NBA: Placing the finals in perspective
When the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors face each other in the NBA Finals on Thursday, be prepared to carve out some perspective for all the sports pundits and media gasbags who try to sell you their nauseated hot takes.
The true story lines lie beneath the Cavaliers, who are trying to capture their first NBA championship in franchise history, and the Warriors, who hope to bring back The Larry O'Brien Trophy to the Bay Area since their last finals win in 1975.
While this year's Cavaliers team is led once again by four-time MVP and two-time champion LeBron James, realize that he's achieved a streak of reaching five straight finals, something that hasn't been done since the Boston Celtics was led by Bill Russell nearly 50 years ago.
Also, be mindful that in these playoffs, James is averaging his least efficient postseason, even though the numbers do say he's averaging a double-double with 27.6 points and career-highs in rebounds (10.4) and assists (8.3).
While he says he's "playing the best basketball of his career," the truth is he's performing at a production level similar to when he was a 23-year-old.
Since James left the Miami Heat in free agency, he's struggled to be the same efficient player who averaged a career-high 57 field-goal percentage in the playoffs. This postseason, he's shooting just 43 percent from the floor, and a deplorably low 18 percent from downtown. And that doesn't seem to be a trend that's going away any time soon.
One major indicator: The Cavaliers led the NBA in isolation plays this season through stagnant ball movement. No team in the last 10 seasons has ever won the NBA title while ranking in the top five in isolation plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
On the opposite side, the Warriors have put together one of the NBA's greatest seasons and have continued their "pace and space" style through the playoffs after finishing the regular season 67-15 — tied for the sixth-best record of all time.
Of those 10 teams to finish 67-15 or better, seven went on to win the NBA championship.
Carrying the load for Golden State is Stephen Curry, the league's Most Valuable Player, who is now the 31st regular-season MVP to appear in the finals.
In these playoffs, Curry is averaging 29.2 points and 6.4 assists while making an absurd 4.9 three pointers per game.
By his side is running mate Klay Thompson, one half of the "Splash Brothers." Together, the backcourt duo is combining for nearly 50 points per game and more than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
Their expertise has allowed Golden State to maintain the league's highest average margin of victory at 10.1 points per game — which rises to 14.5 points per game at home. That is good for eighth best all time, and of the seven best teams, six have gone on to win it all.
But if the Warriors win it all, it will be because this year's Cavaliers team ranks as the ninth-least talented NBA finalist since 1985, according to a report by FiveThirtyEight.
It's no secret the Warriors maintain depth throughout their 15-player roster — ranking as the 14th most talented. Because of that, the transition for coach Steve Kerr has been an easy one, while for Cavalier's coach, David Blatt, it hasn't been as easy.
These two rookie head coaches inherited different teams, but only one of them will be leaving these finals as the next rookie head coach to win a title since Pat Riley did with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.
Brian Goins is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter @byBrianGoins or email him @BrianGCentralFloridaFuture.com.