The year is 2025 and the NBA world is starting to realise it is the end of an era. 40 year old LeBron James has finally stepped away from the game that was so great to him. After 22 years of pure excellence the resume reads; 12 Finals, 6 NBA Championships, 5 NBA MVPs and 6 NBA Finals MVPs.
LeBron’s unmatched dominance set the pillar for the future of basketball.
The 2025 NBA finals is days from commencing with new super teams Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics set to battle it out. Phoenix is up against the wall similar to the 2017 Cavaliers. Brad Stevens and co. led by MVP Markelle Fultz reached the heights of the Golden State Warriors.
The only question raised was: Could Boston climb the mountain for a second time in three years? Were they able to do what Golden State could (or could not)?
Rewind back to current time. LeBron James’ 7th consecutive NBA finals are dawning upon us. Cleveland’s road to the finals reaffirmed in our eyes the greatness of LeBron.
LeBron is use to this sensation. The two previous seasons questioned LeBron’s dominance. Is Steph Curry surpassing LeBron? Those queries were seriously considered throughout the regular season, only for LeBron to step up in the finals and reach heights unseen.
2015 NBA finals stats: 45.7 MPG, 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RBS, 8.8 ASTS, 1.3 STLS, 0.5 BLKS
2016 NBA finals stats: 41.7 MPG, 29.7 PPG, 11.3 RBS, 8.9 ASTS, 2.6 STLS, 2.3 BLKS
Statistically feats above were only fathomable by one: Michael Jordan.
LeBron, as he has for the past years is heading into the finals with a lot of scepticism. Game 3 against Boston raised serious (yet unfair) questions of his greatness. The media was flooded with headlines doubting his ability to ‘show up’ when it matters most.
The challenge presented to the Cavaliers is one only the 1996 Seattle SuperSonics could fathom. The Warriors are coming off a stellar 2016 where the won a NBA record 73 games only to add Kevin Durant.
The Warriors, possessing four of the top twenty players in the league, NBA’s best sixth man, former all-star David West and experienced role players Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, Matt Barnes, Ian Clark and JaVale McGee (shockingly). No team is better.
Seattle valiantly lost in six games. The major difference between the SuperSonics and Cavaliers; LeBron James. The current third greatest player of all time has assembled a team built to shatter records and stun the world.
His star teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are capable of holding the offensive load for long stretches (seen countless times throughout the playoffs) and the blend of elite spot up shooters Channing Frye, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert give LeBron the spacing and threats needed to ensure double teams are limited or annulled.
Cleveland’s greatest challenge will be on the defensive end. Coach Lue employed a heavy trap/blitz in all three playoff series to prevent Indiana’s, Toronto’s and Boston’s stars from being the primary ball handler.
This scheme worked efficiently and perfectly as role players, who weren’t capable, were forced to step up and hit open shots. Indiana was the only team to have success from the three point line, shooting a proficient 39.1%. The capable shooting of the Pacers resulted in the closet margin sweep in NBA history (a combined 14 points).
Toronto and Boston fared poorly (Boston 35.5% and Toronto 30%) and was indicative of the result. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, defensive schemes such as this just simply will not work. Of all the current rotation players only Klay Thompson (36.4%), Patrick McCaw (38.9%) and Andre Igoudala (11.1%!) are shooting below 40% from three.
Trapping and blitzing leads to open shots, and open shots will be the death of the Cavaliers.
Cleveland may need to defer to previous tactics against the Warriors. Slow the pace down (92.0 last finals) and place Curry is as many pick and rolls as possible to physically wear him down. The saving grace for the Warriors this season is Kevin Durant.
Durant’s size makes it seemingly impossible to wear down. Place him in pick and rolls and the Warriors switch. Post him up… not possible, the man is seven foot. Durant can hide on defence, but he will not. His reinvigorated defensive mentality has catapulted the Warriors and himself into a new stratosphere.
The Warriors are now able to throw four different players onto LeBron, all with differing build and defensive skill sets.
On the other hand, LeBron will have the responsibility of slowing Durant down. A task that only LeBron and possibly JR Smith will have the size and skill to do. In reality, LeBron may be on an island but it’s a great island to be on.
On paper this series seems lopsided but once again LeBron’s greatness will shine through. In 8 or so years, we may look back on this series and summate that this was his defining moment.
History will be altered throughout the final chapter of the trilogy with our future selves potentially looking back on this as ‘The Greatest Dynasty vs The GOAT’.
