Balance the force: What top NBA teams must do to beat the Warriors
For the newly-crowned champion Golden State Warriors, it’s back to the streets of Oakland to celebrate.
For the rest of the league who were mercilessly crushed beneath the champs’ heels, it’s back to the drawing board to regroup.
Facing facts, it will be hard to top this Warriors squad. As Finals MVP Kevin Durant and company are busy beating the system by agreeing to massive salary pay cuts this offseason, the rest are fighting over scraps and scrambling to assemble a counter force passable enough to even be a threat to Golden State.
While we have no power to dictate the course of the NBA post-season, we do have the power of expression to at least suggest these teams’ next moves. And no, we won’t bother to cover teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers who seem to have loved the art of rebuilding so much that they keep redoing it every year. We’ll talk about the teams who actually have a shot.
Eastern Conference - Cleveland Cavaliers
Urgent Need: A star big man.
Let’s start with the former champions of Ohio. In 5 scrimmage games, or the 2017 NBA Finals as they like to call it, the Cleveland Cavaliers looked utterly helpless against the relentless slashing of Durant and Curry, which resulted in top-notch averages for both players.
You’d think they were playing in Hollywood from the way Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love laid out a red carpet to the paint for their opponents. The Warriors treated them like they were harmless drill cones and it didn’t help that they did act as such.
Thompson, the 6-foot-10 supposed rebounding specialist with a price tag of $80 million, averaged 5.8 rebounds in the finals – barely three-fourths of what 6-foot-3’ point guard Steph Curry averaged (8.0). In fact, Cleveland’s big man situation is so bad that LeBron James had to play 20 total minutes at the center position (at least 5 minutes a game). So yeah, it’s bad.
What they need is a legitimate, imposing big man who can bang hard in the post on both ends of the floor. This ensures that they can both clog and break open the paint according to their needs. Luckily for them, the proverbial hand-and-glove fit for this need just happens to be on the horizon: DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Regardless of when the Cavaliers will pull the trigger on Cousins – whether immediately or next year when he becomes a free agent – they will have to trade away one of their own bigs. Ideally, it’ll be Thompson, but realistically, it has to be Love, unless they plan on offering half of their already-lackluster bench just to get the Pelicans’ attention.
Quality big men are rare in today’s NBA, much less superstar bigs. If the Los Angeles Lakers were willing to shell out $64 million on former Cavalier reserve Timofey Mozgov, then Cleveland should be ready to give Cousins an offer he can’t refuse.
Western Conference – San Antonio Spurs
Urgent Need: Stay young. Stay healthy.
On to the biggest “what-if” story of this year’s playoffs: the ever-powerful San Antonio Spurs. For the uninitiated, it basically went like this:
Spurs led by 20 in Game 1 against the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard got injured. Spurs lost Game 1 and the series against the Warriors.
The legendary prowess of San Antonio disappeared as abruptly as their star forward and they were swept like the others in 4 games. While Coach Greg Poppovich and his boys can afford to feel regret for a short while, they should not feel an ounce of shame along with it, for they are already on the right track despite the sudden setback.
In true Spurs fashion, a strong and solid youth movement is marching right along the heels of the legendary “Big 3” era of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. As veteran guards Parker and Ginobili hobble on their last legs, they are slowly and smoothly being replaced by a Leonard-led dynasty flanked by Patty Mills, Johnathon Simmons and DeWayne Dedmon. This is not even taking into account the rest of their veteran pool which boasts Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green and David Lee.
While the young guys may not yet be household names, they’re Spurs players – they don’t care about the fame. What matters is what the numbers show, and boy, are they good.
Mills is coming around full circle in point guard duties as his averages (9.5 points, 3.5 assists, 21.9 minutes) are steadily increasing and on pace to surpass Parker’s (10.1 points, 4.5 assists, 25.2 minutes). Simmons, like Ginobili before him, has grown from a scrub who sacrificed meals to pay for his own D-League workouts to a tenacious and reliable bench player with a lot more potential left to show. Dedmon rounds up the youth movement as his dirty work this season produced advanced defensive statistics comparable to top-ranked stalwarts such as Rudy Gobert and Draymond Green.
The Spurs have always been a well-oiled machine. Success is their middle name. With a healthy and vengeance-motivated squad running around come next season, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the Spurs knock off the Warriors before they can even return to the finals stage.
And really, why should we expect anything less? It’s the San Antonio Spurs. Enough said. – Rappler.com