It seems like a constant debate in Cleveland, Ohio every spring. Can the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors?
Last year, there was a great deal of hand-wringing over this, but as we said then, in reality, the wine and gold doesn’t have to worry about Steve Kerr’s team until the Warriors win the Western Conference and the Cavs are the Eastern Conference champs.
Look, we understand Golden State is a great team. They won the title in 2014-15 in six games over Cleveland, and lost in seven games to the Cavs last year. You don’t get to the NBA Finals two years in a row unless you are an excellent squad.
And yes, the same can be said for Tyronn Lue’s club.
The question has gained traction again after the NBA trading deadline came and went, and Cleveland added Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut, who were waived and traded/bought out of their current situations and joined the Cavaliers.
When JR Smith and Kevin Love get healthy, Lue can legitimately go 12 deep with a solid core of talent.
Point guard? He can use Kyrie Irving and Williams.
#2 guard? He has Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Kyle Korver at his disposal.
Small forward? James is still the best player in the sport, and another recent acquisition, Derrick Williams provides incredible athleticism in reserve, and Richard Jefferson doesn’t seem like he is 36 years old.
The Cavs have Love and Channing Frye to play the four, and Tristan Thompson and Bogut who can handle the middle.
Does all the depth added by GM David Griffin translate into being better than a Golden State team that added one of the premier players in the sport in Kevin Durant.
To do that, the Warriors lost some of their famous depth, including Bogut, who is now wearing the wine and gold.
Can the Cavs repeat as champs if they play Golden State again?
First, the Warriors will probably have a tougher time getting through the West than Cleveland will, because of the presence of San Antonio, Houston, and the LA Clippers.
All three teams are better than the Cavs chief challengers, the Celtics, Wizards, and Raptors.
The other factor is it is difficult to evaluate the Warriors because of two things, one of which is the LeBron factor.
James is still the preeminent player in the game, and it is difficult to bet against him in a seven game series. When he is making a decent number of shots from outside, he is impossible to guard.
You also have to figure in the rest of the league’s fear of the Warriors.
We believe one of the reason’s the Warriors are 50-11 this season is most of the team’s in the NBA don’t play the style needed to beat them.
They try to play the Warriors’ style, which is not effective because they are better at it than everyone else, so you will probably lose.
You don’t see many opponents getting physical with Golden State, bumping them on picks, challenging Steph Curry defensively, etc.
Some of that is most team don’t have the personnel to do that like the Cavs do, but we feel some of that is the intimidation factor. Other teams are afraid of the Warriors embarrassing them.
The Cavaliers do not have that fear. They know they can beat Golden State. They lost in six games without Irving and Love two years ago, and overcame a 3-1 deficit to win last year.
We understand that on paper, the Warriors still look like the better team, but as we learned last June, the game is not played on paper.
That’s why it is tough to analyze a third title matchup.