warriors did not go sprinting through the season but rather treated it like the marathon it is.
The 2016-2017 version of this Warrior team, with that added freakish Durant length, plays incredible defense. They ran through a Western Conference without losing a game and won by a margin of plus-16.3 points. Incredible. The Cavaliers cannot score at the same clip as the Warriors.
The one point Christian forgot to make, though, is the one reason the Warriors will win. Klay Thompson is a forgotten man. LeBron and Durant will be a fun matchup. Irving and Curry will be thrilling. Who’s going to guard Klay? No one.
2What It Will Mean to Golden State
First, it means Mike Brown is deserving of another head coaching job after Steve Kerr went down with his medical issues. Also, how much fun would it be for Mike to beat Cleveland in the NBA Finals after being unceremoniously dismissed? Twice.
The other thing, and maybe the more important part, is that the Warriors remain “that team.” This is their third straight trip to the Finals, and a win would all but cement them as the “Team of the Decade.” Basically, it means history is on the line for them. But isn’t history always on the line?
I might be the only person on earth who thinks Mike Brown deserves zero credit for the Warriors 12-0 run through the West. I’m pretty sure that Christian and I could have coached them through without losing a game.
The most important thing that comes from a Warriors win? That’s forgetting the 3-1 collapse after a 73-win season against a team they should have beat. It will cement this team, one of the two greatest along with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, as the greatest team ever assembled. On one condition – they have to sweep the Cavaliers.
3Why The Cavaliers Will Win The NBA Finals
It really is as simple as saying: LeBron. But, the powers that be have asked for more “substance,” whatever that is, so here it goes. Despite getting the second seed in the Eastern Conference, it’s widely believed the Cavs were the best team during the regular season. Yes, they rested players. And yes, they lost games they shouldn’t have. But when push comes to shove, they are the best team in the East.
There is no stat to support that (they only lead the East in PPG & 3PT%), but this is where the “eye-test” proves it. For what it’s worth, my eyes have been impressed with Cleveland in the playoffs. Not just LeBron and Kyrie Irving. The supporting cast has played pretty well, even with Tristan Thompson averaging close to 10 boards a night. Still, when the best player in the world is on your team, you’re going to have a punchers chance.
Well, it’s hard to argue with Christian. LeBron is the best player on the face of the planet. He has been for eight years. Anyone who disagrees with that is dumb or hasn’t actually been watching basketball. They lost 13 of their last 22 games and looked like they were planning to rob us of the rubber match we all so desperately wanted. Then they went 12-1 in the playoffs and found that “switch” we all hear so much about.
Kyrie and Love have been playing out of their minds throughout the playoff, and that’s made LeBron’s life a little bit easier, but he’s going to have to go to the same level we saw in games five-through-seven in last year’s final. Kyrie will have to play the best six or seven games of his life.
Thankfully for all of us who think Cleveland is going to win, that’s exactly what I expect. Irving loves playing against Curry and always goes to another level. Curry is a liability on defense when the game slows down, and the Cavs know how to exploit that. Christian gives these Cavaliers a punchers chance to win if everything goes perfectly. I think the Cavaliers have more than that. I think they’re going to win this thing in six games.
4What It Will Mean to Cleveland
This won’t mean as much to Cleveland as it will their prodigal son. While back-to-back titles for the Cavaliers would be huge for the city, it’s even bigger for LBJ. Should “The King” bring another Larry O’Brien Trophy home to Ohio, it means we can finally have the talk. We can finally start the conversation about LeBron catching (and passing) Michael Jordan. He’s already reached seven straight NBA Finals, a record. I’m not saying another ring will leapfrog Bron Bron over His Airness, but if we’re really going to fault him for not having titles, another one this year helps. Besides, it’s not like he’s ever catching Bill Russell.
To Cleveland? It will mean that they made the right choice in trading Andrew Wiggins. It will mean they will re-write the history books of this decade. They won’t be the Piston’s to Jordan’s Bulls, but the other way around. Cleveland fans will no longer be the tortured fan base that barely won one title.
None of those things matter at all, though. It will mean that Cleveland will be home to the guy who has finally challenged Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player ever. Christian isn’t ready to leapfrog James over Jordan if The King can topple the Warriors. It seems not a lot of people are. I am. James plays a different game. He does not have Jordan’s killer instinct, but James didn’t leave the game for 20 months at his peak, either. If Jordan hadn’t left, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but he did, and we are.
5Is This The Last Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals?
Nope, and that’s totally alright. Much like the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalries of the 1980’s, or the Chicago Bulls-Utah Jazz matchups of the 90’s, these things are good for sports. The people who get tired of it are the ones who don’t appreciate how great the talent in front of them is. Rivalries, whether you want to call this one or not, are what makes us watch. Yankees-Red Sox, Cowboys-Eagles, Bruins-Senators, and Cavs-Warriors. I love it.
That depends. If the Cavaliers win, it is. I’m not sure how the Warriors would bounce back after the 2016 Finals and losing these NBA Finals after adding Durant. I’m not 100% sure that Durant stays in Golden State if they lose in embarrassing fashion. The Cavaliers also have a few moves to make this offseason to replace those aging role players. The Celtics are probably going to add Markelle Fultz to a team that was pretty good already, too. But…no, this is not the last Cavs-Warriors final. They’ll be back again next year. And so will we.
So there you have it. Take our notes and opinions for what they are worth and place your bets! Or, take to social media and tell us why we’re wrong. Either way, enjoy what is sure to be another entertaining match-up between the two best teams in the NBA. We hope it is and we can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it.