The Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals for the third straight year. Its’ opponent, however, is still yet to be determined.
Over in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics are battling it out for a shot at the Warriors. The Cavaliers currently hold a 3-1 lead in the series and it appears as though they’ll advance barring an absolute catastrophe.
With a Warriors-Cavaliers rubber match all but set in stone, one big question will be on odds makers and fans minds over the next few days: Just how big of favorites should the Warriors be over the Cavaliers?
Let’s take a look at how the two teams matchup.
Although Irving has outplayed Curry in past head-to-head matchups (see 2016 Finals), Curry is the better player of the two. Curry is both a better shooter and passer than Irving and there isn’t much of a difference in defense between the two.
While Thompson is clearly superior to Smith, he’s been flat out awful in the playoffs thus far. Thompson is shooting just 38 percent from the field in the playoffs and his PER is an abominable 8.5. Smith, on the other hand, isn’t too hot either. His PER just barely beats out Thompson and his 6.7 points-per-game average is the second lowest of his playoff career. Thompson gets the edge on track record but this could go either way.
I’m going to begin and end this discussion by summarily dismissing Durant.
I think I’m going to dub this the match-up that will determine the Finals. When the Cavaliers traded for Love in the summer of 2014, he was one of the best power forwards in basketball and Green was basically irrelevant. A lot has changed since, however.
Green has developed into the best defender in the NBA and Love has often times looked lost in the Cavaliers LeBron-led offense. Love doesn’t match-up well against Green but he’s still one of the most talented players in the series. The Warriors get the advantage here but if Love can hold his own against Green, the Dubs could be in trouble.
Thompson is superior to Pachulia in every facet of basketball except one: Injuring the opposing team’s best player.
Advantage: Cavaliers (unless Pachulia puts his foot under LeBron)
Dubs Bench vs. Cavs Bench
Although the Cavaliers have some big names on its’ bench, they aren’t that much more effective than the Warriors bench. I won’t bother comparing regular season statistics because the Cavaliers had a lot of moving parts, but I feel, and I think most would agree, the Cavaliers bench is ever so slightly better than the Warriors.
There’s little doubt that Mike Brown is merely a puppet for Steve Kerr but he’s still Mike Brown at the end of the day. Tyronne Lue managed to coach Kerr to a standstill last Finals, which means he shouldn’t have trouble at least slightly out-coaching the lesser Brown.
If anyone bothered counting, this ended 4-4. What does that mean? It means were likely in for another lengthy, entertaining Finals that should make up for all the underwhelming series that have taken place in these playoffs. And, who should be favored? The Warriors should be slightly favored because of three things: Home court, 67 wins, and their 12-0 record in the playoffs. But, notice I used the word slightly not heavily like most will have them.