The Cavs play game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night against a familiar foe – The Golden State Warriors. The two teams are playing for the title for the fourth consecutive year.
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says this Cavs team is much different than the one that lost in the Finals last year. Most notably, the team successfully moved on from Kyrie Irving in a big trade that initially went bust.
A trade that went bust, at first
The Cavs were stunned when Irving requested a trade after last year's Finals, saying he wanted to be "the focal point" of a team. So, the Cavs traded him to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a draft pick.
Thomas was recovering from a hip injury when the Cavs aquired him, played poorly when he returned in January and wasn't fitting in with the team. He was traded, along with Crowder.
The Cavs, in return, got George Hill, Larry Nance, Jr., Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood. Pluto says they've all been good role players during the playoffs, with the exception of Hood, who has been a disappointment.
Meanwhile, Irving ended up needing two knee surgeries this past spring and missed the playoffs with Boston.
"It's the craziest thing that the two teams that had the highest stake in Irving ended up playing each other for the ticket to the Finals and Kyrie's not involved with either of them."
Better off with Kyrie or without?
So, Pluto asks, "Had the Cavaliers kept Irving, do you think they'd be in the Finals?"
Had they kept him, he wouldn't have played in the postseason. And, if they kept Isaiah Thomas, they wouldn't have had him either, Instead, they got solid role players like Hill, Nance and Clarkson who have helped them to get to the Finals.
The LeBron factor
Still, Pluto says there's one guy who matters most -- LeBron James.
“These are the best playoffs I’ve ever seen him play. This will be the 101st consecutive game LeBron has played this season -- the most in any season -- at age 33 in his 15th year in the NBA. You just wonder if he’s ever going to run out of gas. I thought that would happen in Boston. I was wrong."
Two vulnerable teams
The Cavs and Warriors both have been tested in the playoffs, each coming off a seven-games series. Pluto says that should make Golden State more vulnerable.
Still, he says the Cavs are 12-point underdogs in the first game.
"There is nobody who will tell you the Cavs should be favored; nobody logically would say the Cavs should win. If both teams stay healthy, Golden State’s going to win. But it’s been such a crazy year."
For example, Pluto says the Houston Rockets were up 3-2 over Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. Houston lost the last two games when their star player, Chris Paul, injured a hamstring.
"Sometimes that's the difference," says Pluto. "It's a two-month marathon."