Cleveland Cavaliers

Warriors' playoff series vs. Cavaliers, Spurs shouldn't have asterisks

Warriors' playoff series vs. Cavaliers, Spurs shouldn't have asterisks

Shaquille O'Neal recently argued that the NBA should cancel the remainder of the current season, suggesting that whichever team was crowned champion in a shortened or altered playoff format would have an asterisk next to its achievement. Whether he is correct in that opinion or not, you can be sure there are plenty of people who share it.

However, it's important to remember that not all asterisks are created equal. 

Injuries happen. They're an inherent aspect of sports. To argue that an injury should produce an asterisk is the ultimate loser mentality -- as if injury risk isn't equally shared by all those in participation. The Houston Rockets and their fans can cry all they want about putting an asterisk next to the Warriors' victory in the 2017-18 Western Conference finals due to Chris Paul missing the final two games with a hamstring injury, but in doing so, they conveniently leave out the fact that Andre Iguodala sat out the final four games of that series. You can't have it both ways.

Asterisks should be reserved for situations in which cheating occurs, or when a team or player receives a distinct competitive advantage for something outside of the stated rules of game. The Houston Astros' sign stealing? Yep, that would qualify in my opinion. Apparently Rob Manfred disagrees.

Bleacher Report's NBA staff recently produced what it believes are the league's eight biggest asterisks since 1990, but the legitimacy of the asterisk definitely varies by each individual case. The Sacramento Kings losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference finals carries far more deserved asterisk potential for instance than, say, the Rockets winning back-to-back titles in the mid-90s while Michael Jordan was playing baseball.

Of the eight nominees, two involve the Warriors, though one is far more deserving of an asterisk than the other.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

First, let's begin with the one that doesn't deserve one whatsoever.

Just like there isn't an asterisk on the Warriors' series victory in the 2017-18 Western Conference finals, there isn't one on the 2016-17 Western Conference finals either, nor should there be. Bleacher Report's Sean Highkin, however, disagrees.

"When Zaza Pachulia stepped under Kawhi Leonard four minutes into the third quarter of Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals, causing him to reinjure his ankle, it didn't just swing that series -- it had widespread implications around the league," Highkin wrote. "The Spurs had a 21-point lead over the Warriors when Leonard went down, and without him, they collapsed and lost the game. From then on, without their best player, San Antonio had no shot, and Golden State easily swept the next three games to reach the Finals, wherein they beat the Cavaliers in five games to win their second championship in three years."

Leonard is a phenomenal player, and Highkin is correct in recounting that the Spurs had the Warriors in a deep hole early in Game 1 of the series prior to being injured. But last I checked, there are four quarters in an NBA game, and playoff series are a best-of-seven format. Even if Leonard doesn't get hurt and the Spurs win Game 1, they still have to beat the 2016-17 Warriors -- arguably the greatest team of all time -- three more times.

That team went 16-1 on its way to the title. Get that asterisk the hell out of here.

The other nominee that involves the Warriors -- the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 title -- certainly is more deserving of an asterisk than the first, but even still, it probably falls short of the requirements.

"Fresh off a 73-9 campaign and armed with the league MVP in Stephen Curry, the Warriors looked demonstrably stronger after Games 1 and 2, which they won by a combined 48 points -- the greatest such number through the first two games of any Finals," Bleacher Report's Preston Ellis wrote. "But near the end of the Warriors' Game 4 victory, LeBron James and Draymond Green got into an altercation. Green's groin swipe was upgraded to a flagrant foul, which resulted in a suspension, while James was issued a technical foul for his clothesline and step-over."

"Should the two have earned matching technical fouls, Green -- who then wouldn't have accrued enough flagrant points in the postseason to trigger an automatic suspension -- would have suited up for Game 5 and could have helped close the series in Oakland," Ellis continued. "Instead, Andrew Bogut left a three-point game early in the third quarter with a knee injury, and the Cavaliers ran away with a 15-point victory."

In furthering the case for an asterisk, Ellis also made mention of Curry's ejection in Game 6, which was the result of several questionable calls. And while he is correct that in almost any other situation, you would expect the punishments to be handed out equally between players, that's never going to be the case when it comes to the biggest superstar in the league -- nor has it ever been. Yes, the punishment distribution was questionable at best, but Green put himself in a position to be suspended with all of the flagrant points he accrued prior to that game.

Did Curry get hosed on some calls in Game 6? Absolutely. But what else do you expect in a clinching scenario on the road?

[RELATED: This random formula says Rockets deserving to win title]

The fact of the matter is, though the officials didn't exactly help them out, the Warriors had multiple opportunities to avoid blowing a 3-1 series lead. They didn't. They lost. Then they got Kevin Durant.

No asterisk. No complaints.

Kendrick Perkins leaves Warriors off top five all-time NBA teams list

Kendrick Perkins leaves Warriors off top five all-time NBA teams list

Another day, another former NBA player slighting the Warriors' dynasty.

