The Golden State Warriors have been the number 1 team in the NBA since the first game of the season and have shown no signs of slowing down. They are 2-1 favorites to win the series. MVP winner Stephen Curry has been a force in the playoffs averaging over 30 points per game. Fellow “splash brother” Klay Thompson has had a fantastic season and playoff as well. The two combine to form the best backcourt in the NBA and arguably to best shooting backcourt ever.
When Lebron James resigned with the Cavaliers and then the team acquired Kevin Love they instantly became favorites in the East. However injuries to Love (out for the playoffs) and Kyrie Irving (will play in the Finals but is battling a variety of leg issues) have forced James to perhaps his best performance as a pro. He has carried this team and made the players around him better like he always does.
POINT GUARD- Kyrie Irving vs. Steph Curry
This matchup is close when both are healthy however the uncertainty of Irving makes this matchup a big advantage for the Warriors. At best Irving will become a spot up shooter but it is unlikely that his injuries will allow him to continue to contribute on offense as a playmaker. Curry has been outstanding all season long and there is no reason that will change.
ADVANTAGE- GOLDEN STATE
SHOOTING GUARD- Iman Shumpert vs. Klay Thompson
Shumpert has shown flashes of the brilliance he displayed before he blew out his knee in the playoffs a few years back. He is the teams best on ball defender and will likely spend a lot of time assigned to Thompson. Thompson was showing concussion like symptoms after the clinching game 5 vs. the Rockets and the Warriors chances will be greatly diminished if he has any ill effects form the head injury. When healthy he is one of the best players in the game.
ADVANTAGE- Golden State
SMALL FORWARD- Lebron James vs. Harrison Barnes
Barnes has been one of the more surprising players for the Warriors. While he is a starter he is often asked to be the go to scorer when the team employs its second unit. James has been nothing short of spectacular and is the best player in the world by a wide margin.
POWER FORWARD- Tristan Thompson vs. Draymond Green
Thompson was a backup for the majority of the season as players like Love and Anderson Varajeo were the starters. In the playoffs he has been elevated to starter and in the process may be earning himself a max contract. He is a tremendous rebounder, especially on the offensive end. Green is also playing so well that he may end up getting a max contact offer from a team in the offseason. He is extremely versatile and is critical to the Warriors success.
ADVANTAGE- Golden State
CENTER- Timofey Mozgov vs. Andrew Bogut
Mozgov was a mid season acquisition in which the team gave up 2 first round draft picks to acquire him. While it was a steep price, it looks like a move that was worth the cost. He is a rim protector and is more than capable of scoring with his back to the basket. Bogut has declined in recent years but is still a force on the defensive end. He is an elite rebounder and defender but can no longer be counted on to supply any offense.
ADVANTAGE – EVEN
BENCH- Both team like to play “small ball” at times and both teams rely heavily on their bench players. Golden State will use veteran Shaun Livingston as the primary backup ball handler and he will also play alongside Curry and Thompson at times. Veteran Andre Iguodala can play all 5 positions and will likely spend a lot of time on James defensively. Backup Big man Festus Ezeli has been more productive than Bogut so don’t be surprised to see more of him. The Cavaliers have been decimated by injuries but still make it work with the healthy bodies that they do have left. Matthew Delavadova has been spectacular in Irving’s absence and appears to have earned the trust of James. Former 6th man of the year J.R Smith has found himself in Cleveland after a transition period from New York and is arguably the teams 2nd best player. James Jones and Mike Miller are veteran shooters that James ahs total confidence in.
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