NBA Finals Preview

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Wait, basketball is still happening? I almost forgot about it it’s been so long since a game has been played. But, finally, the Finals start tomorrow night. It’s a surprise matchup this season, as no one really saw the Cavs and Warriors clashing for a third straight Finals. But that’s why I say the NBA is the best league: the pure unpredictability of it all. The NHL could learn a thing or two from the NBA, I’ll tell you that much. Like what’s the point of even playing the regular season in the first place? Everyone knew it was going to be Pittsburgh-Nashville in the Finals the whole time. Makes me sick thinking about it. What a joke the NHL is. Worst league EVER.

I love when people go on long rants about how bad the NBA is and how everyone knew what the Finals were going to be the whole year. First of all, the last two Finals were amazing, so if this year is anything like the first two, I’ll be fine with it. Oh, man, I hate seeing LeBron, at worst the second greatest player ever, pushed to his limits by the ultimate super team which was built specifically to beat him. What a bummer. These incredibly exciting games get old fast. I sure wish I could be watching Jazz-Raptors right about now. And this is the thing the “90s were the best NBA era” crowd somehow doesn’t get- this is how the NBA has always been. Basketball, more than any other sport, is controlled by the best players. It has the least amount of active players at one time, and the luck factor (random deflections in front of goal, bloop singles, Edelman/Tyree type catches, etc.) is way, way lesser than other sports. It’s dominated by skill and athleticism, and, surprisingly, the very best players are the most skilled and athletic. So, the teams with the best players win. If you don’t like it, the Stanley Cup Finals are on, and it’s looking like a pretty good series. And spare me the same, tired “The 90s were more competitive!” bullshit. You mean the same 90s where, if Michael Jordan hadn’t taken two years off, one team would have won eight championships in a row? I repeat: the same team would have won EIGHT titles consecutively. As in, one (1) out of the 27-29 teams would have won a championship. “But he beat so many great teams!” Really? If they were so great wouldn’t they have beaten him at least one time? If the Knicks were just so good, wouldn’t they have managed to beat MJ one out of the million times they played? “The 80s were more competitive!” Either the Celtics or Lakers won 8 of the 10 titles. The early 2000s was either Lakers or Spurs. I’m not sure there were any other teams besides the Celtics in the 60s, and the 50s don’t count since black people weren’t allowed to play yet. The 70s is literally the only period of time in NBA history with anything resembling parity. 10 out of 67 NBA seasons, that’s 15% of the time, there were no “super teams.” It just seems worse now because we can see every second of every game and we have infinitely more access. You think the Bullets were going all out every game in 1986? Probably not, because they knew they weren’t beating the Celtics in the East. It’s just so stupid when people complain about the state of the league. The players are better than ever. There’s more good players than ever, and I know it doesn’t seem like it, but more teams have good players than ever. Yes, the game is less physical now. Man, I hate that people aren’t getting injured anymore or that now that teams don’t have a designated roster spot for some thug who takes people out when they’re going to the rim, there are more skilled players than ever. God, I miss the 90s, am I right? And, of course, the the competitiveness argument. Sorry the all-star game sucks. Does it really affect your life that much? And at some point, there’s a line between competitive spirit and futility. I could try as hard as I can against a 54-year-old Michael Jordan in a game of 1-on-1, but I’ll still never beat him. Why should the Hornets go out and make short-sighted signings and trade everything for a fringe all-star because they just gotta win now and be competitive!, when it will make absolutely no difference against LeBron. So, instead of missing the playoffs, you lose second round and no longer have any kind of future or salary cap flexibility. But, at least you tried, right! So stupid. The NBA is smarter now. At least 10 teams now actually know what they’re doing, which is like, five times more than what it usually is. Teams aren’t going to mortgage their future chasing some golden goose that isn’t leaving Cleveland any time soon. I realize it goes against the mindset you need in literally every other sport, but ruling the NBA landscape when you don’t have one of the greatest players or miraculous collection of homegrown talent is an extreme long game. You need patience. You need foresight. You need to make intelligent moves that set you up to win when there’s a vacuum of power. You can only beat today’s version LeBron, Kyrie, and Love if you have three or four All-NBA level players. You know who else has that? Unless you’re the Warriors, the answer isn’t you. That’s why there’s so much tanking and asset-grabbing going on. Teams realize the best way to come out on top in ten years is by having the best young talent, and the best way to get the best young talent is by having the best draft picks. Listen, there’s not another LeBron-level player on anyone’s radar right now. Theoretically, he’s going to retire at some point. That’s when the Celtics moves pay off. That’s when (maybe) the Sixers moves pay off. That’s when the league becomes wide open. That’s when you get your precious competitive balance. For now, this is just the way it is. If you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at the league for rigging a million straight lotteries for Cleveland so they could get Kyrie Irving and, by trading Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love. Besides Kevin Durant, all the Warriors best players were drafted by the team (and not in the top-5, either). As much as everyone hates them, the Warriors have achieved the platonic ideal of a title contender- they drafted excellently, spent money wisely, and added all the right pieces. That’s not the same formula the Cavs, Heat, or even late 2000s Celtics used. So before you start bitching about how many super teams there are and how they’re ruining the game, maybe consider the fact that the Warriors are just smarter than everyone else.

Anyway, with that rant out of the way, we come to the series at hand. Cavs-Warriors Round III. What will happen? Who will rise to the occasion? Who will choke? Well, I’m willing to bet LeBron will show up. Kevin Durant has spent the last year getting yelled at by people online. He’s been called soft. He’s been getting called out for his playoff failures. He’s been called a coward. Don’t you think he’s had enough? This might come back to bite me James Harden style, but I think Durant will absolutely go off this series, But those two will just cancel each other out. Steph Curry has been sizzling all postseason and has his own Finals demons to expel. He’s going to be big. But, despite the fact that I don’t really like him (it’s probably just his face. Or the fact that he fabricated the fact that he’s a flat-earther just to get some attention), I fully expect Kyrie Irving to match everything he does. Facing Steph always brings out the best of his considerable ability. Then there’s Klay Thompson, who’s icy shooting so far this postseason is either a sign of things to come, or the sign of a pending massive breakout. Honestly, in my mind, he’s going to be the key to the whole series. Somehow, one of the greatest shooters of all time’s jumpshot is the biggest variable. We know what LeBron and Durant and Steph and Kyrie will do. Kevin Love, when not guarded by Draymond Green, will provide his typical reliable shooting, passing, and rebounding. Tristan Thompson is going to completely dominate the glass, and may single-handedly win a game or two. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston should dominate the game when the bench units are in. J.R. Smith and Javale McGee have improbably become consistent, known commodities. We’ve seen how these teams match up. We know their strengths, we know their weaknesses. Literally the only thing we don’t know is if Klay Thompson is going to show up. Listen, the Cavs have spent long portions of this season, both regular and post, looking horrible on defense. If they play that way against the Warriors, they’ll get scraped. But, I bet they’ll be a little more attentive to that side of the ball in the Finals. The Warriors have dominated the competition so soundly that it’s lead people to assume they have an extra gear they haven’t gotten to yet. Really, that just means Klay has been cold. Again, if he gets it going, this could be over fast. But what if he doesn’t? What if they play to another draw? What if it goes seven games? Well, I’ll take the team that has LeBron.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 7

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