Who will win the NBA finals? Our writers share their predictions

Will the Golden State Warriors make history or can the Toronto Raptors complete their charmed run? Our writers predict the winner, key players and dark horses for the championship tilt

What the Warriors need to do to win
Play with intensity and focus. It sounds like dumb coach-speak, but it’s not. Nobody can hang with the Warriors at the tempo and intensity they’ve played with these past two rounds. Golden State has always been prone to back-breaking sloppiness. Throughout their run to five straight finals they’ve ranked in the middle of the pack in turnovers, ranking 21st in the league this season with 14.3 turnovers per game. Keep the errors to a minimum and the Warriors should win. OC

Golden State will need to show up. I mean that quite literally: it isn’t certain when Kevin Durant will return with his calf injury. But once again the Warriors are playing the role of seemingly unstoppable juggernaut v an almost supernaturally gifted one-man force (with Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard inheriting the role usually occupied by LeBron James). HF

Noted Knicks fan Woody Allen could have been talking about the Warriors when he said 80% of life is showing up. Golden State’s healthy rotation includes a pair of Most Valuable Players and a couple more All-Stars whose speed, switchability and understanding of Steve Kerr’s complex motion offense forces defenses to pick their poison. Not even the injury to Durant, who had been averaging an eye-popping 34.2 points in the playoffs, has slowed their roll: the Warriors have won five on the trot since losing the 10-time All-Star to a calf injury, prompting an almost laughable conversation over whether they’re better off without him. BAG

What the Raptors need to do to win

Figure out what to do with Marc Gasol. Kawhi Leonard cannot carry the load alone, and Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam cannot be relied on to match Golden State’s star quality. Toronto will need Gasol to have a big series in what has historically been a tough matchup for him. OC

That’s an extremely good question, isn’t it? Leonard has to keep being the best player on the floor, as he’s been in every series so far. But he’s going to need lots of help against the Warriors, especially if Durant returns, so the likes of Lowry, Siakim and Gason are going to need to have the deliver the best games of their careers and help shoulder the load. HF

The Raptors’ length and athleticism make them perhaps the best outfitted team to answer Golden State’s high-octane offense since the 2016 Oklahoma City Thunder, who pushed the 73-win Warriors to the limit before letting a three-games-to-one lead in the West finals slip away. Leonard and Gasol are former Defensive Players of the Year, Danny Green and Serge Ibaka have both featured on All-Defensive teams while Siakam, the emerging frontcourt star and Most Improved Player frontrunner, is a stretch four who’s drawn comparisons to Draymond Green. Be aggressive with Curry, get those long limbs in the passing lanes … and hope Durant’s injury is worse than Golden State is letting on. BAG

 

Kawhi Leonard

Your series MVP will be …

Steph Curry. Partly a makeup call for the 2015 finals, but entirely earned. Curry will get credit for this entire post-Durant playoff run. He’s reminded people just how special he is. OC

It’s hard to pick anybody other than Curry. Durant will miss at least Game 1 and Leonard would have to be on the winning team. There’s a chance that Klay Thompson could catch fire and get the nod on sheer volume but … nope, it’s going to be Steph. HF

Hard to believe that Curry has never won this trophy, but he’s scored 25, 33, 36, 37, 36 and 37 points in the six games since Durant went down. With KD’s availability in question, surely the Davidson sniper won’t be snubbed again. BAG

Unheralded player to watch

Pascal Siakam. Siakam has been, to be polite, up-and-down in the playoffs. Long, wiry, with decent twitch and a soft touch, he’s the prototype of a modern wing. But a lot of his regular season excellence was based on effort. Everybody tries in the playoffs; effort isn’t such a special skill. How he plays will be a good bellwether. OC

Kevon Looney. With DeMarcus Cousins hurt, Looney has emerged as the Warriors’ center. None other than Steve Kerr has said that he has become one of the teams “foundational pieces” and he’s averaging 7.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in the postseason. HF

Kevin Looney. The Warriors have started five different centers in their 16 playoff games so far. Kevon Looney has not been one of them, but few of Golden State’s big men have done more to pick up the frontcourt slack with Cousins and Durant out of the lineup. The fourth-year UCLA product averaged 10.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocked shot while shooting a torrid 77.8% clip from the floor in Golden State’s four-game sweep of Portland. Looney, whom Steve Kerr has called one of the team’s “cornerstones” moving forward, will play a principal role in helping the Warriors combat Toronto’s Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. BAG

Pascal Siakam

 One bold prediction

Kevin Durant has played his last game for the Warriors. If the Warriors take a 2-0 lead in the series, you have to wonder what incentive Durant has to come back. Jumping back onto this core will only give his detractors – those he pays the utmost attention to – extra ammunition. OC

The Raptors will take a 2-0 lead in the series. That shouldn’t be a “bold prediction,” considering that the Raptors have home court advantage and have a shot at a Golden State team without their best player in Durant but, well, it would be an absolutely shocking start to the finals. HF

A Golden State player will narrowly avoid suspension after an on-court altercation with Aubrey. BAG

Will the Warriors be in the finals next year
Yes, though they won’t revert back to the pre-Durant, 73-win team. The regular season will be a grind: It can bore a team seeking its sixth straight finals appearance; Andre Iguodala is 35; Shaun Livingston is all but done; Harrison Barnes is gone. These playoffs have proved the Warriors are still a bona fide juggernaut without Durant, it will just look different. OC

I’ll say no, if only out of hope the status quo gets shaken up. Once not so long ago, the Warriors were an afterthought. Then they were an exciting phenomenon. And then they were the team that had “solved” basketball. It’s time for basketball to be a problem again. HF

Yes. The Warriors could be on the brink of major changes in the offseason with Thompson set to become an unrestricted free agent and Durant widely expected to test the waters despite a player option for 2020. There’s also the matter of Green, who is eligible for a supermax contract extension. Simply put, it’s too early to say, but it would take more than a defection or two to seriously undercut the five-time defending Western Conference champions’ status as clubhouse favorites. BAG

Should Canada get another NBA franchise?
Sure, but not before Seattle or Vegas. Both locations are crying out for NBA teams. I’m sure Canada can make-do with rallying behind a finals team for now. OC

What, before the NBA fixes the horrific wrong it has done to the city of Seattle? Listen, I know that there are plenty of people in Vancouver who miss the Grizzlies. Basketball is an international sport and there’s no reason not to have two Canadian teams. But come on: we need to make up for the fact that the Seattle Supersonics should still exist. HF

If the NBA decides to expand or relocate a current team, the Canadian city that would seem the best fit is, ironically, Vancouver, which lost the Grizzlies to Memphis nearly two decades ago. Commissioner Adam Silver is behind the idea, which coincides with the sport’s growing popularity in north of the border. BAG

The winner will be …

Golden State in six. Kawhi is great, but the Raptors are too reliant on Lowry and Siakam to keep up with the Warriors star-studded cast, with or without Durant. OC

Golden State in six. Yes, the Raptors will win the first two of the games of the series at home but Durant will return by Game 3 and will spur the Warriors beat the Raptors in four straight. Fittingly enough, the Raptors did the same thing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the East finals. HF

Golden State in six. The Raptors are entering on a head of steam and the Warriors are looking somewhat vulnerable with Durant, Iguodala and Cousins dealing with various injuries. But not even another Jordan-esque performance from Leonard will be enough to keep the Dubs from capturing a third straight title. and fourth in five years, in the last ever game in the history of Oracle Arena. BAG

source: theguardian.com

Post Author: kemalrose