Round four of the Golden State vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, the series everyone didn’t want to happen again, but we all knew would (the refs in Game 7 of the WCF seemed to know too, but we won’t go there) is here.
Almost everyone is predicting that the Warriors will sweep the Cavs, and it has the potential to be one of the more lopsided Finals in recent history.
But what if the Cavs can pull off the miracle? Is it even possible? There are a lot of things they will have to do to stop the Warriors and win another title, but the biggest factor is for Cleveland’s supporting cast around LeBron to show-up night-in and night-out.
The Cavs most vital member of the supporting cast is Kevin Love. He has been incredibly inconsistent this year, especially in the playoffs, but Love will need to show up in the scoring and rebounding department for Cleveland to even have a prayer in this series.
The Cavaliers have a lot of players who can fill roles but are even more inconsistent than Love, somehow. These players are George Hill, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Tristan Thompson, and Larry Nance Jr (noticed how I left J.R. Smith off this list, but more on that later.)
Ever since Nance Jr. decided to fight Marcus Morris, he has been making a more significant impact for the Cavs. He’s making effort plays, which is something the Cavs usually lack, and becoming a factor on the offensive glass. He may not be lighting up the box score, but he’s making his presence known on the court, and that could go a long way for this team.
Thompson is finally playing like the player who received that big contract a couple of years ago. He is being a nuisance for opposing defenses on the offensive glass and will need to make Draymond Green’s life a nightmare in the paint.
Jeff Green stepped up in Game 7, dropping 19 points and grabbing eight boards against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. He needs to provide that same type of energy once again. In addition, he could give a much less experienced Kevon Looney fits if he’s able to make outside shots.
Speaking of outside shots, Korver and Hill will have to hit their 3’s on the road. Hill scored in double digits in all three home game during the conference finals, but couldn’t top seven points in four road games. If he can do that, while limiting Steph Curry, Cleveland’s chances of winning increase. Korver stepped up defensively, especially when paired up against Jaylen Brown in the conference finals, thwarting several drive attempts. He has actually been one of the more consistent scoring threats for Cleveland this postseason.
A big adjustment Tyronn Lue needs to make if he wants to win a ring is his rotation. J.R. Smith should not be starting. His shooting has been atrocious, and his defense has somehow been even worse. Korver should receive his left-over minutes instead. Also, with Cleveland’s heavy iso tendencies, they may need several minutes from Rodney Hood, too.
Lue will also need to outsmart Steve Kerr and use constant playcalling and keep the offense moving if they want to outscore the Warriors. Another adjustment that would be essential would be to put LeBron James on Kevon Looney, and Jeff Green on Kevin Durant. This may sound strange but hear me out on this. If Looney beats Cleveland, they can live with that. If LeBron guards Looney, he can help off and easily switch off-ball screens (that will most likely be set by Looney).
Durant only has a couple inches on Green, and Green can be a physical defender (it’d also be cool to see the only remaining Sonics as a matchup.) This matchup would also allow LeBron to save more energy for the offensive end of the floor. For the first time, he looked exhausted during the Celtics series. If he has to guard Durant while also being expected to drop a triple-double every night, the Cavs are in trouble.
So to answer the question if the Cleveland Cavaliers could be favorites in the NBA Finals, the answer is yes. They could beat the Warriors, but they need a solid supporting cast, a decisive edge in hustle plays, and a change in strategy. They need to live up to the “Whatever it Takes” mantra and do their best to win every 50/50 ball. Effort plays and intelligence, with a little bit of luck, will be the ways the Cleveland Cavaliers will help give King James win his fourth ring and shock the world.