The Warriors and Cavaliers' dominant run to the Finals has raised serious questions about the structure of the NBA. Like … why can’t this happen every year and how do we ensure it does moving forward?
There has been way too much hand-wringing about superteams and lack of competitiveness in the playoffs. The NBA should fully embrace this matchup and relish their good luck that the Warriors and Cavs have created this situation. Sorry for all the purists who pine for the days when the Spurs faced the mighty Nets in a six-game series that no one remembers.
Let’s try to shred apart each criticism of the postseason and find more reasons to get excited about the best Finals matchup in a generation….
The rest of the postseason has been terrible
Ratings are up, so people are interested. But even if you were bored with the conference playoffs, the preceding rounds will quickly fade into memory. Complaining that the Warriors and Cavs had too easy of a road is like worrying that Ali and Frazier faced too many cupcakes before they first got together. History will forget the first three rounds. If anything the Warriors’ 12–0 playoff record and Cavs’ 12–1 mark just adds to the Finals drama.
Maybe Michael Jordan faced tougher series en route to his championships, but his iconic moments were in the Finals—the shrug against the Blazers, switching hands against the Lakers, the flu game and pushing off Bryon Russell.
What about the blowouts
This year’s blowouts were at least partially an injury-created anomaly. We know the Spurs are right there—they were up 25 points in the third quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals before Kawhi Leonard got hurt. And the Cavs benefited from injuries to Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. Not that any team in the East was taking down Cleveland, but we might have seen more competitive series.
Free agency created this mess
I’d like to give free agency credit for creating this awesomeness, but that isn’t the case. Golden State set the regular-season mark for wins and won a title before Kevin Durant signed. They built a dominant team through the draft and they didn’t even need a top-five pick to do it.
And how can you say the Cavs are a huge beneficiary of the current free-agent system? They’re the ones that lost LeBron James. If great players couldn’t leave their teams, he’d still be in Cleveland in the first place and wouldn't have penned a return letter for Sports Illustrated. OK, that’s getting confusing. But the Cavs drafted Kyrie Irving and traded for Kevin Love. They didn’t sign a super-team.
No team will knock off Golden State or Cleveland
The Warriors and Cavs will meet for the third time in a row—not exactly a decade of dominance. A lot will have to go right for these two runs to continue. Both teams need their biggest stars to stay healthy. And who knows if another disruptive player is on the horizon. No one saw Curry coming. There could be another revolutionary player in this year’s draft. Or maybe it’s Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo or Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons. There are some talented, unique players who will come into their own in the coming years that could shake up everything.
Local ratings, attendance will suffer
Perhaps there is a ratings and attendance hit on a local level. But do they really want to follow MLB’s lead with local success and national obscurity? Parity serves the NFL because of the way we consume it—every team is national because we have players on our fantasy team or we bet on them. With their social media prowess, great NBA teams and players transcend local coverage. Right now, in large part thanks to the Warriors and Cavs, the NBA seems to have a growing place in the national conversation.
Too many great players in Golden State and Cleveland
The seven All-Stars in this year’s Finals are the most since 1983. But are each of those players at the same level in another system? On both teams ball movement helps every player reach his maximum potential. Is Draymond Green an All-Star in Detroit or Phoenix? Is Kyrie Irving this unstoppable without defenses focusing on LeBron? And how good is Kevin Love on a good team? He’s on one and we’re not even sure. The Warriors coaching staff deserves credit for helping these players become superstars. And LeBron, the Cavs’ coach on the court, helps his teammates tremendously.
Small markets have no chance
No way a medium or small market like Cleveland or Golden State can keep up with cities like Los Angeles and New York, right? When you step back, maybe the NBA has to take more radical steps to help big markets.
The NBA has a duty to engineer competitive balance
It’s not clear that league interference is better than teams openly competing. The Warriors and Cavs don’t have a monopoly on smart people. The other 28 teams face a challenge here, but I’d like to think they’re not calling the commissioner to complain. Hopefully they’re working harder to get to that level.
Something just doesn’t feel right
There’s nothing wrong with this matchup. There’s something wrong with us. We’re always looking for something to criticize. Trying to denigrate this year’s postseason as a whole is a futile exercise because some day we may look back and say how lucky we were to witness Warriors-Cavs III.