Image licensed from USA Today Sports
LeBron James has taken eight straight teams to the NBA Finals, which may be one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history. In 2007, he reached the Finals for the first time with Cleveland, but was swept by San Antonio. That team featured the likes of Damon Jones, Eric Snow, Daniel "Booby" Gibson, Anderson Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Yet, this current squad is referred to as LeBron and the "others".
Taking a 50-win team of mediocre players to the Finals was impressive back then and it's impressive now. But this Cavaliers squad is more athletic, talented and deeper than that squad. They have basically underachieved most of the season but talent-wise, they have the ability to achieve some great things.
Does the Dog have a chance?
The bigger question is whether LeBron and the "others" can upset Golden State in the NBA Finals. Cleveland is a 12.5-point underdog in Game 1, which is one of the largest point spreads to open up the Finals. Cleveland is 6-1 to win the series and Golden State is an incredible 1-10.
These teams met twice in the regular season with Golden State winning both games by 10 on the road and seven at home. Steph Curry missed the home game due to injury and the Warriors still won 99-92 because the Cavs shot 31.8 percent from the floor. James had a terrible game with 20 points, seven turnovers, and six assists, while Kevin Love led the way with 31 points and 18 rebounds, but shot just 9-of-25 from the field.
But Cleveland was able to stay competitive in both games, which was before they added George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr. in separate trades. Nance is the type of player that could really be a factor in this series based on his rebounding (7.0 per game) and athleticism. Hill is a playoff veteran with previous experience that won't get rattled and defends well. Clarkson, while erratic, can at least match up with some of the Warriors' overrated bench players.
Will the real "others" please stand up
While Golden State should be favored, they are a tad overrated. If Chris Paul had not injured his hamstring in Game 5, the Rockets maybe sitting here instead of the Warriors in the Finals. But there is one key player for Golden State that they could miss this series and that's Andre Iguodala. "Iggy" was the MVP of the 2015 NBA Finals and is one of the premier bench players in the NBA. He's an outstanding defender and has a great basketball IQ. But he's not going to play in Game 1 due to a lower leg contusion and that will be his fifth straight games missed. Even if he returns, he might not be close to 100% and that hurts a bench that now has to rely on Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook and Nick Young.
This is now the time for a player like Cavs guard J.R. Smith to step up. He did so two seasons ago in the Finals after having an ordinary regular season, averaging 8.1 points per game. He had 20 points in Game 3 in the 2016 Finals, 14 in Game 6 and 12 in Game 7, when the Cavs edged Golden State, 93-89, to win their first-ever Finals. They only played eight players in that deciding game and got very little production from the bench but managed to win the game. They didn't have sharpshooting Kyle Korver, Nance Jr. or Clarkson, who can all play significant roles. Yet they beat the Warriors because of a strong defensive effort.
James has made it this far and he may have to take his game to another level in the Finals to eclipse Kevin Durant, Curry, Green and Klay Thompson. But with just a little help from Jeff Green, who had 19 points against Boston in Game 7 to send them to the Finals, along with Love, Smith, Korver and Nance Jr., the underdog winning this series is not that much of a longshot. Not when you have James averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists on 54.2 percent shooting in the playoffs. Do you believe in miracles? I believe in LeBron James and the "others". Take the 6-1 Cavs and roll the dice with LBJ and the "others".