This is going to be the first time in NBA history that we will have two teams facing each other in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.
Granted, the NBA Finals are not set in stone, but let’s be real: Who’s going to beat either team in their respective divisions four times in a seven game series? Sure, Houston is a serious threat to The Warriors and The Oklahoma City Thunder have the proven blueprint, but come on. This is the regular season.
So let’s save everyone some time and cut to the chase. The 2018 NBA Finals will feature the Cleveland Cavaliers and The Golden State Warriors.
With that out of the way, let’s discuss the one key element that the Cleveland Cavaliers have that the Golden State Warriors are lacking.
The Cavaliers made a major roster overhaul in the 2017 offseason, headlined by the riveting Irving-Thomas trade. The Golden State Warriors retained their 2017 championship lineup. Cleveland frantically rebuilt while the Golden State dynasty remained intact. What’s worse is that Cleveland now became the oldest team in the league. This led to an abysmal start to the 2017-2018 NBA season.
Factually, the Cleveland Cavaliers did retain a top 4 spot in the eastern conference prior to the recent trade deadline. However, the eastern conference is a weak one. Earning a top 4 spot in the eastern conference is nothing to brag about. During this time, the Cavaliers were experiencing the most peculiar, obvious lapse in team chemistry in recent memory. It was more than a chemistry imbalance, it was pure disdain.
What does this all have to do with hunger anyway? I promise, I’ll get there soon.
The painfully blatant disregard for teammates and absence of motivation on the floor led to a predictable need for roster adjustments. But who would have predicted that they’d give up SIX players in exchange for four on the final day of the trade deadline? This completely reshaped the Cavaliers roster. In one day, they went from the oldest team in the league with glaring chemistry issues to a talented group of young and athletic overachievers ready to win.
This team now only consisted of a few players who had experienced the fatigue of going to three straight NBA finals. This few consists of Lebron James, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, and Kevin Love. The newly signed guys have never had serious playoff experience. Rodney Hood is a dependable scorer but has had the misfortune of playing for the perennially nonthreatening Utah Jazz. George Hill is a proven two way, two spot guard who has playoff experience but no championships to crown his achievements. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nancy are both young, extremely athletic guys who have a couple years under their belts with no playoff experience whatsoever.
Now let’s talk hunger.
As mentioned earlier, the Golden State Warriors, for the most part, kept the same team throughout that three year stretch of NBA Finals runs, winning two. They had been there, done that already. Yes, they currently have the second best record in the league, but The Warriors are winning games off of pure talent and have often times shown boredom. It could be argued that they just don’t seem to want it that bad this year.
On the other hand, the Cavalier roster is now stacked with players that want it bad. Clarkson and Nance Jr. are young and are both willing to yield to the direction of Lebron James. Unlike Isaiah Thomas, who is a defensive liability who wants to run the show, these two know their role and know when to take heed. George Hill doesn’t need to be a ball dominant guard. He just has to play defense and hit threes. Rodney Hill will have the green light to get his points because Lebron will need a reliable second scorer in crunch time when it gets to the deeper rounds of the playoffs.
Lebron James is playing for his legacy here. In his 15th year, his window of opportunity is steadily closing. If he has any hopes of winning more championships, he needs to win now. With that sense of urgency, no one in this league is hungrier than the King. Oh, and let’s not forget that this Cavalier team will want to avenge it’s underwhelming 2017 Finals performance.
So, despite this being a highly competitive NBA season with countless storylines, it can be assumed that the result will be the same: The Cleveland Cavaliers will face the Golden State Warriors for the record breaking fourth straight year. The Warriors are the favorites, with their superior shooting and smothering defense. The underdog Cavaliers, however, also have reliable shooters and young athletes who play with enough effort to be pests on defense. Combine that with the urgency and leadership of Lebron James and this team has more than a chance. The Cleveland Cavaliers are hungry, and this could be what gives them the edge over the Golden State Warriors.