They’re back again! The Cleveland Cavaliers, the reigning NBA champions, and the Golden State Warriors, the best team in the NBA this season by virtue of record, will meet again in the NBA Finals this June for the third consecutive season. Throughout the season and playoffs, both teams left little doubt that they were the class of their respective conferences, as the teams combined for a 24-1 playoff record. While the novelty of the Cavs and Warriors squaring off as a title matchup has worn off after two previous Finals series, the two teams are at the peak of their powers and combine for a NBA Finals that, on paper, is the best matchup in NBA history. These are the storylines to watch in the best-of-seven series.
Will Durant add or subtract from Golden State’s chemistry?
Forward Kevin Durant made huge waves through the NBA landscape when he decided to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, who experts believed to be a serious title contender, for the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s superteam and two-time Western Conference champions. But by adding Durant, the Dubs were forced to cut ties with role players that contributed to the team’s depth in past seasons. That decision proved problematic during the regular season, especially when the lack of chemistry between Durant and his new teammates became apparent. But Durant has strung together several high-scoring performances during the playoffs and should make the Warriors even more dangerous when they lineup against the Cavaliers.
Will the Cavs play with the same intensity after ending their championship drought last year?
Watching Cleveland end a championship drought that lasted for over 50 years was incredible last year. Most impressive was the high level of intensity at which the team played in those Finals. During the regular season, however, the team experienced a championship hangover and was unable to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference due to a late-season slide. The Cavs were able to glide through their opponents in the playoffs, only dropping one game, but it begs the questions- what are the Cavs playing for, and how hard will they play to get it?
Does Golden State’s coaching turmoil hurt them on the court?
Last year, Golden State assistant Luke Walton took over for head coach Steve Kerr at points of the season due to Kerr’s health issues and the team played phenomenally. When Walton left to take the head coaching role for the Lakers, assistant Mike Brown assumed his role and has served as the team’s acting head coach during the Warriors’ dominant playoff run while Kerr has again battled with back problems. With Kerr’s return in doubt, will Brown be able to continue the Warriors’ winning ways or will Kerr’s absence make him a liability? Though the Finals will give us the ultimate answer, Golden State’s championship culture should ensure that the head coaching carousel will not affect the product on the court.
My Prediction: Warriors in six. Last year’s Finals series was epic, and though this clash of the NBA titans will be entertaining, the Warriors will prevail in six games. This series seems pretty even on paper, but Golden State has more momentum, consistency and talent and are a matchup nightmare with Durant in their frontcourt. LeBron James gave it everything he had last year, but even his efforts alone aren’t enough to push the Cavaliers to their second straight title. Ultimately, I believe this series will come down to the NBA’s forgotten superstar this season, Golden State guard Steph Curry, who will finally put together a championship performance for the ages, earning him MVP honors and his second NBA title.