I gave Cleveland a slight edge over Golden State in my evaluation of both teams starting five, but as we have seen in the past, the men off the bench could make all the difference in who wins this Finals tie-breaker.
Here is my evaluation of each team’s best three off of the bench:
Golden State: Andre Iguodala
Cleveland: Kyle Korver
Iguodala made a real name for himself after being crowned the MVP of the 2015 NBA finals. Some people continue to question that vote, but what is undeniable is his huge contribution to this Golden State organization. He is a solid and reliable veteran. He is averaging 7.6 points, and four rebounds per game. His numbers are a bit down from years past, but that is mainly due to Kevin Durant’s arrival. Look to Iguodala to turn up the intensity in the Finals. Unlike Korver, he has been there before.
Korver has been a huge addition to the Cavaliers in 2017, and the organization picked him up just for moments like these. He is listed as a small forward, but his versatility makes him the perfect sixth man off the bench. In 2017 Korver averaged 10 points in 12 minutes off then bench. After 14 seasons in the NBA, Korver finally has a chance to drain his famous corner three-pointer in the big dance. I have no doubt that he will.
Iguodala is a good player, but has shown that he can be great in crucial moments. His experience, alone, gives him the slight edge over Korver.
Advantage: Andre Iguodala
Golden State: Shaun Livingston
Cleveland: Deron Williams
Shaun Livingston has made a name for himself as a staple part of this Golden State squad. He is very efficient, and serves as an ideal backup for Stephen Curry. But, due to Curry’s success, Livingston only sees the court ten minutes per game. In those ten minutes, he averages 5.1 points and two rebounds. Like Iguodala, Livingston has been with the Warriors through every step of their dominance.
Deron Williams was picked up halfway through the season solely to give the Cavaliers an upper hand in moments like these. His arrival to Cleveland made the bench infinitely deeper. Now, instead of having a young Kay Felder coming off the bench for Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are able to play a talented veteran. In fourteen minutes of play Williams is averaging 11 points and 5.6 assists per game. Similarly to Korver, Williams has never been to the Finals, but after a long 12 years in the NBA he is hungry for a title.
Advantage: Deron Williams
Golden State: Ian Clark
Cleveland: Iman Shumpert
Ian Clark is finishing up his third year in the NBA, second with Golden State and first year emerging as a valuable player. Clark is leading the Golden State bench with 7.5 points per game in the playoffs. The ability to have a reliable shooter to come in for Klay Thompson is a new for the Warriors. Despite his recent success, Clark has had trouble against the Cavaliers this season. He has scored a total of six points in two games against Cleveland.
Shumpert has been with the Cavaliers through the past two finals appearances, so he has the advantage when it comes to experience. Being a bench player is a relatively new commodity for Shumpert. He constantly is fighting with J.R. Smith for the starting shooting guard spot, so he sees more playing time than the average bench player. Through the 2016-17 season Shumpert is averaging 7.5 points per game. Experience and confidence gives Shump the edge in this head to head battle.
Advantage: Iman Shumpert
Golden State enters the 2017 finals as the favorite, and for good reason. The Warriors have recorded the best record in the NBA for three straight seasons, added Kevin Durant to an already star studded offense and just completed a 12-0 sweep of the Western Conference. When you look at the numbers, the obvious choice is Golden State, but there is always a reason underdogs win.
Cleveland has made every step to repeat. Through the course of the offseason and regular season the Cavs added many dynamic players, such as Derrick Williams, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and more to their bench. LeBron James is playing his best basketball yet and the Cavaliers have stepped up their shooting. Cleveland ranks as the best three-point shooting team in the NBA with a 50.7 percent shooting percentage. When they get hot, their offense is nearly unstoppable. The process of comparing rosters solidifies my confidence in the Cavaliers. As we saw last year, regular season records don’t always equal dominance.
Cavaliers in 6