The NBA Finals are set. After a long, grueling, somewhat entertaining season, and an absolutely ABYSMAL set Conference Finals, we finally have the top two teams in the league remaining. Led by 2X MVP Steph Curry, the Warriors are back in the NBA Finals for the sixth time in the last eight years. Yes, you read that correctly. SIX TIMES IN THE LAST EIGHT YEARS. Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics, led by reigning ECF MVP Jayson Tatum, are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010. Lots of good story lines here. Excited yet? Lets take a look at how each team matches up with one another.
Alright so to the casual fan, this matchup doesn’t really do it for you. I understand. Steph Curry is arguably the biggest NBA star in the league aside from LeBron James, and is the face of Under Armour. Aside from that, he’s clearly a household name. And Marcus Smart? Well. Not so much. But alas, don’t overlook the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He’s been a pivotal part of the Celtics run this postseason, and is the longest tenured Celtic on the roster. In points allowed every 100 possessions, Marcus Smart ranks 18th in the entire league. There’s a reason he’s considered one of the best lockdown perimeter defenders in the league. He’s also averaging a solid 12ppg, alongside 6Ast as well. Again, nothing to bulk about, but add this to his defensive skills, it makes for an interesting matchup.
Steph Curry is up to his usual Steph Curry things. He leads the league in 3PM for the season by a pretty wide margin, while averaging 26ppg, alongside 6Ast. He also has a 38FG%3! Add the 93% from the FT line, and you have yourself an offensive assassin. Again, numbers don’t exactly matchup. But, for what Smart lacks on offense, he makes up on defense. As for Curry, he isn’t exactly a lockdown defender. Kerr will look to hide Curry on defense, and that works in their favor as Smart is not an elite offensive player. The Warriors will also look to create mismatches on offense by using multiple high screens to force the Celtics to switch on defense. Little chess match there for you. Overall, this matchup should be one of the more exciting ones to watch unfold.
Advantage: Golden State
Ok so little explanation here on the two names for the GSW. It’s fairly safe to assume Klay Thompson will start here for the Warriors. However, it’s no secret that Jordan Poole has taken a massive leap in his game. He hasn’t quite been able to replicate his production during their first round series against the Denver Nuggets where he was averaging 21ppg, and and delivering 6AST as well. However, his numbers have remained respectable, and he has proven to be a valuable player for the future of the Warriors. As for Klay, he’s had an up and down playoff run so far. He simply hasn’t looked like the Klay Thompson we are a used to seeing on the court, I’m afraid. Hope you caught that. Anyway, his numbers also remain respectable as well. Averaging 19ppg during the WCF, while shooting 38% from three.
Then, you have Jaylen Brown. What a year he’s been having. Coming off of averaging 24PPG for the ECF, and shooting 40%! from 3, he looks every bit of a player that has found his footing. He’s also proven to be a quality defender in help rotations, 1on1 defense, and off ball defense in averaging at least 1 steal per game. Remember when his name was being mentioned in trade talks? OOf. Not anymore. He’s proven to be a valuable, important piece to this Boston nucleus, and I doubt he will be going anywhere anytime soon. Yet another interesting match up in the SG position as well.
So I’ll try to make this as competitive as possible. The SF matchup features two All-Stars STARTERS squaring off against one another. Still can’t believe you all made Wiggins an All Star starter but here we are. Moving on. Andrew Wiggins has, in my opinion, enjoyed a career year. Not by the numbers, but by his willingness to buy in to his role that he has accepted. I mean. IT MADE HIM AN ALL STAR STARTER. His numbers don’t jump off the screen as he’s averaging 19ppg during the WCF. Does it feel like every Warriors player WAS averaging 19ppg during the WCF except Curry? Weird. Wiggins shot a WHOPPING 28% from 3 as well, so it’s safe to say he won’t be much of a threat from there in this series. He’s proven to be the athletic wing they need throughout the season, and he will not be tasked with trying to slow down the NBA’s newest superstar.
I mean fine lets just call it what it is. Tatum wins this matchup. His playoff run has been nothing short of spectacular. From sweeping KD, to going bucket for bucket against Giannis. He has entered another stratosphere in his stardom. Coming off winning the first ever Larry Bird ECFMVP Award, He now looks to add NBA FINALS MVP to his name as well. Averaging 25ppg during the ECF, while shooting a respectable 35% from 3, he has proven that he is the unquestioned leader, and best player on the Boston Celtics during this playoff run. You know who he is.
Now THIS one is easily the most competitive position to compare. On one side, Draymond Green. Little known fact you can use during your arguments if you think the Warriors will win: They are 19-1! when Draymond makes at least ONE 3 in a game. So, for my betting folks, the moment you see him make a three, go all in on the Warriors IMMEDIATELY. He’s the anchor of the Warriors. The Engine. The Heartbeat. [Insert whatever analogy you can come up with]. Watching Draymond operate in a fast break situation is true basketball ART. His IQ on off ball screens, and moving without the basketball are elite. His ability to find the open man, and the cutter to the rim, are impeccable. I’m clearly a big Draymond fan. However, his counterpart posses an interesting skillset as well.
Al Horfod. The Old Man. He’s finally made it to a NBA Finals. Remember all those Hawks teams that everyone thought would run over LeBron to make the NBA Finals? Ouch. WELP. Times have changed. He’s finally made it over the hump, and has a chance to add a NBA Championship to his resume. Essentially averaging a double double with 10PPG and 10RPG during the ECF, its safe to say he’s a walking double double. Does he possess all the skillsets that Draymond has? No. However, he can prove to be a worthy adversary on the defensive end of the ball. Oh. He also shot 39% from 3 during the ECF, so he can stretch the floor on offense as well.
Advantage: Tough one. But Golden State by a hair.
Kevon Looney has taken a massive leap in his game from the regular season. During the WCF, he averaged 11ppg with pulling down 11rbpg. Walking double double. He also proved pivotal in the closeout game against the Memphis Grizzlies when he was able to pull off a historic night by pulling down 22 rebounds to help close out the Ja Morantless Grizzlies. He has continued his stellar play in the paint as well by proving to be the pivotal big man the Warriors so desperately need in order to run their offense effectively.
Robert Williams III has emerged as a pivotal part of the Celtics success as well, just like his counterpart. However, it’s clear that his knee injury is severely hampering his play on the court. At times, he doesn’t seem to have the same explosiveness, and lateral movement that he is used to possessing before his injury. He has still proven to be an elite defensive player. The Celtics will need him to be this defensive anchor in order to match Looney under the basket, and to battle him for rebounds.
Advantage: Purely because of health, Golden State.
So, there you have it. Looks fairly evenly matched I’d say. However, I think because of health concerns, which includes Tatums shoulder, and Williams knee, along with the pure experience the Warriors have, it’s safe to say the Warriors will wrap this series up in 6. Also, the fact that the Warriors have yet to taste defeat on their home court, and the first two games are in San Francisco, that’ll be a tough ask for the Celtics, whom are coming off a grueling seven game series, to defeat the Warriors whom wrapped their series up in 5 games. All in all, let’s hope the NBA Finals are more entertaining then the Conference Finals. That much we can all agree on.
Main Image Cred: (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm) The Associated Press