Wow. Warriors in five games. If only somebody had warned us that the series would be over so qui— oh I did predict? Well I’ll be damned (feigns humility for brief second before continuing), maybe it was just a lucky guess. Or maybe it was just as simple as adding Kevin Durant and subtracting Harrison Barnes.
People forget that the Warriors came within a minute of repeating as champions last year with Harrison Barnes as their starting small forward no Andrew Bogut to clog the middle of the paint. Although the Warriors couldn’t quite replace Bogut this year, they made a significant upgrade at the 3 position. Golden State didn’t even need KD to perform as scintillating as he was against the Cavs, they just needed him to play better than Harrison Barnes (who may actually have turned out to be the biggest loser in this whole saga–you know if making 94 million dollars is considered losing).
Except for ill timed rashes of mental lapses, the Cavaliers actually played decent defense this series. While the occasional mental lapse may not hurt Lebron and co. against teams like Toronto, Indiana, or Boston, it only takes a couple of poor possessions for a 4 point deficit to become a double digit lead against the Warriors. The margin of error against them is extremely thin.
Lebron is the best basketball player I have ever seen, but he is a terrible general manager. Remember his first tour of duty with the Cavs when he said that forward J.J. Hickson was not an expendable piece around the trading deadline? Then shortly after that he had to have an over the hill Antawn Jamison on his squad. Right before he left Miami, he lobbied for the Heat to draft Shabazz Napier at the point guard position. This time around he leveraged his power to make Cleveland sign Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to huge contracts.
Now Tristan Thompson (who only pulled down 8 rebounds last night) would probably have commanded that kind of money eventually, being one of the few legitimate 7-footers left in the league, but Kevin Love did not play like a max contract player in this series. In fact, we may have seen the last of Kevin Love in a Cavaliers uniform. In a must win game, the guy takes only eight shots–missing three free throws and scoring only 6 points in the process. His plus/minus ratio was a -23 when he was on the court, and only three of his ten rebounds were on the offensive glass.
J.R. Smith surprised me this series. He had two stinkers in games 1 and 2 in Oakland, but managed to rebound and play well the last 3 games. Last night he put in 25 points on 9 for 11 shooting. Still, the Cavaliers are going to need more wing players who defend to even have a chance in next year’s Finals (against either Golden State or San Antonio).
Cleveland’s biggest personnel problems stem from having too many one way specialist on the court. Though Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Kevin Love can add a little life to the offense, none of those guys can defend.
Isn’t it too bad that Andrew Wiggins begged for Cleveland to trade him because he didn’t think Lebron could help him be a better player? Wait. That’s not what happened? Oh well, its not like he was a wing who could score a little bit right? Oh he does have some offensive skills? Well, even if he can score, its not like he can defend. What’s that you say? He’s an elite defender at his position? Fuck outta here! I’m not tryna hear that. Lebron wouldn’t push for the team to trade a guy like that now would he? WOULD HE? Yea I didn’t think so either.
All you have to do is compare the Cavaliers’ bench production to the Warriors’ and you will see where this series was lost. 7 points from their bench last night and we didn’t see much of Channing Frye, or Derrick Williams. Backup point guard, Deron Williams, is beyond washed. I bet he gives his retirement papers to the league by Friday.
Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala played consistently well–better than anyone on Cleveland’s bench (Iguodala had a +60 rating for the entire Finals). Javale McGee had moderate success the first 2 games, and he and the rest of the second unit contributed just enough to make Cleveland feel it. Tyronn Lue had no one he could bring off the bench and have any kind of impact defensively. Lebron averaged 42 minutes a game this final round; logging 46 minutes total last night.
Kevin Durant put on such a beautiful display of dominance that Draymond Green’s own inconsistent performance was overshadowed; coming nowhere close to how he played in game 7 of last year’s instant classic.
It is understandable that many people found this season to be unsatisfactory. No one was able to match the beautiful basketball on display up in Oakland, and the only team that could come close to competing had its hopes dashed by an overzealous Georgian. Despite what you might hear, the Spurs were in fact, the second best team in the NBA. I don’t expect much to change for next year. Washington is two moves away from me taking them seriously, so they loom in the background as a potential troublemaker.
I’m extremely curious to see if a) the Celtics finally use their chess pieces to put a championship team together next season and b) who the Cavs bring back next year.
Outside of Lebron, I think everybody can be had at a price. As outstanding as Kyrie Irving is, I don’t think he is the right guy for the kind of offense that can beat Golden State. Before you start tweeting me, take a second and think about how much more deadly Kevin Love would be if Mike Conley or John Wall were running that offense. Kyrie doesn’t get his teammates involved easily, and typically passes when its his only option.
I’m sure second best doesn’t sit too well with James, so something will have to be done to at least give the appearance that maybe they can beat Golden State four times in a series.
We still don’t know if this is the beginning of a dominant era for the Warriors or just a vacuum, but we’ll soon find out this off-season. Shaun Livingston and Stephen Curry will be free agents and we’ll likely see a few new faces on the roster next season. The beauty of the off-season is that up until next season’s tip, all 30 teams have a legitimate chance at being champions. Maybe things won’t be as predictable as they were this season, but I highly doubt it.
Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org.