2018 NBA Finals - Reading Between The Lines
A season brimming with borderline shocking trades, record-breaking performances and a dynasty on the rise finally draws to a close. The last few weeks of the elite level playoff basketball have been extremely exciting to watch.
Also read: Best NBA Finals Series of all-time
The final outcome was just as predicted by any pundit, writer or a fan. Golden State Warriors(GSW) played their toughest and one of the most closely matched series since the Steve Kerr era, against the first seed of the Western Conference, Houston Rockets. It took the heart and grit of a championship team to dispatch a team that was built for the sole purpose of breaking the dynasty that was taking form.
The aftermath of the finals
The NBA got their high flying share of revenue and ratings as the two rival poles of NBA met in the finals for the fourth straight year. Even though it turned out to be a sweep, there was some genuine, never-seen-before greatness on display. LeBron James stacked up unrealistic numbers throughout the playoffs. As he has been doing for the past ten years, he continues to make his case for the "greatest of all time".
James, averaging almost thirty points, ten assists and ten rebounds and still getting swept by the Warriors, points to two realities. First, It has been proven time and again that a great team is built on duos and trios. Jordan had Pippen, Kobe had Shaq, Duncan had Tony and Manu. The Cleveland roster had a serious lack of firepower and trust. The second thing that it points to is simply the greatness that has been assembled in the bay area. The powerhouse of the NBA, the GSW are emulating and raising the crème de la crème standards set by LeBron.
Elucidating the Warriors' supremacy.
The Golden State Warriors are proof that intelligent drafting, team values, the presence of mind and the drive to dream higher than anyone else is what it takes to build a competitive championship team. I wonder if even the great Bill Russel, while he was handing over the Finals MVP trophy to Kevin Durant, was mentally admiring one of the greatest dynasties that have ever been put together. Warriors are synonymous with beautiful passing and iconic, fluid "off the ball" offense. In a team comprising of four future Hall Of Famers who are explosive, all-time great shooters, what many people miss is the defensive ability that they possess. NBA finals were no different. Strong defense leading to great offence was the theme of this great team.
Identifying the game-changing moments.
However, just putting their best defensive foot forward on LeBron was not the only task that they orchestrated. An unnoticed and underrated move was to guard Kyle Korver with ferocity so as to not let him get into his shooting rhythm. Another key to this series was the lack of trust that Tyronn Lue had in his players. Great coaches somehow manage to extract decent minutes out of their bench. They shift their rotation according to the situation to get some quality minutes out of the role players while the All-Star player(s) can rest. Kerr did exactly that by getting some good quality minutes from players like Jordan Bell and JaVale McGee throughout the series. Lue was highly ineffective in this department. Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood are scorers, they could have given good minutes to the team had they been adjusted in the rotation as and when felt required. This was not going to be a game changer but small things like these continued to create problems for the Cavaliers.
The Warriors have not yet been tested by an elite defensive unit. They took full advantage of the lackadaisical approach of the Cavs on defense. Defensive mismatches, errors in communication and the lack of fight or heart from the Cavaliers players led to their complete annihilation by the Golden State. JR Smith just does not have the drive or aggression required, Tristan Thompson has been depressingly poor on the glass, and the new trades have yet to fit into this team. If LeBron is the leader on this team, then he has to learn to make his vocal presence felt. In a way such as Draymond Green does for his team.
Although we cannot say what might transpire over the next few months, the legendary LeBron James could have already given all that he could have for the franchise that drafted him.
A new game-changing dynasty has emerged.
On the other hand, GSW just keeps on going from strength to strength. They are in a prime position to complete the first three-peat since the 2000s Lakers. This NBA finals appearance shows the utter dominance that the Warriors have on this sport. They are the new face of the NBA. Love them or hate them, they have proved that they are here to stay, they are a dynasty and that they want to be in contention to be the best ever. Can anyone build a team strong enough to dethrone them? Is LeBron balling on the wrong side of a three-peat? The next season would bring some exciting trades and answers to such questions.
The Houston project failed this year. But I'm sure there will be many more trying to follow in their footsteps, trying their hand at this "super team".