Welcome to our 2015 NBA Finals roundtable with the following Society writers:
- Alex Fischbein – @Thatkidfisch
- Martin Soaries – @marley_mcfly
- Alfonso DeFalco – @fonzydefalco
- BJ Boyer – @wcboyer24
- Alec Walt – @alecwalt
1. What’s the most exciting part about this Finals match up?
Fischbein: The battles in the backcourt. Kyrie and Shumpert vs Curry and Thompson should be fun to watch, especially Kyrie vs Curry. Two of the best scoring point guards going head-to-head only means there are going to be fireworks. I have a feeling the Cavs will have Shumpert covering Curry, but that means we’ll probably get to see more of Klay in the post, which is always fun to watch as well.
Soaries: The fact that this is Stephen Curry against LeBron James is the most exciting element to this NBA Finals. Curry became the MVP and the face of the league this season but LeBron is still considered the best player in the world. I see an underlying David/Goliath dynamic here. Curry is just a regular-sized human with a big heart and big faith, plus a ridiculous slingshot, and LeBron is the giant force coming to impose his will and might. The profound clash of prominent styles between the two top players in the league this season is the key highlight of this Finals and will make it memorable in the years to come.
DeFalco: What I find exciting about these finals is the amount of great players on both teams. The Cavaliers have the best player in the world in LeBron James while the Warriors have arguably the best backcourt in the league in MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. I think that both teams have great depth so it’ll be up for grabs who will step up for either side.
Boyer: Star power. The NBA is a star-driven league, so what better way to determine a champion for the 2014-15 season than pitting the game’s best player against the league MVP. The Curry vs. LeBron aspect of the Finals will entice the most casual of viewers to tune into at least one or two games, which could furnish some gaudy ratings for the league. Also as a side note, style of play is my answer. Both teams have resembled an offensive juggernaut for the better part of the season, and the frequent three-point launching, high-octane style of both teams will make for some highly entertaining ball.
Walt: The most exciting part about the matchup between the Warriors and Cavaliers is Stephen Curry and LeBron James. These two stars have been the best players in the NBA this season. They have been true leaders to their teams and Stephen Curry can now join LeBron James as the two biggest faces in the NBA. Curry beat Anthony Davis and James Harden this postseason who were both MVP candidates. LeBron is the only MVP candidate Curry hasn’t beaten. This is also LeBron James 5th NBA Finals appearance in a row while this is Curry’s first of hopefully many. These two stars remind me of the Bird-Magic Finals days in the 70’s. No one deserves to be in the Finals more then Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
2. What do you see as the key match ups in this Finals?
Fischbein: The most important match ups will be the ones I talked about before. The backcourts are going to be big. We know both of them on either team can score, but it will come down to which one can defend the other backcourt better. There’s no way either one can be contained, but they need to be slowed down if either team wants to win.
Soaries: The battle of the wings. Golden State will be throwing many bodies at LeBron James. It will be a healthy combination of Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston. LeBron is the most important match up in every game he’s in, and how the Warriors defend him will have a big influence on how this series goes.
DeFalco: The match up that I think is most important is the point guard matchup. Both Curry and Irving are playing at the top of their respective careers. Despite Irving being injured, I still think that he will give it his all to try and beat out Curry both offensively and defensively.
Boyer: LeBron James vs. Golden State’s gauntlet of wing defenders. It’s nearly impossible to slow the world’s best player, but if anyone is best equipped to do so, it’s the Golden State Warriors. It will be the collective duty of Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to slow down James, which is certainly no easy task.
Walt: The most important matchup in the NBA Finals is Draymond Green vs. LeBron James. Draymond Green is one of the top defenders in the NBA while LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. To beat the Cavaliers, LeBron has to be contained and Draymond has the perfect size to contain him. Draymond has to defend LeBron like Kawhi Leonard did in last year’s NBA Finals. Draymond and LeBron have the toughest jobs on their respective teams this series.
3. Which of these teams has impressed you the most this postseason?
Fischbein: The Warriors have impressed me the most this postseason. I honestly didn’t think they would get through the tough defense of Memphis, but the Warriors figured it out. They took care of the Pelicans easily, and they even made easy work of the Rockets. The thing that impressed me the most is their defense. Everyone focuses on the Warriors’ lights out shooting and their offensive aspects, but they have been one of the best defensive teams in the league as well. They were first in the league in defensive efficiency and they turn defense into offense faster than anyone else I’ve seen this season.
Soaries: It was my belief that the Cavaliers would need the full and healthy services of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to get out of the Eastern Conference and ultimately to win it all. They took out the Bulls without Love and the Hawks practically without Irving. Cleveland is outscoring their opponents by 10 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Not only that, they’ve outscored opponents in the playoffs by 12.5 points per 100 possessions when LeBron is on the bench. I’m impressed by the Cavs’ grit and toughness and how they’ve embraced it as their identity.
DeFalco: We did expect the Cavaliers to make a deep playoff run, but I am sure most people (including myself) did not expect Cleveland to dominate like they have been. After falling 2-1 to the Bulls in the second round, the Cavaliers flipped a switch and won 6 straight including a sweep against a 60-win Atlanta Hawks team.
