It’s been two months about. At last, the end of this whole marathon to a NBA champion is upon us.
The Warriors had arguably one of the best NBA seasons, picking teams apart, and then struggled through a hard-fought 7-game series against the Thunder, who are arguably the best team in the league. The Cavs, on the other hand, “struggled” early on this season despite having a 30-11 record at the time of David Blatt’s firing. They lacked chemistry and unity, but found their spark behind LeBron James and new head coach Tyronn Lue and rattled off 10 straight playoff wins and beat the Raptors in 6 to get to the Finals.
In a lot of ways, this year’s Finals is a polar opposite from the teams perspectives than last year. The Cavs come in healthy, with additions to this series they didn’t have last year such as Kevin Love, Channing Frye, and Kyrie Irving (injured in Game 1).
The Cavaliers last year were lucky to get into the Finals, and once there required LeBron to play like a man possessed in order to even win 2 games. The Warriors made mince meat of the NBA last year in the playoffs, and this year were poised to make the NBA look like Little Dribblers until the Oklahoma City series.
Nevertheless, the two biggest stars in the sport square off again. If last year’s series was about the greatness of LeBron, this series is about the greatness of Steph Curry. Curry’s superstar-dom is in question somehow as some people are ready to crown him the King of the NBA while others are more hesitant.
Somehow this series has become a threshold of who’s better. Curry or LeBron?
If that’s true, then this series will arguably determine the future of basketball itself.
LeBron’s reluctance to shoot beyond five feet from the basket and his emphasis on easy dunks and layups counters that of Curry’s strategy of firing from deep to spread the defense and enlarge the margin of error from a statistical standpoint.
So how does this series determine the future of basketball? Let’s see:
If the Cavs win:
If the Cavaliers win and the Warriors are somehow unable to win another title due to the unstable nature of the NBA, how is Golden State any different from the Seven Seconds or Less Suns? Sure, the system they played in and style worked, but it was entirely reliant on the players in the system, a la Steve Nash and Steph Curry.
The thinking would be that if the Warriors don’t win another title and become a dynasty, that they were a proverbial flash in the pan. The Cavaliers, however, with a greater emphasis on 2000’s and 1990’s basketball, and the use of 3-pointers as an occasional backseat weapon, would be a sure thing regardless of a “special” roster.
What we’ve seen over the past two years in terms of how 3-pointers have morphed from the top of the NBA down to little kids in the driveway could somehow evaporate. Could the rebirth of the big man occur? The skills that 6’6 prospects are developing right now are slowly crushing the “small” man’s hope of playing professionally, but could the Cavs’ title run over a smaller team encourage LeBron-like emphasis on the paint rather than beyond the arc?
If the Warriors win (again):
If the Warriors win and repeat as title champions, how can analysts such as Charles Barkley or anyone else who has harped on Steph Curry this season deny that a smaller team can win championships?
The thinking would be that if the Warriors are a dynasty, the game has changed. Smaller teams win championships now, and in the same vain as teams trying to scramble together Big 3’s circa 2012-2013, teams would likely assemble small-ball rosters and coaches would begin to accept the new way of playing.
This could lead to the death of positions, as a greater emphasis on shooting and basic skill work for big men would cause players to not specialize in any one thing such as raw strength, but shooting and skills would become mainstream, as well as the meshing of teammates to form a well-rounded unit.
But in the same way:
Can’t it be said, however, that neither of these might happen? After all, the Cavaliers and Warriors are the top two 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, and here they are in the Finals.
Basketball is already headed in a very analytic direction similar to the one baseball went in about a decade ago. The prospects coming up into the NBA are putting more emphasis on the three. How long will it be until we see another five players like Steph? How long will it be until we see the whole league become like Steph, to varying degrees? It may sound silly, sure, but didn’t the same thing occur with Jordan?
It’s in this way that Curry is similar to Jordan, not in legacies or skill level, but in the ability to change the way the game was played.
What we’re seeing in this series is not quite old vs. new like last year, but an evolving of the game of basketball as a whole, from rugged and powerful to skill-oriented and exciting.
This series represents the new beginning of a new brand of basketball that may never be replaced by anything else. This may be the beginning of basketball found, a brand of the game that may be its final form.
And boy, will it be exciting to watch.
Prediction: Cavs in 6