In Game 3 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James finished with a +7 rating in 46 minutes of play; the Cavs lost that game by 5. That little 2 minute sliver of game time was more than enough to expose Cleveland’s most glaring weakness, it’s depth. Even in a season of high roster turnover for the Warriors, they managed to completely outclass the Cavs second unit in dominating fashion and cruise to their second NBA title in 3 years, essentially unscathed.
People forget that Kevin Durant was not the only offseason addition for these Warriors; the departures of Andrew Bogut, Leonardo Barbosa Festus Ezeli and Mareese Speights left glaring holes in the end of their rotation. Those minutes were craftily filled by David West, Patrick McCaw, Javale McGee (!) and Ian Clark, and they provided more than enough production to keep their second unit competent. Golden State played a deep rotation throughout the regular season, and Coach Kerr surprisingly did not shorten it as they entered postseason play. The newcomers mentioned above were given significant minutes throughout every series, and though the Warriors were not remotely challenged in the Western Conference playoffs, that playing time would pay off when the Finals came around. Rookie Patrick McCaw played an integral role in game 5 of the series, as did David West, though mostly as an enforcer and open mouth kisser. Long time bench cogs Iguodala and Livingston added their usual contributions, which is underselling the versatility they provide for Kerr to be able to mix and match his lineups so easily. Their passing ability and defensive fluidity allowed Klay Thompson to be the main offensive engine at times while Steph and KD got their breathers.
On the other side of the matchup in beautiful sunny Cleveland, Ohio, the Cavaliers struggled to stay float or even drown in a timely fashion when LeBron and/or Kyrie stepped off the court. This is partially LeBron’s own fault; he has spent years prioritizing aging veterans that could help in their playoff run, but provide no long term value. Lost draft picks could’ve given the Cavs quality sustained production like the Warriors have created with McCaw and Clark, but they went with Frye, Jefferson, Korver and Williams; they’ve made their bed and now have to lay in it. “Coach” Lue got away with playing the wily veterans because while their defensive rating suffered, the onslaught of 3-pt shooting was too much for their overmatched Eastern Conference opponents. This all came to a screeching halt against the uberly talented Warriors and their offense which ranked #1 in pace, as the grizzled veterans could not keep up with the hectic speed of play. As a result, their defensive pitfalls were taken advantage of mercilessly and the offense muzzled by fatigue.
LeBron did everything he possibly could to give his team a shot to win, and it didn’t come close. That’s a scary thought, considering that the Warriors will only get better, while the Cavs are aging with Korver as a FO, Jefferson’s retirement looming, $17M tied up in Shumpert and Frye, and no promising options down the end of that bench. GM David Griffin is going to have to channel his inner Pat Riley if he has any hope to slay the Goliath developing in Silicon Valley. Here’s my free tidbit of advice for you Mr. Griffin, get Michael Beasley on the horn ASAP.