2018 NBA Finals Preview

Can LeBron James and the Cavaliers shock the world one more time? Photo Courtesy: Erik Drost
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By Joel Montgomery

For the 4th consecutive season’s end (a league record), the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will once again face off in the NBA Finals. Albeit this season, with at least a little more resistance than last year, Golden State had their backs against the wall for the first time since Kevin Durant joined their ranks. Fortunately for them, an injured Chris Paul gave them the opportunity to overwhelm Houston in games 6 and 7 to ultimately win the series. As for Cleveland, they enter the Finals with perhaps their lowest-tier squad since LeBron James’ Finals debut in 2007, where they were promptly swept by Tim Duncan and the peak-dynasty Spurs. James once again finds himself put up to the task of carrying an under-performing team against an overwhelming powerhouse. After a superb 15th season of milestones and achievements, can the King overcome this final obstacle, even with such stacked odds?

Cleveland’s Case
On paper, Cleveland’s bench actually stacks up nicely against Golden State’s, with both teams having plenty of depth with young players that can provide substantial roles in any given series. While at first hopes were high for Cleveland to hit the ground running with their reshaped roster from the trade deadline. However, they struggled to find a consistent schematic throughout the season. The Cavs’ current problem is getting the most, if not just a portion of the output expected from these players on their roster in most games, from guys both young and old. It’s an expectation at this point that LeBron James is going to get his in any given contest. But if James wishes to have any success or even have the Warriors look his way on their planned route to another supposedly-easy title, he’s going to have to get some kind of support from his cast. Kevin Love’s status for the start of the series is still in question due to his concussion from game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, as both his play and durability this postseason have been subpar. Hopefully for Cleveland, he will be able to return strongly and finally give a resonating spark that James and company need.

Golden State’s Case
As for the Warriors, ever since Kevin Durant’s infamous signing now 2 summers removed, they have seldom faced considerable resistance in their ongoing tenure. As a matter of fact, apart from their last series against Houston, they haven’t even been pushed beyond a 5-game series in the postseason. With this in mind, it’s been apparent that they enter some games (even in the playoffs) by cruising or playing half asleep with miscommunications and an overabundance of isolation-play in the first half. But all of that goes flying out of the window when they unleash their wrath in the 3rd quarter. With 4 all-stars and an assortment of guys who know and enjoy their role, when the Dubs are locked-in come the second half, it can be a scary sight. Golden State is at it’s best when Stephen Curry runs the floor and they play at his pace, with fast transitions, screens and lots of off-ball movement. When things slow down is when they play through Kevin Durant and ball movement decreases considerably–with an over-reliance on iso’s. If Cleveland can get Golden State to play untraditionally (as well as, in contrast, be on-fire offensively themselves), then they could have a puncher’s chance in these Finals’ games. 

The Result
It might not be what people want to hear, but Golden State is without a doubt the heavy favorites over Cleveland in this series. And while logic and odds might not favor the Cavs, they DO have the one man in James that’s chasing the ghost in Chicago, and if he wants another point for the status of GOAT, who knows what he could do.

Prediction: Golden State wins series, 4-1