It's just a matter of days now before Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers tip off at Oracle Arena in Oakland. The time to sing philosophical praises of participating superstars is over.
LeBron James may have surpassed Michael Jordan on many experts' G.O.A.T. lists and Steph Curry's shooting prowess may have been recognized by the game's greatest themselves, but time for those subjective comparisons is over.
The focus once again shifts back to the court after more than a week of inactivity. It's time to talk about who will reign supreme in the best of 7 series starting Friday. Those trips down the memory lane and mercurial rise stories about Finals players can wait until a winner has been found.
For now, let's talk how the two rivals compare against each other.
The Starting 5
Steph Curry Versus Kyrie Irving
With the year that Steph Curry has had and the MVP trophy he has won, there is little doubt that he is the hottest point guard in the game today and also the slightly superior one in his matchup against Kyrie Irving. But the question is: can he completely dominate and annihilate Irving?
The truth is that as good as Curry is, Irving is no slouch either. If he were the number one superstar on his team instead of that guy named LeBron then he'd be in the MVP discussion too. The problem, however, is that Irving is nursing multiple injuries and may not be a 100 percent in the series. In our opinion, it's just a bluff and not only would he start, he will go head to head with Curry, who might still win this matchup but not by as much as his bandwagoners expect him to.
Klay Thompson Versus Iman Shumpert
One is an All-Star and the other started the season with the Knicks. This is one of the most one-sided matchups in this series. Iman Shumpert is just as good at playing D as Klay Thompson but doesn't even have half his opponent's offensive game. This is why this battle will be the key and could go a long way in deciding who lifts the Larry O'Brien trophy.
With Curry getting all the plaudits in the playoffs, Thompson has taken a backseat and wasn't his usual self in the conference finals against the Houston Rockets. It's time he steps up and proves that the Splash Brothers isn't just about a 6'3 point guard.
Harrison Barnes Versus LeBron James
He is up against a player whose comparisons with Michael Jordan no longer draw crazy looks, LOLS or are you crazy remarks. Harrison Barnes' is the most unenviable job in the NBA right now. He will get help from his teammates to slow the freight train that is the Akron-native, but don't count on that strategy being any effective.
The bottomline is that this LeBron James isn't just any LeBron James. He doesn't have the pressure of being ringless nor is he surrounded by a bunch of nobodies. Statistically speaking, only his assists numbers (8.3) are stopping him from averaging a triple double. At 6'8, Barnes can match James in height and offer decent defence, but decent won't cut it here. Unless a miracle happens, the Cavs ace will do a historic domination of Barnes. Question is, would it be enough to cover for the matchups the Cavs will lose?
Draymond Green Versus Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson has filled in well for the injured Kevin Love. He has been a revelation with his hustle and smart play. But he is now up against a player who many think should have won the Defensive Player of the Year award in place of Kawhi Leonard. What Green lacks in outside shooting he more than makes up for with his passing and his lockdown defense. However, the thing is that in this series he will have to work even harder due to the presence of LeBron James. Green doesn't have much to trouble Thompson with his offence, but on the defense he could be distracted by the free-scoring, free-assisting LeBron, which will open up opportunities for Thompson.
This is one of those rare close matchups that could go either way. Our vote goes in Thompson's favor.
Andrew Bogut Versus Timofey Mozgov
Timofey Mozgov is no more just the guy who was posterized by Blake Griffin. Now, he is that as well as the anchor to the Cavs' defense. The 7'1 Russian has emerged as the lynchpin to the Cavs front court and a much improved player overall.
The problem is that in Andrew Bogut he faces another 7-footer who is far more talented than him on both the ends of the court. Bogut has almost the same size as Mozgov but he also has the skills that the former Knick hasn't. One of these two was drafted number one overall while the other went undrafted. It is clear that Bogut wins this matchup, if he stays healthy.
Festus Ezeli, Andre Iguodala, David Lee – the Warriors have some decent names on their second unit but they aren't as reliable and as productive as the Cavs' bench. J.R. Smith is the star of the show and Matthew Dellavedova his deputy. The likes of Kendrick Perkins, Shawn Marion and James Jones have the championship pedigree that their Warriors counterparts just don't have.
The edge here clearly lies with the Cavs.
Both Steve Kerr and David Blatt are first-time coaches who have made it to the NBA Finals in their very first try, but their situations were different. Having LeBron James on your roster is an automatic trip to the NBA Finals. Mike Brown and Erik Spoelstra both rode him to postseason success, so Blatt's credit in the Cavs' current run doesn't mean much. On the other hand, the Warriors were a decent side but not championship contenders by any means before Steve Kerr came along. Under the former Bull, the Warriors have become a different beast with pretty much the same lineup. He has helped Curry, Thompson and Green realize their full potential, which is why he gets the nod here.
As individual talent and coaching goes, the Warriors have an advantage. They are healthier, balanced and have the home court advantage. However, James is such a huge trump card that he can overturn any disadvantage if he wants, when he wants. The Warriors will get more chances, but the Cavs are winning this one.