As we near Thursday’s NBA Finals Game 1 tilt between the Warriors and the Cavaliers, many already have the writing on the wall for the defending champion Cavs. From the many pundits who think the Cavaliers will be lucky to come away with one game, to the aficionado’s known as Vegas Oddsmakers, everyone seems to think that the Warriors have this thing in the bag. Well, not quite everyone. Here are three reasons why the Cavaliers not only CAN but WILL win this year's NBA Finals.
1. Rest V. Rust/Quality of Competition
In this classic argument, with rest being the “time off being good” and rust meaning the “time off has thrown the team’s rhythm off”, it usually is best to take it case by case. In fact and often, we never know which was fully the case in any situation until after the series is done, or has gotten to a point where it is near done. Although the very same rules apply here, there are a few details that make this case a bit of an outlier. Noting the most obvious first; the Warriors had three more days of rest than the Cavaliers, with their series ending on the 22nd of May and the Cavs on the 25th. As mentioned, this is something that can’t really be accounted for until the results are in, but what can be accounted for is the amount of resistance faced by each team along the way.
Often times during the course of the season, you’ll notice teams get more “pumped” for certain games than others, playing “up” to the competition when facing off against one of the top teams in the league. The same forces are at work however when a team faces a team of lesser ilk, often times playing “down” to their level, and this happens in the playoffs as well. By not having to face “top notch” competition up until this point, running through opponents thus far like the finish line, not only could the Warriors not be mentally prepared to deal with the intensity of the finals but also the level of competition this environment breeds. This all could accompany the shock of having to recalibrate to this level of skill, as not to knock the Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, or Portland Trail Blazers, but they don’t have a generational player like LeBron James, who is also paired with two other All Stars. This slightly larger amount of rest, combined with the fact that they have yet to face an opponent this stiff in these 2017 playoffs, can and will help to yield results unfavorable to the Golden State Warriors.
2. Matchup for Matchup, The Cavs’ win out
When thinking about the matchups, you innately start at the top of the starting lineup. When thinking about the PG v. PG matchup, Kyrie Irving vs Steph Curry promises to deliver fireworks. Both are literally scoring machines who are just as lethal immediately after crossing half court as they are when they have a foot in the lane. The similarities don’t stop there though, as they are both extremely defensively challenged. In an effort to hide them on the defensive end, they will both probably be matched up with players from the other team who either doesn’t have a large offensive impact on the game, or who operates mostly without the ball. Steph is the better player at this point overall, but as far as the series, they cancel each other’s contributions out. When thinking about the two guards here, in Klay Thompson v. J.R. Smith/Kyle Korver/Richard Jefferson depending on who gets the nod here, the Warriors have the upper hand in this matchup. This is a somewhat tentatively valid prediction however, as Klay Thompson has to actually show up in order for the Warriors to win this matchup, leaving us only to consider it a wash as Thompson has been wildly inconsistent in these playoffs.
When it comes to the small forwards here, it doesn’t require as much explanation as others. In the KD v. King James matchup it should be a wash, however on top of the fact that the “Kang” is the best player in the world, he always owns KD whenever they matchup and especially when it counts the most. Chalk one up for the Cavs’. The PF/C matchups are best explained as pairs, since both teams rely on somewhat interchangeable parts in these positions. When thinking about the matchup, it really looks to support the Cavs, but since subjectives reign and to be fair let’s say it washes itself out. On one side you have Draymond Green and a combination of several other players, while on the other side you have Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. Although Draymond is clearly the best all around player of any mentioned, or possibly slotted into the lineup in these positions except LeBron James, whoever will be on the floor beside him brings down the value of their pairing considerably. This “washes out” in comparison to the Cavs as although Kevin Love isn’t the defender that Draymond Green is, the things Tristan Thompson brings in the form of elite rebounding, defending, and all out energy makes the two pairings equal, if not again lending a slight edge to the Cavs. In light of the prior, the teams seemingly cancel each other out except for one big thing, LeBron James. This is a huge tilting factor, and shall be explained further in the following and final example, but is the reason that “Matchup for Matchup, the Cavs’ win out”.
The “Kang” is many things. A father, a cultural phenomenon, a basketball savant, minimally top 5 all time(top 5..top 5..top 5), on the “Mount Rushmore” of hoops, and after last week, the all time leading scorer in NBA playoff history. He did this in surpassing who else but “His Airness” himself, the GOAT, Michael Jeffrey Jordan. That brings us to another hot topic in recent days, and that is the debate, MJ v. The Kang? That answer isn’t important here, but what is, is the instance in itself. Why aren’t we arguing LBJ v. The Black Mamba, or LBJ v. Magic, or LBJ v. anybody besides the GOAT? The answer is simple, and that is because he is the only comparable player, ever, in the whole entire history of basketball, and more specifically the NBA. Your only compared to the GOAT’s when you are one of the GOAT’s, and in this case when being compared to “The GOAT”, it’s because you have a chance to one day be “The GOAT”. Not only is LeBron James the best player in the NBA, but as he often lets us know, he is the BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET. Not only is the LeBron one of the greatest players of all time, he is the second greatest player of all time, and that is only at this point. Going into the series where MJ hit the shot against the Jazz in which he pushed off Russell, he knew he would have a chance to win, and he also knew that given that chance he would capitalize. He knew this because he was friggin MJ, “His Airness”, Space Jam, “I wanna be...I wanna be...I wanna be like Mike”, Michael Jordan. This is the same confidence LeBron seems to ooze with these days, and it is warranted because of his accomplishments along with the fact that he is probably playing his best offensive basketball EVER see’s fit to do so. This is the final reason that the Cavaliers can and will win the 2017 NBA Championship.