The Golden State Warriors will take on the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers who have chosen to start Dwyane Wade and make life easier for the Dubs.
The Golden State Warriors are looking to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the favorites in the Eastern Conference to meet them there. Though they’ve faced off three straight times, the Warriors will be facing a very different Cavaliers team.
One of the most memorable offseasons in NBA history peaked when Kyrie Irving requested a trade after the Finals loss. It was a move that shocked everyone. Ultimately, the Cavaliers were able to fulfill that request and sent him to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a first-round pick.
Thomas is injured and will be missing a significant amount of time. To beat the Warriors, you need good guard play to challenge the Splash Brothers. The Cavaliers went out and signed Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, and Jose Calderon.
Though Rose isn’t his MVP self, his athleticism and scoring ability make him a better option than Calderon to start. So, until Thomas returns, Rose will be the starting point guard–even if that position is only in name because of LeBron James’ ability to run the offense. That leaves the shooting guard spot.
The Cavaliers have started J.R. Smith during their Finals runs. They won a championship starting Smith. Head coach Ty Lue has decided to send him to the bench, starting the veteran Wade over him.
This has impacts on several levels. First, there’s chemistry. Guys who have played at a high level don’t always willingly accept bench roles. Andre Iguodala is an anomaly.
Smith said that he was fine with joining Tristan Thompson on the second unit. A new report by Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon suggests that perhaps not all is well. It seems like Smith might be “frustrated” with his new role.
But let’s ignore that very important aspect and let’s talk about what the players can actually do. James and Wade won two championships starting next to each other. Smith helped James win another and he gives the team the best chance at winning another.
Wade has championship experience and veteran leadership. He’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s also approaching the end of his career as his knees and the style of the NBA leave him.
Wade had the second-best three-point shooting season of his career. He shot 31 percent from beyond the arc. In total, he made just 45 threes.
You can’t beat the Warriors by not shooting the basketball. Look at the series they played against the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2015 playoffs and the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016. Both of those teams had a starting shooting guard that can’t shoot and the Warriors made them pay for it.
When the Warriors take on the Cavaliers on Christmas Day, it is unlikely that Thomas will be back. Therefore, the Cavs will trot out a lineup that doesn’t give James a lot of space. In fact, it might force him to shoot more three-pointers.
James can hit threes. It’s something he’s improved over the course of his career. He can get to the rim at will so when he settles for long shots, it’s something you’re going to be OK with. If he hits them, then there’s nothing else you can do.
The Warriors’ elite defense still managed to keep a potent backcourt of Irving and Smith in check. Golden State no longer has to worry about the three-point line for three guys in the starting lineup (as of right now). They can pack the paint and force Cleveland into tough shots they would rather not take.
Wade might make the Cavaliers better against 28 other teams. But in June, against the Warriors, a 36-year-old non-shooter is probably not going to be what puts Cleveland over the top.