Sunday 18 March 2018 / 10:43 AM


LeBron James, summoning his infinite powers to produce arguably the best of his eight Finals performances, couldn’t hold a candle to the overwhelming talent of this Warriors ensemble.

After blowing Game 3, it took a historic outing – described only as the single best offensive performance in two quarters of playoff basketball – to steal a win from this Golden State juggernaut. The Cavaliers were constructed with the Warriors firmly in their sights, yet seemed to pose no threat when it mattered most.

That will have some serious implications for the entire Association moving forward as we head into one of the most convoluted off-seasons from a team-building standpoint in recent history.

For the Warriors, particularly controversial star recruit Kevin Durant, the dominance of the post-season justified the heavily critiqued moves they made last summer.

It took Durant one season to realise his dream of lifting the NBA Championship, doing so in emphatic fashion — 35.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists whilst defending James for long stretches and switching between the perimeter and protecting the rim with impressive comfort — adding a deserved finals MVP to his cabinet. Durant’s presence undoubtedly swung the favour of the series, and although it was billed as a rematch of the past two series, this year’s Finals felt like anything but.

And this places the Cavaliers at a legitimate crossroads as they prepare to re-tool moving into next season. Their collection of talent is impressive, even on a historical scale, and if you remove the Warriors from the equation this is a genuinely great team. Now, they have to attempt to mould their future around beating this unbeatable team, as difficult a task as it sounds.

With the cupboards bare in attempting to complete that very objective for two years running, a trade of Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson immediately enters the fray. Whilst on surface value swapping one of the two for another star might seem like a no-brainer, how they accomplish that, or whether the kneejerk route is right one, is a question worth pondering before pressing the button.

No one in the East looks set to challenge for their Finals spot and whilst that may frustrate fans and deter rivals from making a big splash, the implication of that may impact the League on a grander scale.

From an upper-management perspective, there were rumblings around the League suggesting they were somewhat concerned with the state of the playoffs. Ratings are great, and that makes this all fine, but following a season which many wrote off as unnecessary due to the predictable impending finals matchup, the playoffs were awfully uninspiring.

The NBA has never hit these levels of popularity, and the League desperately wants to capitalise on their momentum.

Adam Silver and co. have moved towards a “greatness is always entertaining” angle, and this might be somewhat true — game 82 of the Warriors’ 73-win crusade was as captivating as Kobe’s farewell explosion on the final day of the 2015-16 season.

Fans do love greatness, but for it to stand at the forefront, or have sustainability, it has to come in the context of competition.

Those who were put off by Durant’s move to the Warriors had James and the Cavs to cheer for, only to learn fairly quickly that it was all in vain. Few teams (possibly none) in history would have the depth or talent to match Golden State’s firepower.

Yes, parity in the NBA is an illusion. Yes, ‘superteams’ have always existed across basketball history. But there is no precedent for a team this loaded.

And that means something.

Three or so years ago, it was tanking — the league wanted teams to attempt to compete instead of aimlessly sinking to the bottom. How do you convince the Orlando Magic they can overcome four all-NBA players under 30 without them throwing their hands in the air?

If the parity debate was at the forefront of the collective discussion at the beginning of the season, 2017 has done nothing but certify that concern.

Welcome to the off-season.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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