It is finally NBA Finals game day. Wow.
To get us fully ready for the Finals, and give our readers an up-close look at the Cavaliers, I contacted David Zavac at SB Nation's Cavaliers site Fear The Sword to get a sense of whether he thinks the Cavs have a better shot to win than we do. Having watched the team all season, his answers were enlightening and interesting.
Golden State of Mind: Who is the biggest X-Factor for the Cavaliers, and why?
David Zavac: It's probably Kyrie Irving -- his health is paramount to the Cavs keeping it competitive -- but I'll discuss him in the following question. Let's go with J.R. Smith. So far in the playoffs he has a true shooting rate over 60 percent and a usage rate under 20 percent. Forget his reputation as a ball-stopping gunner, he's been an elite offensive role player, and he's defending well too. The Warriors are going to be able to throw some serious length at him, and of course three-point shooting comes with a lot of variance. How good will he be? That may decide the series.
GSoM: As we all know, Irving's health is up in the air, as the Cavs' star point guard missed two games in the Eastern Conference Finals due to a knee injury and has been day-to-day. He's a big part of the Cavaliers offense. What do you think his role will be in The Finals, and will he guard MVP Stephen Curry?
David Zavac: We have no idea. He's tremendously important to the game of LeBron James. When Irving was on the court with James during the regular season, LeBron used less 30% of the Cavs' offensive possessions. When Irving wasn't on the court, James' usage rate was over 40%. James' true shooting rate was nearly six points better with Irving on the court. If LeBron is going to be able to expend energy on defense, get catch and shoot opportunities, spend less time at point guard, Irving has to play well consistently.
He was able to do it in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta. He was absent in Games 2 and 3. Against the Warriors, there's no real margin for error. Whether he guards Curry or not, I don't know. I'm sure he will some. Steph Curry is going to score regardless of what the Cavs do.
GSoM: Can LeBron James really win a championship against this 67-15 Warriors team, pretty much carrying the entire team all by himself?
David Zavac: No, LeBron needs some help against the Warriors for sure. He'll need Irving to play at the level he has when he's been at least 90%. He'll need Tristan Thompson to continue his strong run and lock down the paint. He'll need J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to continue their elevated play. The good news is, outside of Irving I don't think he needs these guys to play any better than they have for the Cavs to have a chance. The bad news is that they seem to be playing a bit above their heads.
If Shumpert, Thompson, and Smith maintain their play, the Cavs have a shot.
GSoM: Is Matthew Dellavedova really a dirty player, and with Irving at least semi-healthy, what role will the former St. Mary's Gael play in The Finals?
David Zavac: Having watched him this season, I believe he is not a dirty player. The thing is, he plays 100% all of the time and is probably a bit reckless. To succeed on the floor, he actually has to play that way. If he slows down, plays in control, he's not an NBA player. David Blatt will probably use him to try to frustrate Steph Curry on defense, especially in Cleveland where the fans are a bit more friendly.
GSoM: Finally, what is your Finals prediction?
David Zavac: I'm very excited for this Finals, because I think there are some tremendously fun matchups. I've got the wine-colored glasses, definitely. My head says the Warriors in 7. If Kyrie is less than 90%, it'll be easier for the Warriors. But I'll be optimistic about Irving's state and LeBron and the shooting of J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, and go with the Cavs in 6. Maybe I'll regret it later.
For more on the Cavaliers, check out Fear the Sword.