Orville Higgins | Warriors, Cavs bad for NBA?
The NBA finals have come and gone, and the result is what most of us anticipated. Golden State Warriors were just too good. They were arguably the best team in the league, even before Kevin Durant joined them. With Durant in their ranks, they could not be stopped.
People are already rating them as the best basketball team of all time. Only Jordan's Bulls team in the mid-1990s is spoken of in the same tones. If this Golden State team stays together, it's difficult to see how they will lose for the next few years. Unless, of course, another team manages to acquire another high-profile talent to add to their roster.
There are already talks making the rounds that Paul George may find his way to Cleveland over the next year. That may mean some juggling with the roster at Cleveland to avoid a hefty luxury tax or with the most likely scenario being that Kevin Love could be traded. As a Cleveland fan, I would love that. It would be great to see Cleveland with Paul George taking on Golden State in next year's finals. It could well be the most mouth-watering clash in sports next year.
These finals told us little that we didn't already know. Kevin Durant did what he has been doing for years. He has been among the top three best players in the league for years, and nothing he did in the final should surprise us. I disagree with Paul Pearce that he has overtaken LeBron James as the game's best player. LeBron had a triple double in the final - first time it is happening - and is unquestionably still the best all-round player in the game.
As an aside, I have been in a running battle with several people about the importance of individual match-ups in basketball. The American media love to hype up these one-on-one contests in the play-offs. It means very little, and as one caller said to me on my call-in show, it is designed purely to hype the series and sell tickets. He was dead right!
Star match-ups overrated
We had heard from the so-called experts that the match-up between Durant and LeBron James would be crucial. Much was also made about the match-ups with Kevin Love and Draymond Green, and Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry. I have been at pains to tell people that these match-ups are overrated. Basketball does not come down to a contest between individuals. The game is much too dynamic. The game doesn't follow that kind of static routine because players are moving around all the time. At any given time, the person who you are supposed to be matched up against is elsewhere on the court, and you have to try to guard whoever happens to be in front of you.
Three of Golden State's top players - Green, Durant and Curry - were asked about their individual match-up assignments against players from Cleveland. All of them played it down and made it clear that it is really about a team versus a team. So, yes, those individual match-ups are overrated and hardly decide which team wins the contest. Golden State beat the Cleveland Cavaliers because they were simply the better team and not because they won the individual match-ups.
Many people are wondering if the formation of these superteams are good for the NBA. It was as close as one can get to a sporting certainty that both Cleveland and Golden State would get to the finals. They were the teams stacked with the most talent. They have been to the finals for the last three years, and if the two teams stay together, they will meet in the final next year.
When asked if the certainty of another Warriors-Cavaliers finals series is good or bad for the NBA, my simple answer is this: Are Real Madrid and Barcelona bad for football in Spain? If you want to get to individual events, was Bolt bad for sprinting? Is Serena bad for tennis? The answer in all cases is no. When you have a standout player or team, it forces others to catch up. It tends to lift the standard of competition. It gives us as spectators something to look forward to.
Will the giant be toppled, or will they prevail? That is the question that occupies the mind as we look forward to next year. Both teams will be coming hard. I know LeBron will be doing everything to bolster his troops, and I don't expect Golden State to rest on their laurels. Next year could be the fourth straight final. I, for one, can't wait.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.