NBA Finals Preview
By: Daniel Stettin
The 2017 NBA Finals begin tonight at 9 PM on ABC between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. This will be the third straight season in which these two squads will face off for a championship with Golden State winning in 2015 and Cleveland taking it last year. Essentially everyone has pegged these two teams to play in the Finals since Kevin Durant joined Golden State in Free Agency last summer. Both teams have been dominant in the playoffs, with Golden State yet to lose a playoff game while Cleveland has only lost one playoff game.
The Case for Cleveland:
The case for Cleveland starts and ends with Lebron James. The best basketball player in the world continues to get better each season despite him now being 32. The man can certainly do anything on a basketball court but everyone knows that. Obviously Lebron will have to be dominant for Cleveland to win this series. This team is so deep that they bring numerous former stars off their bench, including Kyle Korver and Deron Williams. The ability to bring in numerous quality players in the few minutes Lebron, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and the rest of the starting 5. This is a team where every player knows their role on the court (or off of it) and that allows them to play great basketball. For Cleveland to win this series, they must control the tempo of the game. Golden State is deadly in transition so slowing the game down is key. Don’t overlook Tristan Thompson’s impact rebounding in this series, he would average 12 + RPG if he didn’t have Kevin Love and Lebron in the starting lineup. If Thompson could take advantage of his matchup with Varajao and McGee, that would really open up the outside for all the shooters Cleveland has.
The Case for Golden State:
Unlike Cleveland, winning will not rely on any single player for Golden State. That’s not to say the Warriors don’t need their stars to perform, it just shows how strong of a starting 5 they have. It’s all defense for the Warriors as their offense is so deep and balanced that they can win even without shooting well. That’s kinda what happens when you have Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, David West, Shaun Livingston, etc. As long as they are average offensively, they can keep up with Cleveland. But they are going to have to be at their best defensively, where Cleveland will dominate inside (especially if the big men don’t hold up) but they can not let them hit from downtown. If Cleveland is hitting their three’s they probably are gonna win. Kevin Durant is going to have to play lockdown defense on Lebron from the perimeter or he might average 40+ PPG in this series. However, Golden State is pretty good defensively so I see them having some success on defense.
I’ve got Cleveland repeating as NBA champions in a 7 game series where both teams hold home court until Game 7 when we see signature Lebron James dominate to grab his 4th NBA Finals MVP and 4th title. I see Curry struggling with Irving throughout the series but Klay Thompson outplay JR Smith. Durant and Lebron play at about the same level (except for Game 7 Lebron dominates), and both Cleveland big men thoroughly outplay their match ups.