It may be a little early to predict a tie-breaking Finals matchup, with only the Warriors solidifying a spot so far. But, I’ve never been huge on superstition, and the Cavaliers are up 3-1 with a 44-point win under their belt. I may be bold enough to put Cleveland in the Finals.
We can project who we think will win the series based on a number of factors. Who had the tougher schedule, who had the better record, which team is better behind the arc, and the list goes on. Today, just the starting line-ups will be evaluated.
Golden State: Zaza Pachulia
Cleveland: Tristan Thompson
Starting with the big men, I think its safe to say this is the most uneven matchup.
Pachulia is the weakest player starting for the Warriors. Over the course of the season Zaza has averaged a whopping 6.1 points per game. With Golden State averaging 118.3 points per game as a team, Pachulia amounts for a mere five percent of the teams total points. He isn’t much better off the glass. Despite his size and history as a rebounder, he is only averaging 5.9 rebounds per game.
Tristan Thompson, on the other hand, is possibly the most underrated player on the entire Cleveland roster. Thompson nearly averages a double-double, with 8.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. The biggest factor of Thompson’s play is not marked by statistics. It is his tenacity and ability to control the tempo of the game.
Golden State: Draymond Green
Cleveland: Kevin Love
Here is where things start to get tricky.
Green is a defensive minded player who, similarly to Tristan Thompson, can control the tempo of a game. He is the type of player who can get hot, but also has off nights, so his stats aren’t a true reflection of his value to the Warriors. Green averages a mere 10.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Love is an offensive playmaker. He averaged a double double with room to stretch in the 2016-17 season. Love averages 19 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. He is playing his best since leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves three years ago. Offensively, the advantage holds strong in favor of Love, but on any given night Draymond Green can steal the show. Due to his stellar season…
Advantage- Kevin Love
Golden State: Kevin Durant
Cleveland: LeBron James
How Kevin Durant matches up with LeBron is what will ultimately decide the outcome of the Finals.
Durant’s offseason move to the Warriors was very controversial. If the Warriors can’t beat LeBron and the Cavaliers, Durant will look like a fool for leaving Oklahoma City. Durant is consistent and his athleticism quickly overshadowed Stephen Curry to make him the new face of the Warriors organization. Because Durant had to share the rock with the rest of his team for the first time, many analysts expected his scoring numbers to go down. But, they stayed relatively stagnant, showing that he can excel with just about any organization. Durant averaged 25.1 points, 4.8 assists, and 8.3 rebounds per game this season.
LeBron is having one of his best seasons since entering the NBA 13 years ago. He is averaging an incredible 26.4 points, 8.7 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game. His three-point percentage has risen from past seasons, and in 2017 he is more determined than ever. When it comes down to it, the king is the king. The Cavaliers run off of his leadership skills. He is the most valuable player on Cleveland’s organization and, even though he wasn’t recognized, debatably, in the entire NBA.
Advantage- LeBron James
Golden State: Klay Thompson
Cleveland: J.R. Smith
Here, with the guards, is where Golden State has a strong advantage.
Thompson flies under the radar. His calm demeanor is masked by Draymond Green and his stats lie under the shadow of Curry and Durant. We often forget the tremendous value Thompson has to this Warriors organization. He averages 22.3 points per game and is shooting just under 50 percent in the playoffs. His style of play mocks his attitude. He hides in the corner, but when dished the rock, he doesn’t miss.
Smith has solidified his spot as a starter during the playoffs, but historically has struggled with injuries and has spent much of his time as the sixth man off the bench. He averages a modest 8.6 points per game. Much of his playing time will be split with Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert.
Advantage- Golden State
Golden State: Stephen Curry
Cleveland: Kyrie Irving
Despite Durant’s arrival in Golden State, Curry averages 25.3 points per game this season. That is an increase from his career average, 22.8. Curry showed he still has the ability to lead this team when Durant was out due to injury. His three-point percentage and overall confidence when he shoots gives him the edge over Kyrie Irving.
Irving is Mr. clutch. He has developed into one of the most exciting player in the NBA. And, he is quickly climbing the boards of the best point guards. I would put him behind only Stephen Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. He falls just behind LeBron with 25.2 points per game. His is better than ever at assisting, and it’s just a matter of time before he is in the argument for best point guard.
Advantage- Golden State
Check back on Sunday evening for my evaluation of both teams benches, and projected winner!