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Will we get a fourth straight Warriors-Cavaliers Finals in 2018?

By Taylor Smith
Published on June 24, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, the Golden State Warriors disposed of the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games of the NBA Finals. It was the third consecutive meeting between the teams in the championship round, and the second time Golden State came out on top. Now that Kevin Durant is in the fold and Steph Curry isn’t going anywhere, it’s safe to say we’re in the midst of a Warriors dynasty.

While Golden State seem to still be a team on the rise, the Cavs’ future is more murky. The team shockingly parted ways with general manager David Griffin earlier this week, casting doubt over whether owner Dan Gilbert is really serious about continuing to contend for championships in the long term. For as great as the Cavaliers are, they were completely outclassed by this latest iteration of the Warriors in the Finals.

between the Cavs and Warriors in the Finals next June? BetOnline has odds up:

  • Yes, Cavs vs. Warriors +165
  • No, Any other matchup -190

It is somewhat surprising that they doubt we’re headed for a fourth straight Finals with the same matchup. The value clearly lies with picking a fourth straight Dubs-Cavs showdown at +165, but there’s a lot that can happen in the span of a year.

What would have to happen for a fourth edition of Cavs-Warriors to not happen?

Injury

Obviously, injuries have a way of shaping what eventually happens. We saw it the first time these two teams met in the Finals. Both for the majority of the series, and Golden State wound up benefiting and won their first title in several decades. Last year, Steph Curry got hurt during the first round series against the Houston Rockets. While he did wind up returning to the court, it was evident that the knee was still giving him trouble. Curry’s injury isn’t the primary reason for the Dubs’ collapse, but it was certainly a factor.

Both teams were operating at full strength in the third rematch, and Golden State still outclassed Cleveland. However, what if an injury pops up in the earlier rounds? The Warriors may still have enough firepower to withstand the loss of one of their four stars, but the Cavaliers will clearly be doomed if something happens to LeBron James. LeBron has never sustained a serious injury during his entire NBA career (knock on wood), which does make a future injury seem less likely.

Still, you never know when a critical injury can occur. Just look at what happened to the Spurs recently. Tony Parker tore his quad in the second round against the Rockets, while his ankle in Game 1 of the conference finals against the Warriors. San Antonio was cruising past GSW in that game before Leonard got hurt, and his injury wound up swinging the game completely. Injuries absolutely derailed any chance San Antonio had of giving the Warriors problems.

Any injury may well pop up for either Golden State or Cleveland along the way next season. That could thwart a potential fourth Finals rematch.

A New Challenger Arises

The Cavs and Warriors have reigned supreme in their respective conferences, and neither had much of a problem at all getting to the Finals this past year. Golden State didn’t lose a single game before the Finals, while the Cavaliers lost just once before the final round. Obviously, the other 28 teams in the league are going to have to make some serious changes this summer in order to seriously vie for a spot in the Finals.

Who will it be? The Boston Celtics were the top-seeded team in the East last season, yet Cleveland got rid of them in just five games. GM Danny Ainge is expected to be highly aggressive this summer, though we haven’t seen it yet. Boston nabbed forward Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 overall pick in Thursday’s draft.

Will Ainge finally cash-in on his treasure trove of assets and land a star via trade? The chance to snag passed when the Timberwolves acquired him on draft night, and now the Celts reportedly have their sights set on Paul George. If Boston is able to land a player of PG-13’s caliber via trade and subsequently lure someone like Gordon Hayward in free agency, many will view Boston as the odds-on favorite to topple the Cavs and take the Eastern Conference title.

Even if Boston does it remains to be seen how that team would actually function. George and Hayward essentially play the same position, and there’s only one ball to go around. Isaiah Thomas probably wouldn’t be too psyched about giving up some of his own shots, either. The Celtics would have the talent to take down the Cavs, but it certainly wouldn’t help that Cleveland would still have LeBron looming over everybody else.

Out West, the Spurs and Rockets are reportedly trying to gear up and add as much talent as possible. Houston is another team reportedly interested in prying George from the Pacers, though they don’t have as much to offer as Boston does. They’re also expected to aggressively pursue players like in free agency.

As for San Antonio, they’re reportedly dangling forward LaMarcus Aldridge in trade discussions. There’s no telling what kind of haul Aldridge would be able to get San Antonio at this point, but they’re clearly not sitting on their hands and hoping they can beat the Warriors with the current roster they have in place. They’re also likely to be interested in a free agent point guard. CP3 has been the player linked to the Spurs most often, but Kyle Lowry and Derrick Rose are a couple of lesser options.

Does a team centered around Aldridge, Leonard and CP3 have enough firepower to beat the Warriors? What about a Rockets core of James Harden, George and Millsap? While that’s a truckload of talent on both sides, it’s still hard to imagine anyone in the conference being capable of winning a series against that foursome reigning supreme up in Oakland.

The team with the best hopes of denying America Cavs-Warriors Vol. 4 is the Celtics. It all depends on whether Ainge will finally budge and give up some assets in order to seriously contend as soon as possible. We could always see a new team rise from the rubble if the chips fall their way this summer, as well. Stay tuned.

Cavs Crumble

As mentioned previously, the Cavaliers’ future is opaque right now. We’ve already heard loud whispers regarding LeBron’s for the west coast as a free agent next summer. Griffin’s departure from the team likely didn’t do much to help the Cavs’ case for keeping him, either. If the writing is on the wall and LeBron is going to bolt after next season, will the Cavaliers abandon ship and try to recoup assets via trade?

Cleveland still has the best roster of any team in the Eastern Conference, but it would make sense for them to trade someone like Love and a few of the key bench pieces if it’s clear midway through next season that they don’t have what it takes to dethrone the champs. The Cavs have been rather combustible in the past (), so some sort of drama could easily seep into that locker room and tear everything apart.

It really begins and ends with LeBron. If he wants the Cavs to add as many pieces as possible and go for it next season, they’ll try. If it’s not happening, James could already have his sights set on Los Angeles in 2018. While the Warriors may be invincible, the Cavaliers most certainly are not. LeBron has been to the Finals seven years in a row, but an eighth consecutive trip is far from a certainty at this point.

If Boston gives them a serious run for their money, we could be seeing the end of the Cavaliers as we know them. LeBron accomplished what he set out to do by leading Cleveland to the city’s first title in over 50 years in 2016, so he doesn’t have any further obligation to stick around the city he’s called home for the majority of his life. If he wants to leave, he’ll leave. That distraction may well loom over the top of what the Cavs are trying to do all season next year, which could wind up screwing their chances at a fourth straight Finals berth.

As of today, though, the Cavaliers are still the odds-on favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference and meet GSW in the Finals again. Saying “yes” at +165 is a solid value play. A lot will change this summer though, and by the time October rolls around we should have a far more clear idea of how every team in the league stacks up.

A fourth straight CLE-GS Finals feels likely now, but a lot is going to change in the summer months ahead.
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