You want the best possible NBA Finals? One filled with last-second jumpers and overtime after overtime? One that will leave your basketball taste buds fulfilled until NBA Summer League starts back up in June? As the U.S Navy said in the 1960s, keep it simple stupid. The Cleveland Cavaliers taking on the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2015 NBA Finals would be the best possible matchup and honestly it is not even close.
There are a handful of storylines that would make this the best NBA Finals scenario. First and foremost, LeBron James needs to get his Cleveland Cavaliers an NBA title or at least close. Cleveland needs this more than LeBron himself. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948. The Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, but have never even been to the Super Bowl. And of course the Cavaliers have never won a title. Cleveland is a city that needs to end its sports drought. It needs to be LeBron that saves the city because it sure does not look like Johnny Football and the Browns are going to end it anytime soon.
It is also impossible to ignore the fact that LeBron would be chasing his third NBA title. If he pulls it off this season, he will be in a great position to catch up to Michael Jordan as he is only 30 years old. This, however, is deceiving as LeBron has been in the NBA for 11 seasons now. The clock is undoubtedly ticking.
While LeBron James is chasing greatness, the Los Angeles Clippers are still trying to get out of the shadow of it. Even though they are clearly the superior team to the Lakers, Kobe Bryant still dominates the headlines, especially after having passed Jordan on the NBA scoring list. This team has all of the pieces of a contender. It has the star power of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. These are two guys that nobody believes can lead their team to the top of the pyramid. They have to be tired of hearing the criticism. The team also has a coach with NBA Finals experience. It has the perfect blend of athletic, skilled, and tough role players. There is no reason why this cannot be the Clippers’ year.
The matchups in this game would be the main attraction. Kevin Love getting to go up against Blake Griffin would be the ultimate faceoff between power and finesse. These two are widely considered two of the best power forwards in the league and having them go up against each other would help settle many barbershop debates. And then there is the interesting matchup between Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving. While this one is not as even as the power forward matchup, it would be more of a proving ground. Does Kyrie actually have substance to his game or is he the type of player who is a SportsCenter superstar? He is just on the cusp of being in the league’s elite group of guards and outperforming Chris Paul would catapult him in.
Somehow this NBA season, attention has been taken off of the stars in their primes. Early on the attention has been on the younger stars that have been taking off. The Splash Brothers have Golden State looking like a contender at last. Anthony Davis is the single reason why the Pelicans might make the playoffs due to his MVP-caliber season. John Wall has been putting up LeBron-esque stat lines. Even Jimmy Butler has broken out into a potential All-Star candidate.
While this success by the new generation of stars is nice, there are still a handful of studs in their prime with unfinished business. It is easy to forget about these guys as their teams have not gotten off to the hottest of starts.
There is also the coaching storyline. In 2008, Doc Rivers coached a Boston Celtics team that had been slapped together over one summer. There were many question marks regarding chemistry and the lack of competent role players. They managed to go on and win the NBA title that year. The Cavaliers situation is similar except David Blatt is coaching in the NBA for the first time, and an NBA veteran coach recently went on record saying that the Cavaliers’ offense is not “clicking.” Blatt is also receiving criticism because of a reported disconnect inside the locker room. He has not gotten off to the same start Rivers did in Boston; The Celtics were 20-2 around the holiday season. Still…there have been promising signs for Blatt to turn it around. The offense has looked better as of late and now LeBron is finally back, along with several new additions.
Can a team that has been slapped together take on a team that has been playing together for years? This is especially interesting considering that this has never been accomplished before with a coach that has no NBA experience. This is why it would be such a special NBA Finals. It would help settle the debate about different management styles. As much as everyone would like to emulate the model that the San Antonio Spurs have in place, it is not every year that a team can draft a once-in-a-generation type of player like Tim Duncan. Not everyone has the ability to build around one centerpiece for almost two decades. The Clippers have been under the same coach for a few years and have had the same core for longer. This kind of experience would undoubtedly give them an edge, but would it be enough?
It has the storylines. It has the star power. There might not be a better year for this to happen with the new generation of stars rising up. Do not let the early hot starts fool you: The Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers would make for a mean NBA Finals matchup.
Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucashapiro
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