For only the seventh time since 1979, the NBA Finals will be a rematch from the year before.
The Golden State Warriors are four wins away from becoming back-to-back champions, but have the Cleveland Cavaliers in their way for the second year in a row. The series starts Thursday night at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena.
In previewing the matchup, we thought we’d take a slightly different approach.
No doubt you’ve already heard how this battle stands to be much different from 12 months ago, what with the Cavs actually boasting a clean bill of health and the Warriors coming to within one loss of being knocked out in the last round.
So instead, we want to stick our necks on the line and predict who the leading scorer, rebounder and assister will be over the course of the Finals because, well, we’re bold like that:
As the best players on their respective teams, Steph Curry and James are heavily fancied to lead the way here.
However, they may not have as big a scoring impact as the Warriors’ Thompson, who goes under the radar as one of the game’s best because he plays alongside Curry.
That hasn’t been the case in these playoffs though. Thompson arrives at the Finals having scored more postseason points than any other player from either team, leading his closes rival (James) by 101.
With Curry taking the majority of the opponents’ focus on offense, Thompson stands to have a big say in the series, especially with JR Smith – the Cavs’ weak defensive link – due to guard him.
The Cavs big man has been asked to play a lot of minutes at centre as coach Ty Lue has ditched Russian totem pole Timofey Mozgov in favour of a smaller lineup during the postseason.
Thompson is a notorious offensive rebounder. He grabbed the third most during the regular season and has gobbled up the second most so far in the playoffs, trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Steven Adams by three.
Adams faced the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals and added 22 offensive boards to his collection over the seven games, the most in the series.
Grabbing teammates’ misses is a vital strategy to defeating the Warriors, who tend to sacrifice dominance off the glass in favour of the pace and shooting that their own smaller lineup provides.
Once again James and Curry are the two favourites with the bookmakers, and once again it’s worth overlooking them.
The Warriors’ Green is as important to their success as MVP Curry. He often brings the ball up the court at the start of possessions and looks to get Curry and the rest of his teammates involved.
His 100 assists so far this postseason is more than any other Finals participant.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.