Thursday, June 4, 2015

Golden State in seven, but keep your money in your pocket

I have no clue who will win the 2015 NBA Finals besides knowing it either will be the Golden State Warriors or Cleveland Cavaliers.

My prediction is Golden State in seven, which indicates how close a matchup I see.

I can guarantee it will be one of those two, but beyond that I see this best-of-seven series as a matchup between teams both equally capable of winning.

They'll do it differently, yet there are similarities with both teams relying on underrated defenses.

Both teams are star-led. Cleveland has LeBron James, who is as close to a superstar as there is in any sport. Golden State has Stephen Curry, this season's Most Valuable Player, and a guy I've touted over the past couple of months who deserves to be mentioned with James among the NBA's best.

In terms of game impact, Curry's mercurial offensive skills can take over a game as quickly as a mosquito's sting. Curry's handle combined with deep, deep and accurate shooting range can make him seem unstoppable at times.

His lone offensive weakness is a sometimes casual approach to making simple passes. And as good as he is, in Kyrie Irving, the Cavs have a guard similarly skilled. However, Irving has been hobbled by knee tendinitis and his availability for a potential seven-game series is questionable.

Being a New York City native and lover of handle, I believe these two are the NBA's best ballhandlers. Not only can they handle, they do it with a flair and cockiness that allow them to go where they are going exclusive of any single defender.

However, then there is LeBron, whom at 6-8 and approximately 250 pounds, is as dazzling a ballhandler and perhaps the league's best passer. I rememberin 1967-68, the late Wilt Chamberlain decided he was going to lead the NBA in assists and then did so. Chamberlain didn't lead the league in assists per game, but finished ahead of Oscar Robertson in total assists.

James, I believe, could pull off the same feat. It's amazing there is an entire generation of folks who never saw Magic Johnson live, but James is the closest thing to him. James is more scoring oriented, but I haven't seen Johnson's Lakers' teammates Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or James Worthy lineup with LeBron.

James, in any game, is capable of grabbing 15 rebounds or passing for 15 assists or scoring 35 points. I believe he nearly averaged a triple-double in the four-game sweep of the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

And as much as he physically dominates games, James' leadership qualities never have been more evident than this season. The Cavs, with the additions of Timofey Mosgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith, are a team thrown together in this calendar year that has coalesced into a diverse and talented squad.

Then there is the increased playing time for power forward-center Tristan Thompson because of the season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Kevin Love. Thompson has been a beast around the basket offensively and defensively. He provides many timely second chances for the Cavs. And we know how difficult those opportunities are to defend.

Not many folks can spell Matthew Dellavedova, but if they've been paying attention, this guy has brought feistiness, competitiveness and competence to the Cavs. Don't sleep James Jones, who comes off the bench and immediately hits three-pointers with accuracy.

I'm not fixated on David Blatt, who is in his first season as an NBA coach. Coaches rarely win or lose series and rightly so. It's a players game and that's who will decide this deal.

And it's Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iquodala, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli and even former all-star David Lee, who ultimately could determine the series outcome. I believe Golden State has the depth advantage.

Thompson and Barnes have had stretches when they have disappeared, but also are capable
of timely production. There's no reason to believe they'll be any different now.

Green is Golden State's do-everything guy. In terms of getting underneath the skin, he's a bigger, darker more talented Dellavedova. Guys who play so hard they piss off opponents. Green is the heart of this team and his ability to defend, rebound, score and never back down will play a major role.

Before it's all over we'll see Green on James, James on Curry and all types of intriguing individual matchups. Golden State coach Steve Kerr also is in his first season and brings a calming influence similar to Blatt's.

I'm picking Golden State but I'm a little nervous about so many other observers believing Cleveland has no chance. I never trust reporters. If both teams perform at the levels that got them here, it'll be a great series that could include multiple games decided in the last minute.

Oh, yeah, about that money. I did find a sucker in my former roommate Derryl Zimmerman, who believes the Warriors will sweep. I'm putting up three bucks to his one that his anti-James feelings will cost him. A sweep I don't see. Thanks, Mr. Zimmerman, maybe I'll put that easy money towards a lottery ticke. If I win, you'll get your buck back with tremendous interest.

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