For the third time in as many years the NBA Finals will pit the Cavaliers against the Warriors. This year will be a Finals grudge match as the each team has won once and lost once in the championship series, but each team has made some fairly significant changes to their rosters compared to last season.
The most notable change is the Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant over last summer, which gives them the most feared offensive lineup in the NBA. The Cavs’ tweaks were more subtle, but bringing in Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to bolster what had previously been an offensively challenged bench unit has given them more sustainable punch on that end of the floor. The two teams would like you to believe that this year’s Finals will be another even matchup, with both the Cavs and Warriors scoffing publicly at the idea that Cleveland is a significant underdog.
ESPN is also hoping that the Finals will be competitive and salvage what has been an otherwise anti-climactic playoffs to this point, which isn’t what you want as a television broadcaster that has spent billions on rights. While the higher ups at ESPN are hoping for a competitive seven game series, analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who will be on the call for the Finals, told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle that he isn’t so confident that the Cavs are going to be able to keep up with Golden State.
“I don’t think the Warriors will be challenged,” Van Gundy said. “I think they’ll be in the same situation as last year, up 3-1 coming home. In my time in the NBA, this is the biggest talent differential between the best team and the second best team. No disrespect to Cleveland, but I just think the Warriors are at a different level.”
Van Gundy isn’t alone in his concern that despite the Finals producing the league’s two best teams, the Warriors will roll with relative ease to a second title in three years. Golden State has yet to be truly challenged in this year’s playoffs aside from Game 1 of their Spurs’ series, and while Cleveland enters the Finals with positive momentum and its offense firing on all cylinders, there are legitimate concerns about whether the Cavs’ defense can hold up against the Warriors offensive onslaught.
Van Gundy was on the call for the Warriors’ dismantling of the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in the conference finals, and he certainly isn’t concerned about the lack of competition so far in the playoffs for Golden State rearing its head in the Finals. NBA fans and Van Gundy’s employer will hope that he’s wrong about his assessment of the talent differential between Golden State and Cleveland, but if he’s right we could be in for another short Warriors series.