The best team in basketball knocked out the best player in basketball Tuesday night to win the 2015 NBA Finals, four games to two. Stephen Curry had many moments that screamed “best shooter in the world” and LeBron James played his tail off to keep his team in the series.
The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third game in a row by a score of 105-97 to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy. Andre Iguodala was named the Most Valuable Player of The Finals, even though it seems like that award should now come with an asterisk that states it must be awarded to a player on the winning team.
It has to be tough for James who played as well as he possibly could for the majority of five games this series. He did things no other person on this Earth could do, but unfortunately it looked like he somehow found himself playing for the 2013-14 New York Knicks (yes, I’m referring to the year after the Knicks won 54 games).
James was clearly the “most valuable” to his team this series, and his play proved it. James became the first player in Finals’ history to lead BOTH teams in points per game, assists per game and rebounds per game:
LeBron James averaged 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 8.8 APG in the NBA Finals He fell to 2-4 in the NBA Finals pic.twitter.com/YT6o2Vcf6M
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 17, 2015
Despite this unworldly performance the Cavs never really stood a chance after the fourth quarter of Game 3. Yes, the Cavaliers won that game at home to take a 2-1 series lead, but it was the turning point in the series. For the first time in The Finals the Warriors looked like the team that won 67 games in the regular season.
Another fun fact I just realized: every game the Warriors won in this series they scored over 100 points. While it isn’t as simple as reaching the century mark, that stat does for the most part describe the pace of the game in the majority of Warrior wins.
The Cavaliers completely controlled this series through two games and three quarters. That fourth quarter of Game 3 was a series changing moment. Steve Kerr introduced us to David Lee for the first time in the series, and the comeback was on. The Warriors rallied from 17-points down at the start of the quarter, thanks to Curry doing Curry things and a small lineup dictating the pace. If not for that Matthew Dellavedova floating and-one, this series might not have even made it back to The Q for a Game 6.
That’s enough about the NBA Finals for now considering we all watched the majority of that great series. According to ESPN it was the most watched series since Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls in 1998. I know for a fact if you weren’t watching Game 6 last night there is no way in hell your still reading this article, so let’s move on.
Four (because I couldn’t think of a fifth) things to be ready for this NBA Offseason:
The NBA Draft (June 25, 7 p.m. ESPN)
Even if your favorite team does not have a high pick, this year’s draft is going to be an entertaining one because of the drama that could take place as high as pick number 2. The Los Angeles Lakers appear to be locked into drafting Jahlil Okafor, assuming the Minnesota Timberwolves take Karl-Anthony Towns first overall. I expect the Lakers to at least consider taking D’Angelo Russell, especially after see how guard-dominant the league is becoming (see 2015 NBA Finals). You can read more about who I think will go where in my first Mock Draft. Stay tuned for a fan-operated mock draft and a podcast previewing the Draft. The amount of trade I anticipate will take place on draft night (cough cough Boston Celtics) will also make this year’s draft must-see television.
The Cavs vs. LBJ Part 2
Ah, yes the sequel to last summer’s fiasco when LeBron James literally put the entire league on hold after going silent for ten days at the beginning of the free agency period in July. While LeBron probably won’t hold up all of free agency for a second year in a row we can expect some drama between the two sides. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN recently reported, the Cavs have spoken up and want input from LeBron. Unfortunately LeBron has all the power and that is how he made sure it would be when he decided to come back home. He will probably opt out of his current contract with a player option after one year, only to sign a nearly identical contract that would allow him to opt out again and become a “free agent” in the much anticipated summer of 2016. As Windhorst has said LeBron doesn’t want the organization to be “comfortable,” and by signing contracts with opt outs keep it uncomfortable. LeBron prefers to take the passive-aggressive approach when it comes to things like this so expect another drama-filled, headline heavy offseason between the Cavaliers and their King.
The Dominos of Free Agency
This summer could have some big names hitting the open market, and many more big names entering restricted free agency. This summer will not even come close to being the entertainment that will be the summer of 2016 in the NBA, but if the dominos start falling some type of way things could get interesting. Kevin Love could change teams, even though I think he opts to stay one more year and then have the choice of joining the free agent class of 2016. Marc Gasol is technically a free agent, but I do not believe there is any real chance he leaves his U.S. hometown of Memphis. DeAndre Jordan will probably still be a Clipper when we start next season, but taking a shorter contract on a team like the Mavericks could be an interesting bet on yourself move.
LaMarcus Aldridge is the most likely big name unrestricted free agent who could shake things up. Aldridge is rumored to be linked to the Texas teams (where he is from) and yes, that included Houston who quietly could have a lot of cap space in the blink of an eye. These restricted free agents all more than likely stay with their current teams: Draymond Green (GS), Kawhi Leonard (SA) and Reggie Jackson (DET). Jimmy Butler has become the interesting restricted free agent. There are now rumors saying he may sign an offer sheet with the Lakers and it might a contract the Bulls would not want to match. If I had to bet, I would add Butler to the list of RFA who are staying put this offseason.
Then there are a whole bunch of guys who are the next tier of really good players that will (probably) be hitting the market: Goran Dragic, Brook Lopez, Danny Green, Monta Ellis, Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, Omer Asik, Wesley Matthews, Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, and Rajon Rondo. I left out some guys like Dwayne Wade and Tristan Thompson because they are very likely to stay with their current teams for different reasons. I also believe Dragic and Lopez are likely to end up back in Miami and Brooklyn respectively.
The moral of this shorty story is, while a lot of players may technically be free agents this summer I do not think there will be drastic movement. That can always change. One player’s decisions could lead a string of other signings that no one saw coming.
The Summer of the New York Team(s)
There is not much to write about here for the Brooklyn Nets. They are strapped with salary and have very few assets. There are rumors they may try to move up into the teens in next week’s draft by trading Mason Plumlee. This would be the definition of a acting late. The Nets had their chance to trade Plumlee when he was actually playing well midseason, and it would have gotten them out of Deron William’s contract (to who else but the Kings). Trading Plumlee now when his value is the lowest its ever been seems like a terrible idea. The Nets will likely be players in the trade market as they look to move anyone on their roster to get younger. Bringing back Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young is a must for a team that does not have many other options.
The New York Knicks, on the other hand, have a very interesting summer ahead. They have the No. 4 pick in the draft and could get a really talented player. There are rumors that if Towns, Okafor and Russell are all gone by the time they’re on the clock they will look to trade down. I really like Emmanuel Mudiay and think he would be a great fit in New York. Trading down and collecting assets is never a bad idea for a team that is more than a year away from competing for a championship.
The Knicks will have a lot of cap space this summer, but besides Greg Monroe I am not sure who they think they will be spending all this money on. It is definitely better to have the money to spend than be in Brooklyn’s position, but why would a top free agent decide to go to New York over staying in Memphis or Portland. Not to mention that free agent would be taking less money to be playing for a worse team. To say the Knicks have their work cut out for them this summer is an understatement. Let’s see what Phil Jackson has up his sleeve for a team that desperately needs helps at nearly every position. The Knicks can’t get much worse… (gulp) right?