Tha Sports Junkies 101

NBA Finals Preview: X-Factors and Predictions

NBA Finals papercutya/ via


It’s that time of the year again. The time of year when the Cavs and the Warriors face off in the NBA Finals once again. Okay, well, not exactly. In all seriousness, however, the Cavs and the Warriors will square off for the third year in a row in what will no doubt be a showdown for the ages. This finals matchup will serve as the rubber match between the two perennial powerhouses, as Golden State defeated Cleveland 4-2 to win the 2015 NBA Championship, and Cleveland returned the favor in 2016, upending the defending champs 4-3.

If you somehow missed last year’s series, I highly suggest you watch the NBA’s mini-movie on the historical and entertaining series to get you excited for this year’s finals. This year’s Finals has the potential to be the best of the three, as Kevin Durant joins the fray for the first time, which will only make the series even more competitive.

Projected Starting Lineups: (PPG statistics are for the 2017 playoffs only)

Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31; 16-1 in 2017 playoffs)

PG: Kyrie Irving (24.6 ppg)

SG: J.R. Smith (6.7 ppg)

SF: LeBron James (32.3 ppg)

PF: Kevin Love (17.3 ppg)

C: Tristan Thompson (9.5 ppg)

Golden State Warriors (67-15; 16-0 in 2017 playoffs)

PG: Steph Curry (28.6 ppg)

SG: Klay Thompson (14.4 ppg)

SF: Kevin Durant (25.2 ppg)

PF: Draymond Green (13.9 ppg)

C: Zaza Pachulia (6.1 ppg)

Finals X-Factors:

Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James

NBA Finals

Photo by Keith Allison/ Via

Let’s not pretend that there was any other reason besides LeBron’s out-of-the-blue underperformance that Boston was able to steal Game 3 in Cleveland in the biggest shock of that series. Without their star Isaiah Thomas and already down 2-0 in the series, the Celtics looked dead in the water and in prime sweeping condition. Coming off of a 44-point rout in Game 2, the Thomas-less Celtics managed a surprising victory in Game 3 behind gutsy performances by Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and their entire bench. More important to the Celtics‘ cause, however, was LeBron’s below average night (11 points on 4-13 shooting with 6 rebounds and 6 assists) that raised many questions after the game. Reports that LeBron felt under the weather during the game surfaced the next day, which many people used as an explanation for the otherwise inexplicable stat line for The King.

Against the Warriors, this sort of off-night won’t bode well and could spell disaster for the defending champs. Cleveland needs LeBron to be on his A-game each and every night if they want to have any chance to beat a stacked Golden State squad that no doubt still has the bad taste of last year’s stunning defeat in their mouths. Despite not being included in the top three finalists for the NBA MVP award, LeBron is still widely accepted as the best basketball player on Earth, and he’ll need to prove he deserves that title if the Cavs have any plans of repeating as NBA champs this year.

Golden State Warriors: Klay Thompson

NBA Finals

Photo by Gigantes Basket/ Via

The semi-forgotten member of the Warriors‘ Big 2, 3, 4, whatever you want to call them, Klay Thompson has been pretty silent throughout this year’s NBA playoffs. Stephen Curry led Golden State in scoring in games 1, 2, and 4 of the Western Conference Finals, while Kevin Durant led them with 33 in Game 3. Thompson, however, failed to get hot in any of the Warriors’ four games against San Antonio, putting up only 44 points combined in the entire series (6 in Game 1, 11 in Game 2, 17 in Game 3, and 10 in Game 4.) This is the same Klay Thompson who holds the NBA record for most points in a quarter (37) and who’s range is nearly as good as Steph Curry’sif not better on some nights.

While great performances from KD and Steph powered the Warriors past Portland, Utah, and San Antonio, they’ll need a bit more from the other Splash Bro if they want to defeat Cleveland and avoid a repeat of last year’s finals. Klay has to get over the metaphorical hump of no longer being second in line for touches that didn’t seem to bother him all that much during the regular season. While he did put together a couple of decent performances in the Conference Finals, his 14.4 ppg in the playoffs is far below what we would normally expect from Thompson and is a significant drop-off from the 24.2 ppg he averaged during the postseason last year. It’s simple for Golden State, we know KD and Steph will show up, but everyone on the team has to be at their best in the Finals because Cleveland certainly will be.

Prediction: Golden State in 6

Golden State takes the series 4-2 and gets revenge for last year’s stunning defeat. The addition of KD will be too much for the Cavs, as Durant will earn his first ring and do exactly what he set out to do when he joined Golden State this past offseason. The Warriors took Cleveland to 7 last season with Harrison Barnes at the small forward position, and Durant is a significant upgrade at that position in almost every category. LeBron and the gang won’t go quietly, however, so don’t be surprised if this series goes the seven games once again.