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2015 NBA Finals Preview

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Golden State Warriors

As respected as Lebron James is and as impressive as all of his accomplishments have been, there’s little doubt that the Golden State Warriors will conquer the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and capture their first Championship since the days of Rick Barry back in 1975. The reason being—the Warriors have a superior team.

Prior to the start of a playoff series, if you knew that LeBron James, who by all means is the best basketball player on the planet, would go on to average 28 points, close to 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals with incredible efficiency (specifically, 57 per cent shooting from the floor, 51 per cent from three point range, and 79 per cent from the free throw line) in that same series, you'd probably be inclined to think that he'd be a lock to lead his team to victory. A year ago when matched up with the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals LeBron did exactly that, but despite such a remarkable performance he still fell short of a championship goal and was defeated by a record margin of points in just five games.

That isn't to say that Cleveland is limited in terms of talent—it’s just that Golden State offers so much more with its depth. This season, the Warriors ranked among the top 10 teams across the NBA in terms of bench production, averaging 36.4 bench points per game. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, ranked dead last, averaging a little over 24. Additionally, James and his squad are challenged with the task of overcoming a juggernaut on both ends of the floor. Out of all 30 teams this year, Golden State ranked first in defensive efficiency, allowing only 98.2 points per 100 possessions, and ranked second in offensive efficiency, scoring 109.7 points per 100 possessions. Cleveland wasn't that far behind in terms of offensive efficiency, but the real discrepancy lies on the defensive side, where the Cavs ranked 20th in the regular season. The Warriors also had the highest league totals in effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage. Furthermore, no team owned an assist ratio close to that of Golden State, who ended their possessions with an assist nearly 20 per cent of the time this season. Simply put, no team in the NBA has moved the ball or executed as well as the Warriors have since October.

Though the Cavs have made significant strides on defence since acquiring the likes of guard Iman Shumpert and big man Timofey Mozgov, there's a strong chance that they'll be exploited by a team whose execution is unmatched, and whose shooters get off shots in the blink of an eye. When it's all said and done, Stephen Curry, with the help of a well rounded supporting cast, will remind everyone why he's not only the league’s MVP, but also quite possibly the most lethal offensive marksman to ever play the sport. A wise bettor should always lean towards the safest pick, and as far as this year goes, no team is safer to side with than the Warriors.

– Dan Gilbert

Cleveland Cavaliers

Boastinga 67-15, record, the NBA’s most efficient offense and defence and the league MVP, it is fair to say that the Golden State Warriors deserve to win. Basketball instinct, however, says that the Cleveland Cavaliers will come out on top. Stars win championships and Cleveland have the biggest star on the planet.

LeBron James is the X-factor in these NBA finals. If he plays well, the Cavs will win hands down. If not, then congrats to the Warriors. Unfortunately for Golden State, he is playing some of the best basketball in recent memory. Offensively, the only person that can stop him is himself. On the defensive end, he can guard all five positions with incredible ease; especially since Golden State doesn’t have a threatening big man who can score inside. He is possibly the only player in the world than could rally this crippled Cleveland team, devoid of a fully healthy Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Anderson Varejao, to the NBA Finals. The argument of the Eastern Conference being weaker can be made, but nonetheless LeBron averaged a near triple-double in a Conference Finals sweep against a strong of a Hawks side that went 22-8 against Western Conference teams in the regular season. Furthermore, the team is clicking on all cylinders. Everyone is making big shots and great defensive plays, and their brand of basketball looks quite beautiful, at least in the last series versus Atlanta. Matthew Dellavedova is looking like a veteran in his first playoff experience is running the pick and roll effectively and hustling on every play. Then you have Tristan Thompson, the rebounding machine of the playoffs. Nobody can match his intensity and effort in his position on the Warriors’ roster. Fans can’t forget Timofey Mozgov, the defensive stopper who goes after each lay-up and swats it like he’s playing volleyball. He is also a very underrated passer, as he regularly finds the open man on the wing when he is being doubled in the post. And then the old Knicks twins in Iman Shumpert and J.R Smith who have become all of a sudden an offensive spark-plug duo in these playoffs, knocking down multiple wide-open shot created by Dellavedova or LeBron. When Cleveland was down, these two started gaming and making shots like the rim was 10 feet wide. The matchups for these two teams favour Cleveland. Of course, the point guard position battle goes to Stephen Curry. But at the shooting guard position, with Klay Thompson shaking off a possible concussion and who has sneakily had a poor and inconsistent playoffs so far. Smith may have the advantage—his plus-minus totals in these playoffs are a bit higher with +104 over the +96 for Klay. At small forward LeBron James clearly wins over Harrison Barnes, but Draymond Green gets the edge over Tristan Thompson because of his versatility. Thompson may be a factor on both ends because his hustle is hard to duplicate. Finally, Mozgov over Bogut is an easy decision at the center position. The Cavs are a completely different team right now than the shaky club that started out this season. They’re on a mission, and that is the scariest thing for an opponent, especially when the team is headed by arguably the best player in the world right now in LeBron James.

– Abdul Atta

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