Cavs or Warriors?

Jun 4, 2015 by

 

Lebron comes home and leads the shorthanded Cavs to the NBA Title in his first season back.  Does that sound like a future 30 for 30 or what?  The two best basketball players on the planet are about to lead their respective squads into one of the most highly anticipated NBA Finals in recent memory.  Having a week leading up to the Finals only built the anticipation in my eyes, creating even more of a buzz – for anyone complaining about the layoff, the NFL takes two weeks off before the Super Bowl. Lebron James is a polarizing sports figure as people seem to either pull for him or make sure to root against him.  The Warriors are the most entertaining NBA team I have ever watched and ratings for these Finals have potential to break records, especially if it is competitive.  So who will take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy? Let’s break it down.

 

Starters:

 

Point Guards

Steph Curry 

We might as well start with the MVP – sick handles, lightening quick release, one of the greatest NBA shooters of all-time, and the baby-faced assassin seems to elevate his game when the lights shine brightest.  Remember he took Davidson to the Elite 8 and lost to the eventual National Champion Kansas Jayhawks by two points.  Naturally his minutes have increased during the playoffs and Curry has taken advantage by increasing his scoring from 23.8 ppg in the regular season to 29.2 ppg in the postseason.  Analytically, in these playoffs Curry ranks 1st or T-1st in Win Shares, Offensive Win Shares, and Value over Replacement Player.  Possibly surprising, he also ranks T-6thin Defensive Win Shares.  Steph Curry has backed up his regular season MVP and then some.

Kyrie Irving

His handles might actually be as good if not slightly better than Curry’s…when healthy.  Luckily, a few years back my friend got free courtside tickets when the Cavs came to Milwaukee and absolutely never have I seen as quick of a cross over.I really hope Kyrie is a full go for these Finals – making Curry work on the defensive end would help the Cavs chances.  You cannot truly look at Irving’s playoff stats or analytics as he’s battled injuries throughout, but when healthy he is a top 5 point guard in the League.

Edge: Golden State (w/ a healthy Irving the gap does narrow)

 

Shooting Guards

Klay Thompson

If Steph Curry is Batman of the Splash Brothers, then Klay Thompson is one heck of a Robin.  Although James Harden made his defense look average last series, do not underestimate this sharpshooter’s defensive ability.  He is also averaging three made 3 point made field goals per game in the postseason, shooting at a 43% clip.  Concussions are scary, but it sounds like his was relatively mild and he will be chomping at the bit to take the floor.

Iman Shumpert

Shumpert’s flat top fro goes on for days and man, the days playing for the Knicks earlier this season must seem like light-years ago.  He must be one grateful dude…he can defend the basketball, has the ability to catch quick fire from 3 and has been an overall solid contributor throughout the Cavs’ run to the Finals.

Edge: Golden State

 

Small Forwards

Harrison Barnes

Barnes could have a much larger offensive role on numerous other teams across the League, but he accepts his lesser role with Golden State quite well as he rarely forces anything.  During this series, multiple times he will probably go on mini 5-0 or 7-0 runs by himself.  He has a niche for timely field goals and although he may fly under the radar heading into this series, don’t expect that to last too long.

Lebron James

LBJ is a human battering ram physically and has also become a mentally tough leader.  When he missed his first ten shots in game 3 vs Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Finals, he did not lose confidence and went on to post 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists.  In this post season, Lebron is 1st in Defensive Win Shares and T-1st with Steph Curry for Value over Replacement Player.  Lebron’s individual talent is unstoppable, but what adds to his arsenal is his uncanny ability to make his teammates that much better.  This human battering ram shoulders quite a load!

Edge: Duh…

 

Power Forwards

Draymond Green

A stretch 4 who has more diversity in his game than Equal Opportunity Employers…he ranks 2nd in postseason Defensive Win Shares.  Draymond is active, tough and a winner – sounds like an Izzo product to me.  This season he makes under $1 million (yeah, just brutal right…), but in NBA terms he is extremely underpaid and will land a healthy contract this off-season or the next…quite a steal for a 2nd round draft pick.  The Warriors are a better team when Draymond is on the court, so staying out of foul trouble will be absolutely essential.

Tristan Thompson

After coming off the bench this season, Kevin Love’s shoulder injury opened the door for Tristan Thompson to clean off the glass and then some.  He is averaging 4 offensive rebounds per game in these playoffs, giving Lebron and company extra vital opportunities to score second chance points.  No bones about it, Thompson absolutely works when he takes to the hardwood.

Edge: Slightly Golden State – Close to a wash though

 

Centers

Andrew Bogut

Even though he can’t throw the ball in the ocean sometimes, he is the perfect fit for Golden State.  I truly hope the whole hack-a-Bogut doesn’t surface in these Finals, but I think we might all get “treated” to it.  Bogut serves as the defensive presence in the paint and this postseason he ranks 1st in Defensive Rating analytically.  He will make some extremely impressive passes for a center as well during these Finals.

