Eastern Conference Finals: Best Coach vs Best Player
The Eastern Conference Finals pits arguably the best coach in the NBA, Brad Stevens, vs the greatest player of all time, LeBron James. The Celtics had a huge off-season, trading for Kyrie Irving and signing Gordon Hayward as a free agent. Both of those superstars lost their season to injury, Hayward in the first game of the season. The Cavaliers on the other hand, traded away Irving to the Celtics for a number of players, all of which are no longer on the team. The Cavs started the season with five different players from the year before and none of them made it past the trade deadline. Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye were dealt for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Then the Cavs acquired George Hill from the Kings and Rodney Hood from the Jazz for Jae Crowder. Derrick Rose went to the Jazz and Iman Shumpert to the Kings to complete the three-team deal. Cleveland also sent Dwyane Wade to the Heat for a second round pick next year to complete their trade deadline activity. The Cavs are now playing with their third different team of the 2017-2018 season.
Boston has arrived in the Eastern Conference Finals after defeating the Bucks in 7 games in the first round, and then disposing of “The Process” 76ers in 5 games Wednesday night in Boston. The management of this roster by Brad Stevens and ability to draw up scoring plays out of timeouts are making the difference in the two series so far, but will it be enough for the Celtics? They now take on the Cavaliers, who are equipped with the best player on the planet. The Cavaliers have had an eerily similar path to the ECF. They struggled in a 7 game series with the 5th seeded Pacers and then easily swept the top seed Toronto Raptors. LeBron James is playing at another level right now, averaging 34.3 points, 9.0 assists, and 9.4 rebounds per game in their 11 playoff games. He has also hit a number of either game-tying or game-winning shots during the playoffs.
The Celtics do not have the firepower to keep up with the Cavs this series. I think they will keep it competitive for awhile, but the Cavs will win the series in 5 or 6 games. Stevens will cement his place as the games finest coach, but ultimately this is a player driven league and the Cavs have better players. If Love and Korver keep playing the way they have been, becoming big-time contributors to take the scoring pressure off the King, there is no reason the Cavs will not continue to roll. Although with Stevens leadership and the return of Irving and Hayward, the Celtics are going to be contenders for a very long time to come. The Cavs and Celtics rivalry will become the best in the league as long as the King is in Cleveland, and with a top lottery pick this summer the Cavs are only going to get better. Get used to a Cavs/Celtics ECF for years to come, as neither of these teams are going anywhere!
Cavs in 6