After a long, record-breaking regular season and one of the best playoffs the NBA has seen in years, the 2016 NBA Finals kick off tonight. The top seeded Western Conference Champs, the Golden State Warriors, face off against the Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now rather than go over the usual stuff, we here at The Urban Daily have decided to remix the coverage and focus on some story lines that really got our attention.
Does Steph really hold the crown of the ‘NBA’s best player’ over LeBron?
We all know that 2x MVP Steph Curry has half court range and his handles are becoming legendary, but would he still be picked first in a pickup game over King James? Last year, LeBron and the Cavs won two games against the eventual champs, with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving out due to injuries while LeBron’s play and numbers had people openly wondering if the Finals MVP could come from the losing team. James was absolutely unstoppable and the Warriors had no answer for him on the defensive side.
This year will be different. LeBron doesn’t have to be Superman and do everything for his team. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will be ready to play this time and that will make a big difference. As far as the ‘Who’s better?’ debate…Look for Steph to have two monster games to start this series off at home where until the playoffs, the Warriors only lost two games all year (39-2)….read that line again. This series will just heat up the argument.
Who will be Cleveland’s ‘X’ Factor?
We all know about the Cavaliers usual superstar players: King James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson (on the boards), but we think this series might come down to the NBA’s biggest wildcard: Earl Joseph Smith III…better known as: J.R. Smith.
The Cavaliers are already a team that can come at you in waves with James, Love and Irving, but they are in their most dangerous state when J.R.’s jumper is falling. He clearly has the green light from Coach Tyronn Lue to bomb from anywhere (and often) and he usually makes them in bunches. The other thing Smith is doing well during the playoffs is defending the other teams best wing player. He has matched up against two all-stars in Kyle Korver from the Atlanta Hawks and DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors—and save the two games that the Cavs lost in Toronto, J.R. Smith’s defense had both guards flustered. He will have his toughest matchup of the playoffs in Klay Thompson, but he matches up well with Thompson. With those facts stated, Smith can also lose his cool and pick up early bad fouls and be a non-factor in the game. Smith has the tools to steal the show like Andre Iguodala did in the Finals last year with big time crucial shots and in your face defense to slow down the playoff MVP (so far) for the Warriors in Thompson.
Golden State has to keep an eye on…Draymond Green.
Draymond Green has transformed himself from an afterthought coming out of Michigan State to one of the NBA’s best players (he made the 2016 All-NBA Second Team). He’s the heart and soul of the Warriors and the team feeds off of his energy…but wait…that same energy can get Draymond and the Warriors into big trouble. He already has been assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and was fined $25,000 for blatantly kicking Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in the groin. While Draymond himself said that it was just him overacting trying to get a call, the replays clearly show that he aimed and landed his foot right where he wanted it. Kicking someone like LeBron James in the jewels will cost Draymond and the Warriors a lot more than a $25,000 fine if he goes off script again. Draymond is a very emotional player that loves to talk trash and do little ‘goon-ish’ stuff like grab other players arms and drag them to the ground, shoot a bow in a crowd of rebounders or be overly animated at a bad call by a referee. Green has already piled up two strikes during these playoffs, one more ‘incident’ and Green will have to sit out a game, which would spell disaster for the defending champs.
And the winner will be…
Golden State has had a magical season. They broke the Chicago Bulls 20 year record for most wins in a season by going 73-9. Steph Curry picked up his second MVP award in a row and Klay Thompson has elevated his game even more by carrying the Warriors once Curry had to miss a few games due to a knee injury. Between Curry and Thompson’s deadly and record-breaking shooting, Draymond Green’s passionate and versatile game and Andre Iguodala coming off the bench providing a spark, you would think the defending champs would be our pick right? Wrong.
Golden State has had a magical REGULAR season and a so-so playoffs. While they did climb out of a 3-1 hole against OKC, there was some doubt whether or not Golden State was going to be able to do it.
On the other side, Cleveland has not had that problem. They have looked like the best team in the playoffs so far by going 12-2 to this point and they have had the most rest out of the two teams. While in the Finals with Cleveland in the past, it usually was LeBron and some other guys. This year is different. The Warriors will have to find a way to have Steph Curry defend another offensive minded point guard in Kyrie Irving, while also trying to slow down a gifted outside shooter and rebounder in Kevin Love. Cleveland has the lineups to shoot with Golden State or they can go big and punish the Warriors down low.
Prediction:This will be a good series but…CAVS IN SIX.
IMAGE CREDIT: Getty