1. This Again?: Against all odds, we have Warriors and Cavs for a fourth straight year. Somehow, the Cavs have been able eke their way back to another Finals because the: (a) the Raptors somehow fell apart, (b) the rest of the East isn’t that good, and (c) LeBron James is an otherworldy talent.
From a talent perspective, this fourth matchup is markedly less interesting than the prior three. The Warriors and Cavs have had their worse regular seasons in while this season:
-2014-15: Warriors (67-15, 10.01 SRS), Cavs (53-29, 4.08 SRS)
-2015-16: Warriors (73-9, 10.38 SRS), Cavs (57-25, 5.45 SRS)
-2016-17: Warriors (67-15, 11.35 SRS), Cavs (51-31, 2.87 SRS)
-2017-18: Warriors (58-24, 5.79 SRS), Cavs (50-32, 0.59 SRS)
Sure, there are facts that suggest that the Warriors and Cavs weren’t quite as down this season as the numbers suggest. The Warriors rested players and had some major injuries. The Cavs did stink but the late season trades make the a bit better. Nevertheless, GS remains the better team by a significant margin. Barring weird injuries, groin kicks, and LBJ finding another gear, the Cavs should get steamrolled even more quickly than last season.
Prediction: Warriors win 4-1
2. The Rematch Scale: For posterity, here is a list of the most frequent NBA Finals match ups since advent of the shot clock in 1954-55:
-Lakers/Celtics: 12 times
-Lakers/Sixers: 4 times
-Celtics/Hawks: 4 times
-Warriors/Cavs: 4 times
-Knicks/Lakers: 3 times
-Lakers/Pistons: 3 times
-Sonics/Bullets: 2 times
-Celtics/Rockets: 2 times
-Bulls/Jazz: 2 times
-Heat/Mavs: 2 times
-Heat/Spurs: 2 times
With the exception of the Lakers and Celtics, most of these rematches have occurred in short clusters. For example the Lakers/Knicks showdowns happened over a four-year period in the early 1970s and they haven’t come close to meeting again in the Finals in the 44 years since. That being the case, I suppose, on some level, we should appreciate this unique cluster of Warriors and Cavs match ups.
3. Who goes back to 2015?: An interesting lesson in NBA roster turnover…here’s the list of players still with the Warriors and Cavs since their first match up in 2015:
-GS: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston
-Cleveland: LeBron James, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love
4. KLove, Reconsidered: Kevin Love may not play in some of the NBA Finals this season but he has been a key part of the Cavs’ these last four years. It bears reminding that, while he has had some rough moments, getting Love for Andrew Wiggins was clearly a great move. Here are their collective stats over that time:
-Wiggins: 327 games, 36.2 mpg, 19.7 ppg, .447 FG%, .330 3FG%, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 15.0 PER, 12.4 WS, -2.4 BPM, -1.2 VORP
-Love: 271 games, 31.3 mpg, 17.1 ppg, .433 FG%, .377 3FG%, 8.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 20.1 PER, 29.9 WS, 1.7 BPM, 7.9 VORP
Love isn’t perfect but, without him, the Cavs would not have made all these Finals. Wiggins has some ability but his low-efficiency would not have meshed with LBJ. The Cavs are probably close to a break up, so Love’s mostly strong play should be remembered fondly.