The NBA Finals are beginning Thursday night at 9 p.m. on ABC, so we spoke to Mike Zavagno of Fear The Sword and the Cavalytics Podcast about the Cavaliers, and their upcoming series vs. the Warriors. You can follow Mike on Twitter @MZavagno11! Here’s the Q&A:
Dylan Burd: Is this 2017-2018 Cleveland Cavaliers team the worst team you’ve seen make the NBA Finals?
Mike Zavagno: I don’t think this is the worst team to make the NBA Finals because they have LeBron James. Sure, his supporting cast is severely lacking, but the presence of the best player on the planet negates the worst team ever discussion for me. There is an interesting case to be made for a limited 2007 Cavaliers roster (because they had a substantially worse version of James), but that team actually played defense. The cake probably has to therefore be taken by the 2001 Sixers–a series that coincidentally also involved Ty Lue.
Dylan Burd: Do you think there’s any chance the Cavs could win the NBA Finals? If so, how?
Mike Zavagno: I would put the chance of the Cavs winning the series around 5 percent. I don’t think that there is much hope for Cleveland given the talent imbalance between the teams. Even with a more talented roster last season and a less cohesive version of the Warriors, Cleveland needed an NBA Finals-record 24 3-pointers made to take Game 4 before falling in 5 games. Cleveland’s defense had been even worse this season and its offense has looked stagnant too often in the Playoffs. James is superhuman, but the Warriors are a true superteam.
Dylan Burd: Is LeBron James going to stay in Cleveland? Or is this his last series with the team.
Mike Zavagno: That’s a question to which I truly do not know the answer. His options appear limited (the front office turmoil in Philadelphia cannot help their case) and Houston appears to be the only logical basketball option (though LA presents some lifestyle choices). The hope is certainly that James stays in Cleveland and works alongside Koby Altman to retool the roster–using the Brooklyn Pick as a trade chip.
Dylan Burd: To follow question 3, what do you see being the starting lineup for the Cavs next year. A lot of turnover? Or a lot of the same?
Mike Zavagno: You would certainly imagine there will be turnover with or without James. If James does leave, the Cavs will likely try to shed salary and avoid paying the tax for a lottery-bound team. The 8th pick would likely start from Opening Night. If he does stay, I would imagine it will come with the attached condition that the roster be remade. That could mean anything from 1 to 3+ new rotation players depending on how aggressive the Cavs can be in the trade market.
Dylan Burd: NBA Finals prediction. Who will win MVP and how many games?
Mike Zavagno: Warriors in 5. Cleveland may win a game due to the brilliance of James, the disinterest of Golden State or a combination of both. But I do not see it surpassing the 5 game mark (I think 4 games is more likely than 6). Steph Curry takes home Finals MVP. There seems to be a significant groundswell to credit Curry for the Warriors’ offensive rhythm and flow (and rightfully so). Even if Durant surpasses him from a points per game standpoint in the series, I expect Curry to win the award.