- The NBA Finals banter is in full swing, with fans and media members landing on both sides. With that in mind, we make the case for the Warriors... and the Cavs.
In case you couldn’t tell from the 4,000 previews on the Internet this week, the NBA Finals are almost here. With the festivities approaching so quickly, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty. Surely you’ve already read The Crossover’s Finals predictions, but if you really want to know why both the Warriors and Cavaliers are capable of being crowned champions, let’s dive into the case for each team.
Why will the Warriors win the Finals? It’s simple, really. Golden State has the NBA's second-best offense and best defense during the playoffs, which seems like a recipe for success. And in case you’re wondering if that’s a fluke, it’s not, because the Warriors finished the regular season with the No. 1 offense and No. 2 defense. But Golden State must only have slight advantages in those categories, right? Wrong again ambiguous question asker. The Warriors’ 16.3 point differential is the highest of all time through three rounds of the playoffs, which means they’ve been smoking opponents during what is supposed to be the most difficult time of the year.
In addition to playing spectacularly well together as a team, Golden State has a ridiculous collection of individual talent, with numerous players capable of stealing a game by themselves. Stephen Curry is a two-time MVP, the NBA’s first and only unanimous MVP, and he is the best three-point shooter of all-time, a skill so devastating he becomes unstoppable for minutes at a time. Kevin Durant is a former MVP and four-time scoring champion. He is one of the best small forwards of all-time, even though he is pushing seven feet and there is nothing small about him. Durant would have been a strong MVP candidate this season if he didn’t get injured, and he’s one of the best pure scorers to ever pick up a basketball. On a team with the only unanimous MVP in league history, Durant is the best player.
Klay Thompson is perhaps the second-best three-point shooter ever. He single-handedly saved the Warriors’ season in last year’s playoffs. He once scored 60 points in 29 minutes while hardly dribbling the ball. Draymond Green is the best defensive player in basketball, and the Warriors would have won the Finals last year if he was not suspended. Each of these players is uniquely motivated to destroy the Cavaliers, while Golden State as a whole clearly wants revenge after blowing a 3–1 lead in last year’s Finals.
To recap, what’s the case for the Warriors? They have a starting lineup with two surefire Hall of Famers and two likely Hall of Famers who have played the best out of any team through 94 games, and the entire roster is hungry to erase last season’s embarrassment. It’s really not much more complicated than that.
Making a case for the Cavs to win the Finals is a little bit more difficult than making a case for the Dubs. But remember all those incredible players we discussed in the Warriors section? LeBron James is better than all of them. LeBron James isn’t only the best player in basketball, he is legitimately in the discussion as one of the top-two, if not the best basketball player in the history of the NBA. And right now, James is having one of the best postseason runs of his career.
With James being the best player on the floor, the Cavs have a shot. It also helps that they are the only team comfortable shooting three-for-three with the Warriors. In the playoffs, Cleveland is No. 1 in three-pointers made per game (14.6) and three-point percentage (43.5%). In the postseason, only one Cavalier is shooting under 40% from three, and that’s Kyrie Irving, an outstanding scorer who is still connecting at an impressive 35.6% of his shots from downtown.
Irving has played great through the Cavs’ walloping of the Eastern Conference, as has Kevin Love, who is having his best postseason campaign since joining Cleveland. The Cavaliers’ big three was clicking on all cylinders in the last round against the Boston Celtics, and with stellar play also coming from the likes of Tristan Thompson and Kyle Korver, Cleveland is currently the best version of itself it could possibly be, which will be needed against Golden State.
After struggling on defense for the entire regular season, Cleveland has improved remarkably during the playoffs. The Cavs’ 104.6 defensive rating in the postseason is a 3.4-point improvement from the regular year, and would have ranked eighth-best during the season. As it stands, Cleveland has the second-best defense and the best offense during the playoffs, which is also not a bad recipe for success.
So what’s the case for the Cavaliers? Frankly, it’s not as strong as the one for the Warriors. But an incredible three-point shooting team with an improving defense and an All-Star cast playing the best they ever have together all led by a legend in LeBron James will not go down without a fight.