Jared Johnson

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Dose: Back-to-Back

Saturday, June 9, 2018


The Warriors brought out the brooms in Cleveland on Friday night, completing their series sweep of the Cavs in convincing fashion with a 108-85 Game 4 win en route to their third championship over the past four years. As a franchise, the Warriors now have six championship banners (1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018) hanging in their rafters, which ties them with the Bulls for the third-most in NBA history. A “dynasty” in sports is defined as a team or individual that dominates their sport or league for an extended period of time, and with a record of 328-83 (.798) over the last 4 seasons (the best four-year winning percentage in NBA history), it’s impossible to use any other word to define this Warriors team.

 

 

Stephen Curry paved the way to victory with his 37 points (12-of-27 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs), seven triples, six boards, four dimes, three steals, three swats and two turnovers through 39 minutes of floor time. He got going quickly, confusing the Cavs in the pick-and-roll and getting easy buckets in the paint, and Cleveland really had no answers for him throughout the entire series. “It never gets dull, it never gets boring,” said Curry after the game when asked what it was like to win his third NBA championship, joining the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Tim Duncan as the only players in NBA history with at least three championships and multiple MVP trophies. It wasn’t just Curry’s remarkable play on the offensive end that helped the Dubs keep Larry O’Brien in Golden State for another season, but he also did a very solid job on defense when he got caught on the switches with LeBron James. Through the 2018 NBA Finals, there were 54 plays that ended with Curry on LBJ, and Steph held LeBron to just 12 points on 33% shooting on those 54 possessions.

 

 

Kevin Durant came through with a 20-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double to go with one steal, three swats and just two turnovers across 38 minutes. He also broke Stephen Curry’s Warriors’ record for the most points scored in a single postseason with 608 total points, in addition to coming home with his second consecutive Finals MVP trophy, becoming just the sixth player in NBA history with back-to-back Finals MVPs. There will assuredly be a conversation taking place in NBA media circles as to who the true Finals MVP was (Curry or KD), but Durant had zero interest in adding to that debate after the game, saying: “I know Steph doesn't care about stuff like that. I really wasn't even expecting to do any of this. I was just trying to win... And I thought we both played well. MVPs or not, I thought we both played great basketball to help us win." My personal opinion is that Curry should have come home with the award this year (he did set multiple 3-point records during Game 2 after all), but KD also had a very valid case for himself with averages of 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.5 dimes, 2.3 triples, 2.3 swats and 2.3 turnovers per game on 52.6% shooting.  

 

 

Draymond Green did his thing with nine points, nine assists, one 3-pointer, one steal, three blocks and just one turnover in 39 minutes. Green essentially rendered Kevin Love irrelevant throughout the Finals, and Klay Thompson expressed his appreciation for Dray during his postgame interview, saying: “Draymond does everything for us, it’s the equivalent of scoring 40 points a night.” While Curry and Durant could be described as the engine that drives the Dubs, Green embodies their championship spirit, and it’s his passion, toughness and relentless effort on defense that has helped Larry O’Brien find a new, semi-permanent residence in Oakland.

 

Thompson got into some early foul trouble and ended up finishing with just 10 points, six boards, two triples and two turnovers in 28 minutes. He could have had a better game, but he wasn’t pouting about his lackluster performance after the win, giving the most Klay Thompson interview ever as he casually munched on some popcorn whilst taking questions. As a side note, David West told reporters in the champagne room that “Klay shouldn’t have played” due to how messed up his ankle was, so credit to him for gutting it out through the Finals.

 

Also, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fact that JaVale McGee is a two-time NBA champion, and that Nick Young has also attached his name to part of this Warrior's legacy. “I went from getting snitched on to putting a ring on.” Never change, Swaggy P.

 

The End of an Era?

 

LeBron James produced 23 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, one block and six turnovers in the loss, and while he didn’t make any official declarations during his postgame presser as to where we can expect to see him play next season, he did voice some concern about the quality of his teammates in Cleveland. “I made the move in 2010 to play with talented players, cerebral players,” said James, referencing The Decision. “When you feel you’re really great at your craft, it’s nice to be around other great ballplayers as well.” That sure doesn’t sound like a guy who’s all that eager to stick around (he also admitted to messing up his hand punching a whiteboard after Game 1), and looking at the Cavs’ roster for the 2018-19 season, it’ll be tough for management to find a way to make Cleveland competitive this summer.

 

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The salary cap next year is expected to be set at $101 million with the luxury-tax incurring at $123 million. Not including James, the Cavs already have $104 million clogged up in salary for the 2018-19 campaign, meaning they won’t be able to attract any major free agents without first orchestrating a trade. Unfortunately, the Cavs also don’t really have any attractive trade assets, so they find themselves in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Kevin Love is the most attractive guy on the roster next to James, but it’s tough to see Cleveland extracting equal value in a trade (look at what happened with Kyrie Irving), so moving him wouldn’t really move the needle towards a championship. For the Cavs to “win-now,” they’d need to find new homes for George Hill, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson, but that’s something much easier said than done. Clarkson might be the most attractive asset out of that group, and maybe you’d be able to find an NBA franchise willing to take on some bad contracts if you include Clarkson and the No. 8 selection in the 2018 draft, but it’s tough to see Cleveland finding a trade partner for all of those overpaid players as Thompson, Hill and Smith are all on the books through 2020.

 

We also need to realize that even if Cleveland is able to open up cap space this summer, the free agent market this offseason won’t include many franchise-altering talents. Aside from James, the biggest names that will be hitting the open market this summer will be Kevin Durant, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan. Durant ain’t leaving Golden State and it’s extremely unlikely we’ll see CP3 or Capela make the move from Texas to Ohio. DeMarcus Cousins is a mystery coming off the Achilles injury and Jordan wouldn’t really make the difference in Cleveland’s championship aspirations, thus leaving us with PG-13 who seems content to either remain in OKC or “come home” to Los Angeles (where he could also team up with James). All this points to the 33-year-old James changing his residency this summer, and I hope that Cavs’ fans handle it better this time around. Yes, when James returned to Cleveland in 2014 he did say he had some “unfinished business,” but I think he set the record straight in that department in 2016. I think there are two realistic landing spots for King James this summer: Houston and San Antonio. Personally, I’d love to see him go to the Spurs, where he could form one of the greatest defensive backcourts in NBA history alongside Kawhi Leonard (quad) – and where he assuredly wouldn’t need to lead the league in minutes through the regular season just to attain a winning record. Time will tell.



A hoops fanatic, Jared Johnson has been a member of the Rotoworld team since 2013. Follow him on Twitter @JaredJ831, and feel free to send him your questions regarding trades, draft strategies and all things fantasy basketball.
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