(Photo: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
The 2015 NBA Finals begins today (June 4, 2015) in Oakland as the Western Conference’s number one seeded Golden State Warriors host Lebron James and the Eastern Conference’s number two seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
While the seeding of each team in their respective conference gives the impression that both teams are equally matched that couldn’t be farther from the truth if you look at the regular season numbers of the two teams.
Despite the disparity between the two teams in almost every statistical category many NBA pundits are actually picking the Cavaliers to win but with no reason of great substance other than simply stating Lebron James.
I do believe that a superstar player at the level of the greatest-of-the-greats, such as Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain can carry a team to championship and Lebron James is in that class, but I also believe that can only happen up to a certain point.
There is a point that no matter how great an individual player’s talent is they cannot carry their team against a certain level of competition; that is what Lebron and the Cavs face in the Warriors, a far greater opponent that even the greatest of the greats cannot overcome.
This is what my whiteboard looked like when writing out the advantages of the Warriors and Cavs to prepare writing this piece. As you can see its pretty much dominated by the Warriors side to the point that I needed to invade the unused side of the Cavs.
To better illustrate the great disparity between the two teams we take a look at a variety of different statistics and measures.
Offense: Warriors v. Cavs (2015 Regular Season)
On offense there wasn’t a huge difference in offensive production and efficiency but you will have to keep in mind that the Warriors played in the tougher Western Conference while the Cavs were able to feast on a heavy Eastern Conference schedule where the competition is subpar – we’ll touch on that more later. Despite the better competition the Warriors still were the more potent and efficient offensive team and secured the ball better than the Cavs. Also, the Warriors more than doubled the point differential of the Cavs, showing their dominance against their opponents this season.
Defense: Warriors v. Cavs (2015 Regular Season)
Defensively is where the Warriors really separate themselves from the Cavs who were a middle of the pack defensive team. The Warriors were the best defensive team in the league this season when adjusting for pace. Even though the Warriors played at a league high 100.7 possessions per game they still kept their opponents to a league low 42.8 percent shooting from the field.
A big reason for the Warriors stellar defensive this season is their interior which was led by Andrew Bogut who was named to the NBA All-Defensive team for the first time in his career and his front court partner, the versatile Draymond Green who was also named to the All-Defensive team and came in a close 2nd in the Defensive Player of the Year honor behind Kawhi Leonard.
The Warriors roster is so stacked with talent on the defensive end that they bring in 2 time All-Defensive team honoree Andre Iguodala off the bench who will prove to be invaluable as another athletic long body to throw at Lebron James in the series.
Conference Records: Warriors v. Cavs (2015 Regular Season)
We mentioned earlier the competition that each of the two team faced because it is a major factor in the final team statistical numbers. The Warriors played 52 games against the much tougher Western Conference opponents and won at an 80 percent clip, compared to just 30 games for the Cavs who won at just 60 percent against the West.
To try to demonstrate just how far apart each team is if playing against the same competition, we use the same winning percentages of the Cavs against each conference and flip the number of games they played against each, i.e. 52 games versus West teams and 30 against East team, their record comes to 51-21 which would have placed the Cavs 7th in the West, just 1 game ahead of the Dallas Mavericks.
What this means is that the Warriors v. Cavs match up in the 2015 NBA FInals is more like a first round match up than a championship finale of the two best teams in the NBA which as we have shown it is definitely not.
It is for all these reasons that we our mind is boggled by any person that follows the NBA could believe that the Cavs have any shot at winning the 2015 NBA Finals, or even extend the series to more than 5 games.
The Warriors in 5, with or without a healthy Kyrie Irving.