Looking Back at the NBA Finals and both teams moving forward
So all of us watched the NBA Finals with keen interest and have heard all the narratives and all the talking heads giving their thoughts. So I'm going to try and talk about different things because hearing the same thoughts gets old quick.
Before I start I heard this on the radio and will now make this part of my commentary. There are people who are going to talk about Lebron being 2-4 in Finals as their argument no matter what. So those people will now be referred to as 2 and 4s. And there is no point in talking to them about legacies because they will always come back to 2-4 no matter what. So there is no point. But my next blog will tackle the Jordan-Kobe-Lebron argument. Stay tuned for that....
Talking about the NBA Finals, I sometimes hate that I know what is going to happen before it happens because even though my heart started to believe that maybe the Cleveland Lebron's could find a way to do this, my brain always knew it was only a matter of time. I predicted Warriors in 5 or 6 and there it was. There was a soundbite from Reggie Miller on NBA Playoff preview ads where he says "the most unpredictable playoffs ever!" Well....There were a total of 2 upsets in the ENTIRE playoffs. And many people would argue the two "upsets" weren't upsets at all, its just that the lower seeded team won the series. Those two upsets were the Wizards beating the Raptors in the 4-5 match up in the first round, and the Cavs sweeping the Hawks in the East Finals as the 2 beat the 1 seed. So unpredictable isn't quite the term I would use to describe them. As far as being exciting, which is all we really want when our favorite team isn't playing, I'd say the playoffs lacked that as well. Yes there were exciting moments, several buzzer beaters, but in general there was not a lot of drama. For instance, the Cavs swept the East finals and Golden State won the West Finals in 5. Golden State only lost 5 games the entire playoffs, and most of the games weren't that close. The Cavs were tested a tiny bit more, but honestly the most exciting games were the first 3 games of the Finals in games where neither team reached 100 (I know the overtime game got over 100).
I think the most disappointing thing about how it all played out for me that it doesn't seem like the Warriors had to "earn" it. And that can easily be taken out of context. Because as the best team all year and the best team throughout the playoffs, they earned the NBA title. I'm talking earned as in struggled. For starters, they clearly had the best team on paper, and they had the deepest team by a mile. They played 10 or 11 guys throughout the playoffs, and only pulled it back when Cleveland was able to match them for 3 games. I have been saying all year long that all you do is see Steve Kerr smiling on the sideline. Most NBA coaches are exhausted and have no voice and go through mental anguish on a game by game basis. Kerr did none of that. NBA champions like Michael Jordan and Lebron and all these guys fight year in and year out and when they finally are able to get over that hump and win for the first time, it means the whole world to them. It means more to them than anything they have ever done in their lives. And I felt like the Warriors were so good that they just showed up and won it. And they hugged the trophy and kissed it and told everyone how much it meant and I'm sure it did, but to me it was a little fake. It was more the excitement of winning a trophy that other greats before them have won. Its not the relief and joy of crossing some impossible hurdle they couldn't cross for years. If Lebron had won this year it would have meant more to him than anything he has done in his basketball life. It was so physically and mentally exhausting for him it would have been the pinnacle of his basketball career. I don't get that sense from the Warriors. And take nothing away from what they did. They won it and they were the best team. I just like when the best team has to dig down into the depths of everything they have in their hearts to pull it out. You want to see two teams play so well that they force each other to elevate their games in order to win the title.
Case in point...Throughout the playoffs Golden State has been so loose with the ball. Throwing behind the back passes, taking quick threes and in general not caring about the ball. These things usually get you killed in the playoffs. But there is nothing the Cavs could do to counteract it. They just weren't good enough. Golden State played these playoff and even Finals games like they were regular season games.