Boyer: Cavaliers. During the offseason, I told all of my peers that the Cavaliers could not compete for a title as they were currently constructed. The Cavs obviously shared my sentiment hence the trades for J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov. Dealing for those guys not only bolstered their roster, but also their title chances. All three of those guys are making huge contributions on a championship contender, and Cleveland has a legitimate chance to capture an NBA title despite the fact that Kevin Love has been sidelined since the first round and Kyrie Irving is grappling with knee tendinitis. Cleveland has the number one ranked defense in the postseason which is a far-cry from the mediocre defensive squad we saw for the majority of the regular season. One could argue that Cleveland’s improved defensive statistics are a product of conference imbalance, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that they have made major strides on that end of the floor.
Walt: The Golden State Warriors impressed me more on their path to the Finals. This was an easy pick for me because the Pelicans, Grizzlies, and Rockets are tougher then the Celtics, Bulls, and Hawks. Golden State is averaging 104.3 points per game to Cleveland scoring 101.4 per game. Cleveland gave up 4 less points per game than Golden State, but the Cavaliers faced less offensive-oriented teams. Golden State has displayed a smoother offense, averaging 25.1 assists per game, which is the best in the playoffs. The Warriors team play has been phenomenal this postseason.
4. Which team has the tougher challenge of stopping or containing the other?
Fischbein: We all know LeBron can’t be stopped, and Steph Curry can’t be either. So this comes down to who can defend the rest of the team. In those terms, I think the Cavs have the tougher challenge. The Warriors have consistently gotten great contributions from their bench, and the rest of the starting five is also a force to be reckoned with. We all saw Klay Thompson break the record for most points in a quarter. Then there’s also Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green who can pour in points at any moment. This entire Warriors team can be a real handful.
Soaries: While the Warriors have the mounting individual challenges of containing LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers have the greater challenge of trying to slow down the Warriors, who are scoring 22 points per game in transition in these playoffs. No one in the league turns up like the Warriors. The Cavs might be a close second, but containing the Warriors’ shooting, pace, versatility, and depth is the tougher challenge.
DeFalco: Anytime you go up against of the best players in the world it will be a challenge. Right now it seems like Harrison Barnes is going to defend LeBron James, but we could see the likes of Draymond Green and even Klay Thompson trying to take a crack at guarding him.
Boyer: Cavaliers. As stated in my previous response, the Cavaliers have yet to face an offense as precise as Golden State’s, an attack that features league MVP Stephen Curry at the helm. This isn’t the Boston Celtics’ or Atlanta Hawks’ offense by committee, and no way in the world will the Warriors mimic the inconsistent offensive ways of the Chicago Bulls. This is a team that was either first or top-five in basically every major and advanced offensive statistical category. Their attack can overwhelm, especially when the crowd gets into a frenzy, and they two or three have capable players at every position. Yes Golden State has yet to face a LeBron James, but they believe their depth can trump one man, even if that man is the King.
Walt: I believe the Cleveland Cavaliers will have a tougher time stopping the Golden State Warriors. Kevin Love going down hurt the Cavaliers offensively but helped them on the defensive side. The Cavaliers haven’t faced an offensive superpower like the Warriors, so without Love I don’t think the Cavs have enough offensive power to compete with the best offensive team in the NBA. The Warriors also have a great defense. With Love out, the Warriors now have one less shooter to worry about. This series will prove how important Kevin Love is to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
5. What’s the biggest deciding factor of Warriors/Cavs?
Fischbein: The biggest deciding factor is the bench of both teams. This game will come down to who can get the most production on both sides of the ball from their bench.
Soaries: Shot-making. The Cavaliers have been held afloat by guys being ready to make shots, usually created by LeBron. Cavs are 29-5 (7-1 in the playoffs) when they hit at least 12 threes. The Warriors are 40-3 (6-1 in the playoffs) when they hit at least 12 threes. The momentum will probably favor the team that’s more comfortable and consistent knocking down outside shots.
DeFalco: Health. For the Warriors, Klay Thompson has been diagnosed with a concussion so we do not know what to expect from him until game day, and to be honest, with Andrew Bogut’s history I still do not trust that he will be fully healthy. As for Cleveland, Irving is still iffy and I’m sure fans wish they had Kevin Love in the lineup.
Boyer: Defense. We know both teams are capable of setting the nets ablaze, but whoever brings the most consistency defensively will be crowned champion. Cliche as it sounds, defense truly does win championships, and one team is going to need a considerable amount of it if they want to walk away the world champs.
Walt: The biggest deciding factor for me is Klay Thompson. He’s out indefinitely with a concussion and has to go through the concussion protocol. He fainted after Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and threw up. He couldn’t even drive home that night. Steve Kerr believes Klay will be ready for Game 1, but no one knows what they will get out of him. He has to be on his game if the Warriors want to win the championship. If he isn’t ready, I believe the Warriors’ chances of winning the series drops significantly.