It finally looks like this series will see a complete Kevin Love, who missed all of the 2015 finals and was subpar during the 2016 title run. The past series versus the Celtics saw numerous glimpses of what we expected from Kevin Love when we traded for him in 2014. He has been nailing shots from all over the field, particularly from three-point range, has been focusing on his rebounding and has elevated his defense (albeit against weaker power forwards).
The Cavs will need Kevin Love to be solid for every game this series if they expect to win. He will probably play 30+ minutes a night and he should prioritize defense for all 30 minutes. We know he can back down and score, hit turnaround jumpers, make some deep threes and throw incredibly accurate outlet passes, but his defense is ok at best. He’s got the height to match up with most big men, but physically I think Love will need to step up his game and roughen up Draymond. It’s the NBA Finals and referees won’t call as many physical fouls, so Love should not be afraid to put some extra work in.
Just because Draymond is the 4th scoring option on his team doesn’t mean he should be ignored. His shooting during the playoffs has been a weapon for Golden State that all three of their opponents haven’t been able to stop. Personally, I think Draymond is shooting better than the shooter he is. The Cavs should at least consider sagging off if he is beyond the three-point line, especially when they’ve got Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to shoot threes instead. Nonetheless, Draymond’s shooting has been deadlier than Thompson for the playoffs and the Cavs need to pinpoint who will be the weaker shooter for just this series.
While I believe Draymond’s shooting is overhyped, I do think his value to his team on both ends of the floor is underestimated. Draymond is the anchor of the defense. He gets in players’ heads, he guards the rim and he can pick pockets like any guard in the league. He is also a secondary facilitator on the offense to Curry and has the court vision that even starting point guards lack. And lastly, his physical play, whether dirty or questionable, makes him a tough obstacle to plow down quickly, even for LeBron. Love needs to use his range to draw out Draymond from the interior if the Cavs need to rely on LeBron’s “freight train mode” for the offense.
Channing Frye/Richard Jefferson
Channing Frye is a power forward by play style but typically he is used as a center for the Cavs. Richard Jefferson has been a small forward his whole career but frequently he is in charge of guarding power forwards anyway. Because of this, I really don’t see the Cavs having a true PF spot off the bench. However, both players are key veteran forwards off the bench. Frye hasn’t played much recently but is always an immediate scoring threat when he checks in. RJ uses his experience to pick off passes and pester defenders into taking unwanted shots. Yet both players also come with a weakness, as Frye has little to no defense and RJ has lost his youthful step and is an inconsistent shooter. Whoever Ty Lue decides to use expect the Cavs to rely on their leadership to outsmart the Warriors.
Another veteran in his 30’s, West has improved throughout the season while adjusting to his limited role on Golden State. He is much of the same player as he was 10 years ago but we just don’t see it that often. If the Warriors get out of him what the New Orleans Hornets once did, he will be very difficult to stop for the Cavs’ first and second units. And this is entirely possible. West isn’t afraid to take a jumper, can be a respectable rim protector and is an underrated passer. But I think the Cavs can ultimately outplay him, outrun him and most importantly outscore him during his hot streaks. As long as the Cavs don’t ignore his finesse-like play style, West shouldn’t play too big of a part in this series.
Which player do you think will be the biggest impact at PF?