2016 NBA Finals Preview
Can’t believe it is already here: The NBA Finals. So much history, so many legendary moments packed into those three words, and here we are again about to witness another series that will have us on the edge of our seats for the duration.
The Warriors and The Cavs have had two very different, very winding, roller coaster seasons. The Dubs have went from 24-0 to 73-9 to Sprained MCL and being pushed to within four minutes of going home, to now going for back to back championships. The Cavs have went from firing their coach at 30-11 (still disagree with it), to playing their best basketball of the season just at the right time, and storming to Lebron James’ 6th straight finals appearance.
Let me take one paragraph and say how unusual this is. Only 8 players, including Lebron have went to six straight NBA Finals. The other 7? All played with Bill Russell on the 1960’s Celtics during their 11 Championship years. Lebron is the only player in the past FIFTY years to do this. Not MJ, Not Kareem, Not Wilt, Not Bird. Just Lebron. Lebron is not better than any of those players in my opinion, but that’s not the point Im trying to make. Just trying to give some love to a guy that never gets enough appreciation for how truly good he is.
Ok, now back to the present day. This is going to be an extremely interesting series, both from a matchup standpoint and from sheer talent and intrigue. Let’s look at it piece by piece and point out some key facets of Cavs-Dubs II.
In game 1, I believe we will see something interesting happening. The Warriors are going to play the first couple minutes and take a big relaxing deep breath and say “Wow, this is a whole lot easier than last week.” The Cavs’ length does not compare the Thunders, and the Warriors are going to be able to get into gaps, get around screens easier, be able to use backdoor cuts, and feel more free being able to move without defenders in their jersey 40 feet from the basket.
One defense, the Cavs don’t really have firm answer for the death lineup (Steph, Klay, HB, Iggy, Draymond, for those not familiar). What might aid them offensively and help spread the floor by putting Channing Frye out there is going to hurt them on the other end. Though Tristan Thompson isn’t a very good rim protector, he is a better one than Frye. Does Timofey Mozgov finally see minutes in this series? He has been deep on the bench all playoffs, but the matchups might call for Ty Lue to use him, needing some kind of protection at the rim like the Thunder had. Feel like we could see a weird lineup tweak or two before this is over.
Another possible lineup tweak is Steve Kerr possibly just going ahead and starting Andre Igoudala or starting the death lineup. Starting Iggy gives you a direct option on Lebron right away and not have to waste time having Harrison Barnes try to make a name for himself. In regards to the death lineup, the Cavs really have no answer to it that can exploit size mismatches on the offensive end. Kevin Love is not demanding or aggressive enough in the post to make the mis match worth worrying about, and Draymond or Iggy would guard Lebron, so the Dubs would have the same defensive worries they would anyway. Why not play your best lineup the most minutes?
Another thing to watch for, and appreciate, is how good Klay Thompson really is. He will at times cross match on both Kyrie Irving and Lebron, and be able to hold his own against both. Jeff Van Gundy said this week in a podcast with ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe that “the reason he is so good defensively is he is so versatile and is so disciplined. He has the perfect demeanor.” He’s absolutely right, Klay has the attitude that when he guards the star perimeter player of the opponent, he is going to get scored on. He aims to limit, not to accomplish the impossible of elimination. This combined with the bonkers shooting display he put on in games 6 and 7 of the conference finals makes Klay a huge part of what the Warriors need to do to win this series.
Pick and roll decisions are always extremely interesting as well. The Warriors are going to scope out Kevin Love and bombard him every single chance they get. If they get Love switched to a Splash Brother, it’s over. On the other hand, the Irving-James P&R is almost as worrisome for the Warriors. They will try to switch everything, but that almost always leaves a mismatch for either Kyrie or Lebron to get to the basket.
The Bottom Line
Lebron is a mis-match against any player in the world not named Kawhi Leonard. If he has the ball this series, he is going to be able to attack. Even against Andre Igoudala who has the best chance of containing him. The key to this series, and what could ultimately decide how the series plays out, is what happens after Lebron gets double teamed, whether that be on the drive, or in the post. How many the Warriors send in rotation depends on who the primary defender is but lets just say it’s a straight double. Who do the Warriors leave open? This is the biggest difference between last years finals and this years finals, The Warriors can no longer defend Lebron with five guys as a cohesive unit, they are now going to have to rotate out to shooters, scramble to close driving lanes and contest open threes. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are now playing, two major threats on the perimeter and getting to the basket. Lebron is no longer kicking to James Jones and looking for him to make a move; he is now most likely kicking to an All Star caliber player. The Warriors are plenty disciplined to do this, but how plays unfold after Lebron gets into the paint could swing the series one way or the other.
As you can see, it can go either way and there are big advantages on either side. I don’t think the Cavs can really matchup on the defensive end without having Lebron do too much and waste energy that he really does need to have when games 6 and 7 roll around. I don’t think The Finals will live up to what the Warriors and Thunder gave us in the WCF, but it will still be amazing. In the end, we going baack to back.
Warriors in 7