AFRO Sunday37-001

Last week, we engaged in a heated debate on whether LeBron James was more deserving of the MVP trophy than Stephen Curry. James was in the midst of willing a badly wounded team to the NBA Finals (again) while Curry was in the process of delivering one of the most entertaining seasons ever by a diminutive but sweet-shooting point guard.

It only seemed appropriate that the two megastars eventually square off on the hardwood. Fortunately for basketball fans and the AFRO Sports Desk, they will. Curry and the Golden State Warriors will face James and his Cleveland Cavaliers when the Finals kick off in primetime on June 4. James has revived a Cavs team that earned the first pick in the NBA Draft last summer, while Curry has the Warriors in the Finals for the first time since 1975. It should be an entertaining series, but who will win? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley debate.

Riley: James gets a bulk of the credit, and we’re left pondering whether Kyrie Irving will be healthy enough to be effective. But what gets lost in reports about the Cavs is how disciplined a defensive team they are. They simply squeezed the life out of opponents as they ran through the Eastern Conference, and although the Warriors pack a pretty powerful attack, Cleveland’s defense would give any team fits. James is still James, but the supporting cast is younger and deeper compared to the last few teams we’ve seen James on. Their stingy defense and a MVP-caliber swing forward, who may eventually wind up on Curry or shooting guard Klay Thompson, is enough for me to give the Cavaliers the edge. They have size in the paint and their back court group can push the points as well. This will be a good test for the still-developing Warriors.

Green: Golden State’s defense has been crucial all season and just as good in the playoffs, if not better. The Warriors have collected an assortment of athletes who can all switch and stay in front of the ball handler. Inside presence Andrew Bogut has really evolved into an anchor inside the paint. Golden State loves to run-and-gun, but they also know how to roll up their sleeves and get dirty when they need to. Add in the fact that they can score with anybody, and I can’t see how you could possibly give the edge to the Cavaliers. Golden State has a good thing going. Their lack of size could potentially be a problem, but everything else checks out in their favor. The big moment might be a shock to the players on the roster who haven’t experienced this type of deep postseason run, but head coach Steve Kerr has seen it all as a former Chicago Bull. He’ll have his team prepared to attack from the moment of tip-off.

Riley: Outside of James, the Cavaliers roster is largely untested—but they still have James. LeBron is at a point right now that he could turn the worst team into first-place contenders (which he has done) and anybody following his lead is going to be in position to succeed. This series will come down to a test of strength and size, and Cleveland has it all. Their front court of Timofey Mosgov and Tristan Thompson has flat-out punished opponents in the playoffs. James can easily convert into a hybrid point forward/power guard, giving this team just another piece to throw at the undersized Warriors. For all the great things that sophomore forward Draymond Green has done this season, he’s still badly undersized, hovering around 6-feet, 6-inches as a power forward. But he’s battle-tested and plays above his listed height. The Cavs play above their height as well, but they’re already a bigger team. The series will come down to defense and rebounding and I think Cleveland holds the edge in both fields.

Green: There is still going to have to be some type of scoring, Riley, and no one does that better than the Warriors. A hobbled Irving means that Curry becomes the biggest mismatch for them. Cleveland’s front line is huge, but their backcourt? Not so much. Irving stands 6-feet, 3-inches but he’s a lightweight and already limping around. The Cavs may be forced to have to try the bigger Iman Shumpert (6 feet, 5 inches) on Curry, but then who checks the 6-foot, 7-inch Thompson? Irving, when healthy, is one of the best scoring guards in the league. But with a foot injury and knee tendinitis, he’s lacking his much-needed trademark quickness and explosion.

Also, too much attention has been given to the stars of this upcoming series and not enough to the bench. Everybody needs rest, even LeBron. And when James and the other stars rest, the reserves have to play. That’s where Golden State has dominated opponents all season long. They have, by far, the best bench in the NBA. The Warriors’ reserves score points in flurries, just like their starters, and I don’t think the Cavs’ backups will be able to keep up to give their own starters a real chance of winning. I like Golden State in six games.