Timofey Mozgov

He’s a legit 7’1” and was a nice little mid-season pick up via trade.  Mozgov only plays around 25 minutes a game, but is destined to get tangled with Bogut at least once this series.  In the regular season, Mozgov shot 56% from the field which has dropped to 48% in the postseason and Bogut won’t make it any easier.

Edge: Slightly Golden State

 

Bench

Golden State

It’s almost as deep as the Ohio State QB depth chart.  Let’s just agree they have options and then some – at every position they have a quality back up and Andre Iguodala is really a starter coming off the bench.  Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Festus Ezeli and Marreese Speights are a huge reason why Golden State advanced through the loaded Western Conference.  The ability of the bench and starters to effectively mess with impressive chemistry should also be noted.

Cavaliers

You love the good JR Smith and you hate the bad JR Smith if you are a Cavs fan – good for them he has been draining 3’s this postseason.  Matthew Dellavedova has stepped up helping orchestrate the offense while Kyriehas battled injuries.  Honestly, I do not think Delly has played dirty but he’s a gamer with a chip on his shoulder.  Like him or hate him, he’s an undrafted NBA guard playing an important role in the NBA Finals – trying to slow down Curry.  I was driving last week and flipped on the radio to the Atlanta/Cleveland game 4 and the Atlanta radio announcer said something along the lines of, “Kyrie Irving is checking out of the game and in comes Tonya Harding.”  It gave me a good chuckle.  James Jones has routinely been in the rotation, but besides him you never really know who else will receive meaningful minutes.No doubt about it, this unit needs to be productive for the Cavs to win it all.

Edge: Golden State

 

Coaching

Steve Kerr

Starting Draymond Green has helped space the offense and upgrade the defense and Kerr’s ability to convince Andre Iguodala, a former All-Star, to come off the bench has been critical.  Coach Kerr’s demeanor doesn’t waiver and you can flat out tell his players believe in him.  67 regular season wins and Kerr has lead the Warriors to a12-3 record this postseason.  Now, can he finish the job?

David Blatt

Starting the season 19-20 was not exactly ideal, but since then the Cavs have righted the ship and been on a mission.  This is Lebron’s team, but let’s not discredit Coach Blatt’s solid rookie coaching campaign in the NBA.

Edge: Golden State…whoops, guess I just discredited Blatt.  Or Kerr is simply an incredible coach.

 

Home Court Advantage

Edge: Has to be Golden State because Oracle Arena is electric, but Cleveland fans do not take a back seat to many other fan bases.

 

X-factor to consider –Rebounding

With Tristan Thompson now starting, the Cavs have a new, lunch pail type mentality, representative of the city of Cleveland.  Cleveland outrebounded Atlanta 208 to 157 in their sweep.  The Cavs need to continue to excel on the glass while Golden State needs to wipe away any advantage the Cavs desperately want.

 

Prediction:

Steph Curry shot 44.3% from 3 point range in the regular season and Klay Thompson shot 43.9%.   In the postseason, Steph Curry is shooting 43.7% from 3 and Klay Thompson is shooting 42.5%.  Steph has been attempting 11.1 3’s per game in the postseason and Klay Thompson 7.1.

I will keep it simple and round – the Splash Brothers in the postseason combine to attempt 18 3’s per game and make 43%.  To match this by two point shooting, the opposing team would need to shoot 64.5% on field goals to produce the same amount of points.  I love Charles Barkley but analytics have a place in this game…think about the advantage Golden State has each night with Curry and Thompson shooting efficiently on so many 3 point shot attempts.  In general, shooting 50% from the floor on 2 pointers is really solid, and shooting 33.3% on 3 pointers is not that great…but they equate to the same number of points…just saying Phil Jackson might be left behind in the transition of analytics to the NBA.

In the second round when both teams were down 2-1 in their respective series it was looking a little shaky, but each team displayed sound resiliency and responded to adversity.  I feel Steve Kerr is going to mimic Coach Popovich’s strategy and have his defenders play off Lebron a little, conceding relatively open jump shots, and focusing on preventing as littlepenetration as possible.Its game over if Lebron gets to the paint at will.  The Warriors are a more balanced and complete team than Cleveland at this point in time.  Golden State possess great spacing, historic shooting, crisp passing and unheralded defense.   Everyone and I mean everyone on Golden State ranges from being a solid to great passer.

In my 2015 NBA Playoff Preview I predicted Golden State in 6 over Cleveland.  I learned in fifth grade after struggling on a science test because I switched multiple answers after originally selecting the right answer to always go with my first instinct–Golden State in 6.

*And if Cleveland goes down, don’t be that idiot that tweets something along the lines of Lebron now being 2-4 in NBA Finals and he’s overrated.

 

 

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