Here's Your 2015 NBA Finals Match-Up Extravaganza
If ever a championship final series was inevitable, we're looking at it.
The conference finals were good for confirming that fact, but not much else.
But now the main event is almost at hand. Dubs v Cavs. Splash Brothers v King James. Oughta live up to the billing.
Let's start by matching up each team's players, starter by starter, and grade how they'll match up. Interspersed will be quick visits to the Home page to check out the Bovada data tool for team trends like these:
Kyrie Irving v Harrison Barnes
Assuming Kyrie will be a go, he’s likely going to be hiding defensively on Barnes. This is one of the key matchups I see for both teams. Barnes has looked good in limited touches this offseason. Can he put up 10-15 a game on Kyrie? Definitely. Will he? I don’t know.
On the other side of the ball, a healthy Irving would do well. But a 70% Kyrie -- which sounds like the best-case scenario -- might struggle. With the health issue unclear, I have to give a slight edge to Barnes here.
Advantage: Harrison Barnes
Iman Shumpert v Stephen Curry
Shumpert's spending major minutes on a dude whose stats look like they're simply made up. Shump's a pretty solid defender, and his length might bother Curry, certainly more than Pablo Prigioni and Jason Terry did. To start the series, he’ll likely fight through screen after screen rather than switching and getting torched like Houston's defenders were.
Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron will also definitely see time on Curry, but this is Shump's cross to bear.
Curry will also get a nice hiding spot here, enjoying valuable on-court rest where he can fit it in. Shumpert isn’t much of a threat to score, and if things went poorly, he'd ultimately get the Tony Allen treatment and have a shadow Andrew Bogut guarding him.
Advantage: The MVP
LeBron James v Klay Thompson
Bluntly stated, Thompson's looked terrible this off-season except during minutes when the score hasn’t even been close. He had a good Game 4, but that's about it.
This won’t change with LeBron guarding him.
James will also spend time at the 4 on Barnes/Andre Iguodala/Draymond Green and will be up to the task on all three. My only question is if Klay continues to struggle, it'll be extremely easy for the Cavs to move James to Curry in the fourth quarter of each game. LeBron doesn’t have the legs anymore to guard Curry for 40 minutes and do everything on offense, which he’s had to do in these playoffs. But he can certainly test it out in the fourth quarter.
Common sense says the size and strength advantage of the King wins out here, but Curry's been so brilliant, it’s hard to count him out. If he can find open teammates, he'll find a way to do damage.
Defensively, Golden State is going to throw the kitchen sink at LeBron, with Thompson starting on him but Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Green and even David Lee likely seeing minutes guarding him. They also might consider throwing an actual kitchen sink at him, which is a move that can only be used once, but could prove valuable.
Kitchen utilities aside, it'll likely take a good deal of team defense to slow James down, who's iso-ing so much more than any other player this post-season. Golden State wants this trend to continue because they're going to make it a pain to relentlessly come into the paint.
If they make LeBron a shooter, he’s been almost human this post-season, going 10-62 from three, a poor 16%. Other than that, the best player in the league will have a decided edge in whatever matchup is presented, on both offense and defense.
Advantage: LeBron James
Tristian Thompson v Draymond Green
These dudes will spend a considerable amount of time getting to know one another in this series. Both play with a ton on energy and can be slotted at the 5 when each team wants to go small ball.
Green has more defensive versatility but Thompson’s offensive rebounding prowess during these playoffs has been off the charts. Those boards are going to be vital, especially if LeBron keeps running isos. Neither is a world-beater on offense, but Draymond's been able to connect with a few treys here and there.
The inclination is to give the edge to the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, but Thompson's been so good, this pairing's a close call. I can’t understate the value of his offensive rebounding in this series. If he and Timofey Mozgov can’t continue to bring down those boards, it’s gona be tough sledding. Both Green and Thompson need to stay out of foul trouble for their teams.
Timofey Mozgov v Andrew Bogut
Last up, we have the bigs, Timofey 'I wish he wasn’t Russian so I could make fun of his name more' Mozgov and Andrew "Don't ever piss off an Aussie' Bogut.
Neither is much of a scorer, but both have been excellent defenders, serving as anchors in the paint. While Bogut does more all around on defense, Mozgov has done a great job with Thompson offensively, rebounding with efficiency. Both also might see reduced minutes in this series, as I envision both teams electing to go small early and often.
Kerr will find a way to keep Bogut involved, but I see this is an offsetting matchup.
Cleveland’s bench has been pretty short, while Golden State continues to play 8-9 guys 10-15 minutes a game.
The Warriors do this thing when they switch to their bench rotation where, all of a sudden, they’re playing Shaun Livingston and his weirdly long arms, Andre Iguoudala and his weirdly long arms, with Klay Thompson and, you guessed it, his weirdly long arms. It’s a team of slender/strong arms just coming at you from all places. Call it their Spider Squad.
That crew's played well on D but has also done a solid job at the other end, carrying the load at different times in each of the series they’ve played so far.
For the Cavs, it’s basically just Matthew Dellavedova and JR Smith. They'll play James Jones and Shawn Marrion at times when Irving hasn’t played. Smith's kept his hands to himself while having success shooting the ball, and Dellavedova has been a world-class irritant in the mold of Patrick Beverly.
To me, the bench edge is the most clear disparity in this series. Cleveland needs Irving to be as healthy as possible, which is why the Cavs are happy the NBA decided not to move the finals date up.
Advantage: Golden State
So how does all this add up?
I honestly can’t see Golden State losing this series. They were my title pick from the start of the playoffs, and there’s no reason for me to change now.
I said on multiple occasions that the Warriors will only lose four games in total during these playoffs. They’ve lost three so far, meaning they’ll only drop one to the Cavs. I can see Cleveland managing to take two games, but I’ll stick with my original prediction for Golden State losses.
Go with the Warriors as your NBA champion in five games.