NBA Finals Preview
By Aaron Callaghan
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The NBA finals are here – Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers part four, although with this iteration of the Cavaliers alleged basketball team perhaps we should dub them the Cleveland LeBrons because it’s a one-man show in ‘the Land’ save for Kevin Love showing up sporadically and Game 7 Jeff. LeBron has been simply unconscious this playoffs run and we may come to find he’s actually an NBA basketball cyborg from the year 3018 – sent back to dominate the basketball court and guide the United States of America through times of uncertainty. Diehard 365 NBA fans will find some elements of joy and entertainment in this set of finals games, perhaps even the LeBron led - Cleveland LeBrons steal a game at home off the super-Warriors – Yes he’s that good however for casual fans the boring nature of switching defences, three point shootouts and Kevin Durant and LeBron James - wing isolations will not be the most attractive form of basketball. All we can pray to the basketball gods for is competitive basketball and disrespectful dunks.
It feels right to put series predictions on paper this early in my first ever NBA mailbag column (read: shout out to Bill Simmons). The Golden State Warriors will be your 2018 NBA world champions – Four games to one.
Yes the oligarchical super team that goes against everything David Stern by proxy and Adam Silver’s idea of competitive balance and my own good feeling toward superstars with Kevin Durant taking a pay cut to move up to the Bay Area, something I’d been privately critical of LeBron, Bosh and Wade for doing to form the big three in Miami but that’s for another column – hint: I’ve made my piece with pay cuts and forming super teams under behest of The Unsportsmen friend, underrated tweeter and Twitter burner account extraordinaire Titchell Mowers. The highly paid superstars are people too and let's be honest I probably wouldn't want to live in Cleveland during the global financial crisis either and KD looks very happy playing CEO in the Bay Area.
Finals MVP will be Kevin Durant. I know that’s not the sexy pick and some NBA fans just can’t jive with Kevin Durant however he’ll spend a lot of time guarding LeBron and being guarded by LeBron, this ultimately makes him the Warriors most valuable being able to neutralise LeBron. If a major sports league was ever going to hand a finals MVP to a player on a losing team, LeBron James for finals MVP feels right.
Back to the basketball, the NBA Finals, as was evident in the Western Conference Finals the Warriors defence shows up when it counts and their penchant to switch everything was evident even tip-toeing up to the edge of the basketball cliff by allowing Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell to switch onto James Harden, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, this allowed the Rockets to take three games off Golden State. The Warriors and Rockets were built to eschew traditional pick and roll defence and switch everything which brings me to the Cleveland LeBrons and their defensive scheme of trying their best to hide bad defenders and attempting to not get completely killed on switches by switching only when necessary – how successful will the Cavs be in holding the Warriors under 100 points and limiting possessions to a snails pace.
This 2018 series feels like the 2015 finals when LeBron James was flanked by Matthew Dellevadova, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov. This series divulged into LeBron – Delly pick and rolls allowing Delly into the lane or forcing switches for LeBron isolations on the wing. Expect a heavy diet of that in this 2018 series as LeBron hunts Steph Curry to attack in isolation. For the Cavaliers to have any chance LeBron must continue at the peak of his powers and Kevin Love must play like all-star Kevin Love, something like 25 points and 12 rebounds from Love would be a good start for Cleveland.
Now it is time to open the first ever Unsportsmen NBA mailbag.
Answer: The truth here lies somewhere between suffering a horrific left knee torn medial collateral ligament, torn meniscus and dislocated patella suffered while attempting to rebound a missed shot and rapidly sliding into his mid-30’s being in horrendous shape and generally being completely washed up.
Answer: Serious answer - The Cleveland LeBrons winning the NBA finals is more likely than Nick Young winning finals MVP. Nick Young will play more if Iguodala is out, which is a gift and a curse for Nick Young and the Warriors, Young an irrational confidence guy if he hits shots early and is able to not be a turnstile on defence he might play more than 10 minutes per game. Imagine this; Steph Curry hurts his ankle again, Kendrick Perkins falls on Durant’s knee as Coach Lue send Perk out on a hunt and destroy missions armed with six hard-ass fouls and Draymond kicks Kevin Love in the nuts again, all of a sudden the series looks even.
Answer: Phewwww this is a tough one. LeBron is becoming harder and harder to deny. What he’s been able to achieve with complete traffic cones for team mates is quite unbelievable. His career body of work is going to surpass Jordan, if not already. The answer is worth an entire article, now a mailbag. Jordan has six championships from six attempts yet LeBron has three in a far more competitive league.
My final thought is this and it feels like having a bet each-way, let’s keep Jordan number one for now but only because LeBron is still going, has been for 15 years and at times with a lesser caliber team mates, some times with better team mates than Jordan and as far as LeBron’s personal game is progressing, he’s getting better in year 15, his jump shot has never been better. At the culmination of LeBron’s career he will be the greatest of all time – To me it just feels better to do anoint him then.
Answer: One would think after Kevin Durant’s Twitter burner account gaff, other personalities would tip toe through the Twitter-sphere with care yet here we are. The Bryan Colangelo story is truly insane and some fantastic journalism, head over the Ringer and take a read - https://www.theringer.com/nba/2018/5/29/17406750/bryan-colangelo-philadelphia-76ers-twitter-joel-embiid-anonymous-markelle-fultz
Answer: Ahh wow. Yeah. Hard to answer. Not knowing LeBron personally, I don’t know what makes him tick but this feels like he knows what’s ahead with these finals already, so just guessing and looking at the optics of the situation, it’s fair to say there are two moving parts which influence LeBron’s free agency and here’s how
· If it goes bad, a four-nil loss to the Warriors probably means nothing in the grand scheme of things, however a Cavaliers series victory feels like it gives him the confirmation needed to sign a 1-and-1 to stay in Cleveland.
· The exit interview with Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman will be telling. If LeBron hints that he is staying then that 8th pick is gone, traded and LeBron is getting more help, would the Trailblazers give up CJ McCollum for the eighth pick, future first and pieces? LeBron and Dan Gilbert’s relationship is completely fractured however Gilbert is willing to pay the luxury tax and the repeater tax for good LeBron teams. This exit interview will be a reasonable influence on LeBron’s free agency.
Answer: I’d take former Australian fast bowler and Weet-Bix ambassador Brett Lee at the moment over LeBron’s supporting cast. Perhaps the Cavs play five versus two basketball. LeBron and Brett Lee versus the Warriors?!
Answer: Excellent question. Unless there are injuries the series goes five games. Warriors four – one. The Cleveland LeBrons could steal one at home because role players historically tend to perform better at home.
LeBron has a history of cruising through series commencing game ones. He tries to involve his team mates all the while initiating the countless mind-battles, finding which players have weaknesses and who he can antagonize throughout the series (That Draymond Green suspension in 2016). LeBron certainly doesn’t punt playoff games and he will try his hardest in game one but it will be an exploratory, probing LeBron in the first half of game one, if the Cavs are close enough in the second half – King James will step on the accelerator.
Then again he is the king, why couldn’t he come out and step on the Warriors throats?
Game one is Friday June 1st at 11AM on ESPN Australia.
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