Steph Curry Talks LeBron James Trash Talking During Game 1 of NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is gearing up, along with his team, to defend their 2018 NBA Championship, their 2nd in a row and 3rd in 4 years, when the 2018-2019 regular season kicks off this fall, but he is still discussing the 2018 NBA Finals.
Curry specifically is discussing his shock as the trash talk from then Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, which threw Curry off.
Curry and James’ relationship is seemingly in an odd place. James was “like a mentor” to Curry when curry was in college playing at Davidson, but things seem a bit icy now as Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers (James is now on the Los Angeles Lakers) met in some heated battles in the NBA Finals over the past couple of years.
Despite the shift in their relationship, Curry was still caught of guard by James’ approach, particularly in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“It was never going to spill over to that” Curry said, during an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Shiller).
“But it was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.
“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’
“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”
The rift goes a bit deeper than that, and a book from The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, entitled ‘Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry’, it is elaborated, highlighting a 2016 Halloween Party thrown by James that featured a dummy of Steph Curry that was on the floor, forcing guests to step over it.
Now that the two are in the same division, thanks to James’ signing with the Lakers, betting websites will have a field day this season when the two teams take the court, and James continues his mission to topple the juggernaut Warriors.
Cavs’ Tristan Thompson Allegedly Punched Warriors’ Draymond Green at Night Club
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Golden State Warriors’ forward Draymond Green apparently took their on-court beef off the court as the two allegedly had an altercation at a Los Angeles night club.
According to online gossip site Bossip, Green had approached Thompson to apologize for what happened after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but Thompson wasn’t interested.
When Green persisted, Thompson punched Green.
Green and Thompson got into it numerous times throughout the Finals, with Green even insulting Thompson as Thompson attempted to shake his hand following the infamous Game 4.
Here is more from The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre:
Draymond Green was not the aggressor, he was trying to make peace. Tristan felt embarrassed by the end of the Finals diss moment and just unloaded. Couple players i spoke here in LA/on social media went with, “about time”
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) July 31, 2018
Kevin Love Signs Extension With the Cavs
Kevin Love surprised the Twitter GMs and signed a 4 year, $120 million extension to stay in Cleveland. The full value of the deal will wash out to 5 years and about $145 million, around $10 million below his max for an extension. This clearly signals that Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers want to remain competitive in the wake of LeBron James’ exodus.
The initial reaction across the NBA landscape was that Cleveland would look to tear the roster down to the studs and start over. The Cavs owe their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta if it falls outside of the top 10, so trading Kevin Love would’ve not only helped clear their books, but also almost guaranteed that they keep their pick. Bringing him back into the fold makes that much more precarious. The roster now contains a mixed bag of inconsistent youth and holdovers from the most recent LeBron era that won’t take kindly to a middling team not in the championship conversation. The Cavs seem to be split between two paths.
But that’s not forever. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, “Cleveland is still projecting to have close to $70M in cap space during the summer of 2020 to reshape the roster.” The Cavs can get off of George Hill, JR Smith and Kyle Korver for less than $10 million after this season. That leaves only Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson as expiring contracts in the following season to free the Cavs of all their (current) bad money. Cleveland is never going to be a free agent destination without LeBron, but keeping Kevin Love makes them a much more attractive option for free agents, and they’ll have plenty of money to play with.
If that doesn’t pan out, Cleveland can still trade Love in the future. This extension makes him a cost-controlled asset, giving other teams more certainty. Yes, it’s more years and more money but Kevin Love is still an All-Star. Making him the focal point of the offense should allow him to put up big numbers and recoup some of the market value he’s lost while playing a diminished role alongside LeBron. In the coming years, all the ghastly cap-spike deals will be coming off teams’ books, opening lots of cap space around the league. There are only so many stars available and some teams will inevitably strike out. Combine that with some pressure from ownership to win now and Kevin Love can be a very desirable option.
Even with the extension the Cavs are far from a playoff lock. Their second best player may very well be a rookie. So perhaps an injury or a few strategically placed DNPs could allow them to keep their pick. Either way, Love wanted to stay in Cleveland. That’s a nice change for a city that doesn’t have a lot of experience with that. The goalposts for success have changed, but after years of watching this team trudge through the doldrums of the regular season, this young, talented team could be a lot of fun for fans to watch night in and night out.
Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24
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