Look I can say the same things I have already said and I'll try not to. But besides for the fact that Lebron was the first player in NBA history to lead both teams in points, rebounds, and assists. And the guy who was supposed to be guarding him won MVP. That is my first problem. My second problem is that if you take Steph Curry off the team, Iguodala doesn't exist in this series. Iguodala didn't hit tough shots with hands in his face, they didn't give him the ball and ask him to make plays and make his teammates better. He existed because that happened to Steph. Steph got doubled in pick and rolls; when Steph drove the defense collapsed on him. And the team the Cavs CHOSE to leave open was Iguodala. The player the Cavs didn't respect enough to guard at all was Iguodala. And finally, Iguodala's free throw shooting. He missed 9 consecutive free throws in game 5 and missed several in game 6. Kerr had to take the "MVP" of the series, and yes I put it in quotes because I don't think he is the MVP, out of the game down the stretch because he couldn't make a free throw. How can that be the most valuable? And like I said I'm not going to go in depth on Lebron and his offense and the fact that 2 or 3 help defenders came to his aid on every possession.
They are in a great spot right now. They have only one restricted free agent which is Draymond Green. He will probably get close to max money and the Warriors will probably match it which means they will get their entire core back, a core which is young and only getting better. While everyone talks about how great the West is, this year it wasn't near as tough as everyone predicted. Will it be tougher next year? On paper, yes. If Durant is healthy and they resign Canter, the Thunder are a serious contender. The Clips have some work to do in free agency, but if they can keep Jordan and get one or two other role players they should be just as good as this year. The Spurs look like they are gonna make one more run with their squad. With Gasol and Aldridge being free agents, its hard to predict the rest of the West because everything hinges on where those guys go. But as it stands now I can only see the Warriors, Clippers, and Thunder coming out of the West and that is assuming things go well for the Clips in free agency and the Thunder as far as Durant getting healthy. Kerr did admit that they were extremely lucky not to have injuries at all this year, but with their depth, I don't think it would have been a huge concern. And we heard yesterday that they are trying to find a trade for David Lee. I mean this can only help them. They trade a big guy who has been successful in the past who can score the ball and can be a good 3rd or 4th option on another team for whatever they feel is their biggest need. I think that could be a back up point guard or another 4 man who may be better defensively. At this moment, I would pick them to come out of the West next year.
Cleveland is in a good place as well. I think what will keep Lebron up at night is that he was 2 games from winning the championship without his next 3 best players. Next 3 best players. Next 3 best players. 2 games away.
I don't love Kevin Love as now that I have gotten to see him on a more regular basis, his defense is bad and he is a glorified spot up shooter. I liked him better when he was a little bigger and he was a great post player who also shot the 3 well which made him a match up nightmare. Now he hangs out on the 3 point line and while he shoots really well, I think he can do more. Obviously getting Kyrie back will be huge and I think he took major step forward as well. He got his first taste of the playoffs, and was successful. His defense is improving and I think the experience of the intensity of the playoffs will help him moving forward. I think the Cavs need to resign Tristan Thompson. I know this isn't some sizzling hot take but he was amazing for them and kept them in the finals throughout. His redounding, scoring, defense, and ability to create extra possessions for the Cavs was huge. He even made free throws in the finals and was able to stay on the floor when teams no longer did the Hack-A-Shaq on him. We heard today that J.R. Smith will opt out of his contract. I think that is a horrible decision by JR. Why? I don't think there is any reason for the Cavs to pay him more than the 6.4 million he would have made if he didn't opt out. And if he does decide to leave, that leave more room for the Cavs to go out and get someone else which is fine with them. The real J.R. Smith showed up in the Finals. And he was horrific. He might as well have worn a Warriors jersey for most of the series. While neither him nor Shumpert made shots in the finals, Shumpert locked up Klay Thompson and basically embarrassed Thompson with his defense. So if Smith leaves, that leaves 6.4 million the Cavs can spend to get what I hope will be an actual shooter. And unlike the West, it doesn't seem like the East will be getting much better this off season. Maybe a free agent or two moves East, but again the only real threat to the Cavs should be their own health, and the Chicago Bulls. But the Bulls are not a really young team and with a rookie head coach, may have some first year struggles. So once again, if I had to pick now, I would choose the Cavs to come out of the East.
All in all, I enjoyed the season and the playoffs, was disappointed that Lebron could not pull it off, but understand that the best team did prevail. I will talk legacies soon, and then a draft preview or post view, I haven't decided. And then we trudge through baseball season together and wait for football.