by Julian Spivey
The 2017 NBA Finals begin tonight on ABC at 8 p.m. and for the first time in NBA history we have a trilogy – the same two teams (Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers) matching up for a third consecutive year. Both teams have taken a title over the last two years, so to borrow terminology from baseball, this year’s Finals is essentially the rubber match.
I’ll fully admit that I hope the Warriors win the championship. The team has won me over the last few seasons with their stellar team play and exciting long ball style and I’ve become quite the fan of many of its players – most notably Stephen Curry, who might be the most likable athlete in any sport right now. I also feel bad that the greatest season in NBA history was destroyed last year when they fell to the Cavaliers in seven games and that the team is somewhat owed one.
But, this isn’t about which team I want to win the NBA Finals, but rather the team that I believe will win. And, despite being statistically considered heavy underdogs when you look at things like ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) which only gives them a seven percent chance at beating the Warriors I truly believe the Cavaliers are going to go back-to-back.
The Warriors are probably a better team this year than they were last year, despite the regular season record not being as good. That’s owed to one thing – signing Kevin Durant as a free agent last offseason. This is part of the reason they’re so heavily favored to win the title. The Warriors are also playing the best basketball right now that they’ve played all season winning 24 of their last 25 games and sweeping through the entirety of the Western Conference playoffs, though they did get a huge boost in the Western Conference Finals with Kawhi Leonard’s devastating injury for the San Antonio Spurs. But, all the pressure is on the Warriors. Not only are they given a 93 percent chance at victory, but they’re trying to avenge losing in such dramatic fashion last year, Durant has a mountain of pressure on him (although he’s going to get blasted by fans and even some media win or lose) and team leader Curry has pressure on him because he didn’t play well during last year’s Finals.
The Cavaliers virtually have no pressure on them. They are supposed to lose. It seems like a great advantage for them as a veteran team to be considered such underdogs. They have their sights set on disproving everybody – or really just the statistic nerds and their computers – because actual fans and analysts believe this will be a much closer series than the BPI suggests.
The biggest reason why I’m predicting the Cavaliers to win back-to-back NBA titles is LeBron James. He’s still the greatest basketball player on Earth and he’s playing like a man determined right now. There’s no athlete in any sport I’d want on my team when he’s in full determination mode. It’s almost like he can will himself and his teammates to do whatever it takes to win the big game and we saw that last year when the Cavaliers were down 3-1 in the Finals before becoming the first team in league history to win three in a row to clinch the title. The Cavaliers winning streak last year came right after Warriors power forward Draymond Green referred to James as a “bitch” to his face. I knew that exact moment the Cavs weren’t going to lose that series. I don’t think James has forgotten about that at all.
The Warriors may have the most best players on the court at any one time, but I can’t bring myself to pick against LeBron James.