by Mark Deeks
The NBA Finals are here. After possibly the easiest (and certainly the quickest) Conference Finals in living memory, and a one week break from the action, it’s finally time for the NBA’s showpiece event. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals for the third straight season. They are currently tied at 1-1. May the best team win.
LeBron James Still The Best Player On The Ice
Cleveland won their half of that split last season, when down 3-1 in the series, due to the herculean individual efforts of LeBron James. In one of the single greatest performances in NBA history, the always brilliant James turned it up a notch on both ends, recording 40 point games in games five and six and a triple double in game seven, with an unspeakable number of big plays in bigger moments, and particularly so defensively.
James is one year older now and the incredibly well-worn tyres he sits on are now even further worn, yet it has not slowed him down in any way of note. Cleveland will be heavily reliant upon LeBron to do so once more if they are again to pull the upset; however, regardless of whether he and they can quite overcome the powerhouse Golden State team, LeBron is going to go off from a fantasy point of view. He is the priciest player available at $24.5 million, but he is worth it.
Bench Rotations – Cleveland
Both teams will have all their rotation pieces available to them as things stand, and as ever, from Cleveland’s point of view, there is little to explore on the bench. Deron Williams showed up in the fifth and final game of the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Boston Celtics, scoring 14 points on six shots in 17 minutes, yet it was only the third time all playoffs he had scored more than 5 points, and the first time since the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers.
He has been pretty much a non-factor in the playoffs as a whole, and his price of $12.2 million is relatively high. If you do want to pick him, be mindful that he might have only a 4/2 night. And if you do want to pick him, be sure you do in fact pick him and not his team mate, Derrick Williams, who is out of the rotation and plays only garbage minutes.
Bench Rotations – Golden State
Inasmuch as Golden State has had a regular bench rotation, given how relatively untested they have been in the playoffs thus far, rookie wing Pat McCaw has been in and out of it. After a five game stretch in which he played a combined nine total minutes, McCaw then played 55 minutes over the final three games of the Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs, including one start. He played well in them, too, just as he has much of the year, excelling at being the fifth guy surrounded by stars and doing a good job at picking his moments to drive, shoot, gamble and pass.
McCaw’s minutes increase came in part due to the injury that slowed Andre Iguodala, who will have welcomed the week off and is back to near full strength. Last year’s Finals MVP despite being a sixth man, Iguodala will be called upon to try and check LeBron in a way that McCaw cannot, and the primary bench wing spot will again be his.
However, there is a good chance that McCaw has in fact won the other wing spot from Matt Barnes, because although Barnes was brought in late season to provide veteran savvy, timely defense, some athleticism and spot-up shooting for precisely these moments, McCaw has done it better than him thus far. One of the cheapest available players at $6.2 million, McCaw might go back into the DNP-CD area, but he’s done enough to earn a spot in both the Warriors’ eleven man rotation and your fantasy team.
Elsewhere in the bargain bucket, JaVale McGee costs only $6.4 million for his eclectic output, which would range from anywhere between 2 points and 2 rebounds in 7 minutes to 14 points and 1 rebound on 8 shots in 16 minutes. Considering the dearth of centre options available in this one game slate, he is worth considering for value. Ian Clark may also be worthy of consideration at the shooting guard spot – in the rotation throughout the regular season and the playoffs thus far, albeit sometimes near the bottom of it, Clark plays almost every game, and when he is in, he gets up the shots and the threes. At only $6.5 million and capable of double figure outings on any night, Clark might also be a low-cost bargain – between him, McGee and McCaw, you can spend less than $20 million, thus saving nearly $80 million for all other spots.
Bank On Both Teams Starters
With those spots, pick your favourite second star. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will score and score heavily, along with some assists and defensive stats. Kyrie Irving will also take a lot of shots and be in the assist column, while Kevin Love should lead the series in rebounds. Draymond Green’s across-the-board output also has value, while Tristan Thompson may have a slightly better series against a slightly worse (albeit still good) rebounding team in the form of the Warriors than he did against the Spurs. The need to keep him quiet might mean decent minutes for a fit-again Zaza Pachulia, should you wish to think of him as a third star.
Whichever route you go, though, enjoy the Finals. It will be impossible not to.