In honor of the final two episodes of "The Last Dance" airing Sunday, ESPN asked some of its NBA experts to rank their top five NBA teams of all time.

Every single list should include either the 2016-17 Warriors or the 2017-18 Warriors, right? Wrong.

Noted Warriors antagonist Kendrick Perkins didn't include either team on his list.

Based on Perk's history, we're not really surprised.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

But Perk wasn't the only analyst to omit the Warriors. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas went with these five teams:

In case you're wondering how the other analyst's rankings looked, here there are:

If you don't want to call the 2016-17 or 2017-18 Warriors the greatest team of all time, fine. The 1995-96 Bulls won 72 games and captured the NBA championship. You're not wrong if you say they are the greatest team of all time.

But to completely leave one of those two Warriors teams off your list is lunacy.

In 2016-17, with Kevin Durant in his first year with the Warriors, the team stream rolled through the NBA playoffs. They won their first 15 postseason games before losing in Game 4 of the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. That team was unstoppable, plain and simple. Based on the weapons they had, that might have been the most unstoppable offensive team in NBA history.

The 2017-18 team might have lost some of its "joy," but it was just as good. They swept the Cavs in the NBA Finals to win back-to-back titles.

[RELATED: Thunder beat Warriors in 2016 with Perk]

This isn't a slight to the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers, the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons, the 2007-08 Boston Celtics or the 2012-13 Miami Heat. But Perk should have included one of those Warriors teams on his list.

Come on, Perk. We know the Warriors beat you in two NBA Finals, but it's time to give them the respect they deserve.

Warriors' Steph Curry against Nets' Kyrie Irving: Who wins 1-on-1?

Warriors' Steph Curry against Nets' Kyrie Irving: Who wins 1-on-1?

With the season currently paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, NBA fans need something to whet their appetites. A head-to-head battle between two Hall of Famers? Yep, that'll do the trick.

As NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh reported Friday, Shaquille O'Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon were supposed to go 1-on-1 back in 1995. The matchup never happened, but the appeal is obvious. Who wouldn't have wanted to see the two legendary big men go at it?

Which got us thinking: Which 1-on-1 matchups between modern players would fans most want to see? Immediately, one comes to mind.

Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving constantly have been compared to one another throughout their NBA careers. Obviously, the rivalry between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers played into that, but it's easy to see why.

Who are the two best point guards in the NBA? Who has the best handle in the league? Who is the most talented point guard Kevin Durant has ever been on the same team with?

With apologies to Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook, chances are, the most common answers to those questions would be Curry and Irving.

They've both had legendary performances when their teams have gone head to head, but obviously, we've never had the opportunity to see how a 1-on-1 matchup might play out.

Which begs the question: How would it?

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Curry is four years older than Irving, however, he has only spent two more seasons in the NBA, and at this point, both players are who they are going to be. They're both in their primes, but it's unlikely that either would take a major leap forward throughout the remainder of their careers.

So, we'll base this theoretical matchup on how the two players have performed up to this point. And upon doing so, it reveals to be just as enticing as you might expect.

In nearly every major statistical category -- scoring, rebounding, assists, shooting percentages, PER, win shares -- Curry has the upper hand over Irving.

Though Irving is a sharpshooter in his own right, he hasn't been nearly as accurate as Curry. From the field, the free-throw line and particularly from 3-point range, Curry has proven to be the better marksman. If the 1-on-1 matchup came down to shot-making, you'd have to give the two-time MVP the benefit of the doubt.

Speaking of which, Curry has all the hardware in his favor, too. Two league MVPs to zero, three NBA championships to one. That doesn't matter much, if at all, in a 1-on-1 setting, but generally speaking, the best players tend to get the awards.

If there's one area where you'd have to give Irving a slight advantage, it's dribbling. Curry has a fantastic handle, probably second-best in the league, and certainly one of the best of all time. The problem for Steph is, Irving is the one above him. Each player has a hefty catalog of ankle-breaking highlights, and Curry has embarrassed plenty of NBA players with his moves. But Irving seems to want to embarrass his opponent whenever he has the rock -- and, more often than not, he does.

So, if they went 1-on-1, you could expect plenty of slick handles from both sides. Neither would want to get their hand caught in the cookie jar, but both surely would -- Curry maybe once or twice more than his opponent.

Which brings us to defense. Neither player will ever be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but both are much better defensively than they're given credit for. For their careers, Curry and Irving have posted individual defensive ratings of 107 and 109 points allowed per 100 possessions, respectively. Neither number is overly impressive, but both are solid, especially given their offensive output. Curry (1.7) has averaged more steals per game than Irving (1.3), but Kyrie (0.4) has the advantage over Steph (0.2) in blocks. All those differences are fairly negligible, and generally speaking, there isn't much separating the two from a defensive standpoint.

[RELATED: Steph-KD Warriors would handle Shaq-Kobe three-peat Lakers]

So, shot-making goes to Curry, ball-handling goes to Irving and defense is a push. How the heck does that play out, 1-on-1?

I don't know. But who wouldn't want to find out?