The Golden State Warriors are headed to their third straight NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers starting June 1st. However, there is a slight difference in their approach thanks to Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee. Last year it was the attack of a lethal bench that helped get the Warriors out to a commanding 3-1 series lead before it all fell apart. The question is– what happened to the lead and why couldn’t Steve Kerr fix the problem?
When Andrew Bogut went down in the Finals that helped spark the Cavaliers run and it wasn’t anything the Warriors could do. Bogut is not an offensive threat but he plays the defensive side of the court with a passion. Festus Ezeli nor Marreese Speights could not contain the paint which let LeBron James and Kyrie Irving attack the rim at will.
Another factor that played into the Warriors demise last season was the rotation between Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. Barnes is a crafty player that loves the perimeter game but James was too much for him to handle on the defensive side. In 2015, that job went to Iguodala and the Warriors came away with a ring. Now that Kevin Durant is a part of the team, Iggy will see fewer minutes but a versatile player like himself will still make a dent in the rotation as he’s able to play two positions.
The spotlight is still on Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant but it will be the production of the bench that will give the Warriors a fighting chance.
Starter, Zaza Pachulia adds to the lineup but he’s more offensive than he is defensive which the Cavs will surely love to attack. This is where JaVale McGee will earn his keep. Tristan Thompson is a rebounding terror but McGee, if focused can cause havoc in the paint for any opposing player. Pau Gasol is still a good player but against McGee, he vanished. For all the flack that he has taken throughout his career, the one thing he hasn’t had a chance to do was change the perception. Winning does that. When was the last time someone besides Shaq had something negative to say about McGee?
JaVale McGee will not give the Warriors 20 points and 10 boards but he hustles and puts it all on the line. As great as Bogut was, he was also a tad slow on the blocks. Thompson is young and his nimble feet and him having to deal with a slow-footed Bogut compared to a player with a chip on his shoulder in his first Finals will be challenging.
When the dust settles, the Warriors may be standing victorious thanks to the hustle and defense of an ex-All-Star that humbled himself and a player no one expected to make an impact.