A Tale of Two Series: The NBA and NHL Finals Are Strikingly Different

After two marathon playoff seasons, the NBA and NHL playoffs are both down to the final series. On one side of the coin the Golden State Warriors face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth consecutive NBA Finals. On the other side, the Washington Capitals are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 1998, and the Las Vegas Golden Knights are the first NHL expansion team to make the Finals since 1968. The matchups in the NBA and NHL final series couldn’t get much different.

It’s hard not to appreciate the greatness of LeBron James. This is his eight consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It’s an amazing accomplishment. And no one can downplay how dominant the Warriors have been the past four seasons. But here we are, two impressive teams about to face off for the fourth straight year, and it is hard to get excited about it. Maybe because it is a forgone conclusion that the Warriors will send the Cavs packing in a short series. The Cavaliers are one of the biggest underdogs in NBA Finals’ history. Regardless, the fourth successive matchup between these two teams just feels anticlimactic. LeBron2.jpg

Skating on to the Stanley Cup Finals, there are all kinds of story lines. First, how about the fact that there is an expansion team in the final series? It may seem unfair to long suffering fanbases, and maybe the NHL expansion draft rules need changing, but this is an incredible story. This is a collection of rookies and guys not protected by their former teams, the fact that they have made it this far is amazing. Meanwhile, the Capitals are back in the chase for the championship after their last appearance 20 years ago. The Capitals have never won the Stanley Cup. Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest players of all time, and the only multi-time MVP not to win the Stanley Cup. The list of intriguing topics in the Stanley Cup Finals goes on and on. knights

So here we are, two final series that could not be more different. The Cavaliers-Warriors IV is like Shrek Forever After: the first two series/films were great and then followed by a dud. Watching the fourth installment seems more like a chore than a pleasurable experience. On the other hand, Capitals-Knights is like Baby Driver: a new, exciting series/film that is bursting with energy. Even though my love for basketball is exponentially higher than my feelings toward hockey, the Stanley Cup Finals has me more excited than the NBA Finals for the first time ever.

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LeBron and Who?

In the Cleveland Cavaliers’ blowout loss in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, they played all 13 players on their active roster. Some of these guys only got in because of the nature of the game, it was 25 point blowout in Boston’s favor. Still, the majority of the Cavs’ roster were ineffective against Boston’s stout defense. It begs to question: who should be in the Cavs’ rotation going forward?

The Obvious: LeBron James and Kevin Love

These guys are no brainers. LeBron should see the court as much as he wants, and Love is undoubtedly the second best player on the team. Right now, Love is starting at center and LeBron at power forward, but going forward it might make sense for both of them to slide down a position and play more minutes at the 4 and 3, respectively.

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Other Should-Be Starters: George Hill, Kyle Korver, and Tristan Thompson

Hill needs to start at the point because who else are the Cavaliers going to play? Jordan Clarkson? Hill can be a shooting threat and is definitely the Cavaliers’ best defender at point guard. The decision to start Korver over JR Smith comes down to consistency. Korver has shot better these playoffs than Smith. To be most effective, LeBron needs knock down shooters around him. As for the decision to move Thompson from the bench to the starting lineup, playing the two bigs (Thompson and Love) could force Boston to counter with two bigs (Horford and Baynes) which would be to Cleveland’s advantage.

Bench Contributors: JR Smith, Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Green, and Larry Nance Jr.

JR Smith and Jordan Clarkson are instant offense off the bench. Both of those two have the potential to be sparkplugs for the Cavaliers’ offense. Clarkson will need to shoot well to see meaningful minutes. As for Jeff Green, he has a higher free throw rate than anyone else that should be getting minutes for the Cavaliers. Oddly enough, Green also has third highest win share total on the Cavs’ roster, behind LeBron and Love. That’s enough reason for him to get some run off the bench. Finally, there is Nance. Nance has been disappointing these playoffs, but he has the athleticism and size to match up well with Boston’s lineups. Maybe Nance will remind the Cavaliers why they traded for him in the first place.