This NBA playoffs has been nothing short of awful. No matter how far I look, or how much I want to say otherwise, it’s practically an unavoidable truth. With only one series left – which features the easily predictable third straight meeting between the Cavs and the Dubs – is there anything left to salvage this train wreck of a postseason? You bet there is!
Love it or hate it, this matchup clearly features the two best teams with multiple superstars on both sides. It’s hard to argue with that from a pure fan of the game perspective. That said, we’ve never had a playoffs this bad from what I can remember. At least last year had a compelling conference finals in which the Thunder were on the verge of a major upset, as well as a handful of exciting games that the NBA finalists lost. This year, Golden State hasn’t dropped a game, while Cleveland lost only one on a crazy, fluky buzzer beater. So, what do we have to look forward to? A whole lot!
It wouldn’t be an NBA finals without some juicy storylines. And, Kevin Durant tops the list. It’s hard to imagine the rubber match between LeBron and Curry not being the center of attention, but that’s just not the case. Durant’s move to the Bay Area this offseason has been called a lot of things, but few can fault his personal intentions to try to win a ship elsewhere after failing to do so eight times in Oklahoma City.
The NBA and the media seem hell-bent on their hunger for a rivalry like the old Celtics-Lakers days, and while I’m not sure Cavs-Warriors quite fits the bill, the league/media has advertised it as such. I don’t buy that for a minute, so I’m more about player rivalries. It would seem Curry and LeBron should be the one here, but I want to see a different rivalry that many of us thought would take flight after that 2012 NBA finals: KD vs. LeBron.
These two guys seemed destined to meet many times in the finals, both being so good and both being on top teams. It never came to fruition … until now. And, I’d argue that this is just the time to save the finals and reignite this battle between two budding superstars. Unlike Curry vs. LeBron, KD and LeBron will conceivably guard each other a decent amount, with Durant perhaps the most improved defensive player in the game. Both are still playing at an elite level – some would argue at their highest level – and represent two of the three best players in the league for my money. Let the showdown begin!
The Rubber Match
The third installment of Cavs-Warriors feels deserving. After all, the first one saw Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love go down, which arguably resulted in a Warriors championship. And, the second saw an injured Curry and a suspended Green perhaps lead to a Cavs championship. But, the third features two currently healthy teams that have dominated the competition. And, it brings in Durant, which can only help build the excitement and intrigue.
The X Factors
It’s hard to label a superstar as an x factor, but in this case, KD is my x factor. He’s the one new face in the matchup, but more than that, he fills so many holes that the Dubs have. Not only did he carry them throughout the regular season until he got hurt, but his all-around game also fills so many voids. It’s hard to think a team this stacked has voids, but it’s true. Without KD, their interior defending and rebounding they lost from the last two finals teams would really stand out. And, Durant’s scoring prowess allows for the off games we’ve seen from Klay Thompson, and also puts less pressure on Draymond Green to create offensive output. Durant is the one guy that must have a good finals and show up at both ends if Golden State is to win it all.
On the other side, I have to go with Kevin Love. He’s finally playing at a consistently high level in Cleveland. It took awhile, but I don’t fault him for it. He is a skilled post player who can’t really show that off on a LeBron team. So, he had no choice but to work on his 3-ball and space the floor. He’s finally making it at a high clip this playoffs, and doing work on the boards. We know LeBron will facilitate and get his buckets, and we know Kyrie is a world class scorer and ball handler, but if Love keeps playing at this level, it will be hard for the Dubs to top them.
This one is tough to call. I don’t buy the media hype that the Warriors will dominate. I think it’ll be a barnburner. You have the Cavs on one side who represent the deepest team in the league but can’t seem to play good defense. Then, you have the Warriors who make up for a lack of quality depth with a superteam, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.
Don’t get me wrong, the Warriors have a solid roster around the big four, but Iggy is old, banged up and not producing, and Shaun Livingston is not playing like he was when they won in 2015. That said, I like the contributions of young players like Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark, as well as the veteran presence of David West, and let’s face it, you don’t need much around this big four to win games.
But, these are the finals we are talking about! And, the Cavs are as deep a team as any I can remember. Any time you have Iman Shumpert as one of your last main rotation players coming off your bench, and Kyle Korver as your backup 2-guard, you have depth for days.
So, will the depth of the Cavs and their big three overcome the superteam that’s run unblemished in the playoffs? I say no, but only by the narrowest of margins. I see the Warriors as healthy and hungry to erase last year’s debacle and take the ship – by a hair. Give me Warriors in 7. Enjoy the finals!