2019 NBA Finals: Ranking every player in Warriors-Raptors showdown
Nos. 27-21: An NBA champion and the end of the benches
27. Eric Moreland, Toronto Raptors, PF: Put plain and simple: If Moreland is in the game, it's likely because the Warriors are blowing the doors off the Raptors in that game.
26. Jacob Evans, Golden State Warriors, SG: Evans has logged just over 15 minutes in these playoffs for the Warriors. The Dubs were up by 19 or more in three of Jacobs' four postseason appearances. He likely won't see much time in The Finals.
25. Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors, PF: I still believe the Oregon product has the skills to be a productive big in today's NBA, but he's seen just 4:04 of action this postseason. Nick Nurse won't be throwing him into the fire on the biggest stage.
24. Damian Jones, Golden State Warriors, C: After starting in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, Jones was a DNP in Game 4. He'll likely find himself fully out of the rotation once DeMarcus Cousins returns to the lineup.
23. Jeremy Lin, Toronto Raptors, PG: After averaging 18.8 minutes per game for the Raptors down the stretch, Lin has found himself stapled to the bench during the playoffs. The former Warrior won't get much run with the game on the line in The Finals.
22. Jodie Meeks, Toronto Raptors, SG: Another casualty of Nick Nurse's shortened rotation, Meeks hasn't seen the floor much since the first-round against the Orlando Magic and it's unlikely he takes off his warmups much in the championship round.
21. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors, C: Bogut logged big minutes in the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, but he has since seen his playing time diminish. However, the Warriors might need the veteran big man to battle Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam on the boards in The Finals.
Nos. 20-16: A Raptor and the Warriors' bench mob
20. Patrick McCaw, Toronto Raptors, SG: The former Warrior has seen his playing time cut as the Raptors have gone deeper into the playoffs and he didn't see the floor at all during the Eastern Conference finals against the Bucks. McCaw got a rise out of Warriors fans when he tweeted about going to his third straight NBA Finals, but that might be the most action he sees in the title round.
19. Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors, C: Bell played well when called upon in the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers and head coach Steve Kerr admitted the Oregon product would see time in the NBA FInals. How the series goes and who dictates the playing style will determine how much of the floor the athletic center sees.
18. Alfonzo McKinnie, Golden State Warriors, SF: The Warriors small forward has played a bigger role as the postseason has gone on, and the injury to Kevin Durant forced McKinnie to play important minutes in the Western Conference finals. McKinnie scored 12 points in the Warriors' overtime win in Game 4 and will play key minutes in the NBA Finals, especially if Durant is unable to go early on in the series.
17. Shaun Livingston, Golden State Warriors, PG: Livingston remains one of the Warriors' most important role players. While he's been slowed by some nagging ailments, the veteran guard has seen at least 11 minutes of action in every game this postseason and still is capable of knocking down his patented midrange jumper when the Dubs need a bucket.
16. Quinn Cook, Golden State Warriors, PG: The Duke product was unplayable in the Warriors' second-round series with the Rockets, but he was valuable bench piece in the Western Conference finals. Cook's ability to knock down open jump shots and hound opposing guards will make him an asset in The Finals. If Steph Curry finds himself in early foul trouble, Steve Kerr won't be afraid to go to Cook to pester Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet.
Nos. 15-11: The X-factors
15. Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors, SG: The UCLA product was one of Nick Nurse's most-trusted bench pieces in the series win over the Bucks. Powell scored 19 in Toronto's double-overtime win in Game 3 and followed that with 18 in a Game 4 victory. Toronto will need Powell to give them some punch off the bench in order to hang with the Warriors.
14. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors, PG: VanVleet was incredible in the Eastern Conference finals. After struggling during the Raptors' second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, VanVleet shot 14-for-17 from the 3-point line in Games 4, 5, and 6 against the Bucks. If VanVleet continues his hot shooting off the bench, the Raptors will have a puncher's chance against the Dubs.
13. Danny Green, Toronto Raptors, SG: While VanVleet was much better than Green in the Eastern Conference finals, Green is more important to the Raptors' NBA Finals chances. The North Carolina product shot 6-for-32 in the Eastern Conference finals and didn't score in the final two games. Green is the poster boy for the hot-and-cold shooter and Toronto hopes the flames come back with the title on the line. The Raptors will need Green's length to bother either Klay Thompson or Steph Curry, but his shot needs to re-emerge in order to warrant staying on the floor.
12. Kevon Looney, C, Golden State Warriors: Looney has been one of Steve Kerr's most reliable bench players during this playoff run. In 16 games, Looney is averaging 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 78.2 percent from the field. Looney will play a big role in keeping the Raptors from punishing the Warriors on the offensive glass in the series.
11. Marc Gasol, Toronto Raptors, C: Gasol had an up-and-down series against the Bucks. After abysmal performances in Games 1 and 2, Gasol scored 16 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in Game 3 and followed that up with a 17-point performance in Game 4. His ability to stretch the floor and knock down the 3-point shot will be key for the Raptors to keep the lane unclogged for Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry. If Gasol's shot isn't falling, it will give his man the ability to help off him and make life more difficult for Leonard and the rest of Toronto's offensive attack.
Nos. 10-6: Potential heroes
10. Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors, PF: Ibaka was huge in the Raptors' Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 2. As one of three Raptors (Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green) who have played in the NBA Finals, the Raptors will rely heavily on Ibaka's experience to be a calming influence when the games get tight. As shown in Game 7 against the 76ers, Ibaka is unafraid to take and make big shots. His length also makes him a valuable piece on defense. However, the Raptors probably won't want Ibaka to get switched onto Steph Curry too often (See: 2016 Western Conference finals Game 6).
9. DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State Warriors, C: Boogie?! At No. 9?! Hear me out. Cousins' ranking has more to do with the fact that he's been out for more than a month with a torn quadriceps muscle and when, or if, he comes back has yet to be determined. After missing all but one game plus a few minutes in these playoffs, it's unlikely Boogie will see heavy minutes if he comes back. But if he's healthy, it'll be up to Gasol and Ibaka to make sure he doesn't punish the Raptors on the inside.
8. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors, SF: The 2015 NBA Finals MVP missed Game 4 of the Western Conference finals with left calf soreness and has been talking like this could be his last run. It'll be up to Iguodala to pester Kawhi Leonard throughout the series and make sure the 2014 NBA Finals MVP doesn't torch the Warriors as he did in Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals. The outcome of The Finals could very well rest on how healthy Iguodala is and whether or not he's able to slow down Leonard while also giving the Warriors something on the offensive end.
7. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, PG: It was hard not to feel good for Lowry when the Raptors eliminated the Bucks. The veteran point guard has been through a lot in his Raptors career and finally helped get them over the hump. Despite his injured left hand, Lowry punished the Bucks during the Eastern Conference finals, averaging 19.1 points per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the field. Lowry might be the most important player for the Raptors in the NBA Finals. Toronto will rely on the veteran guard's ability to be physical with Steph Curry on defense while also making the Warriors star work on the other end of the floor. Keep an eye on Lowry early on in the series.
6. Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors, SF: Siakam played at an All-Star level in his third season, but he has had an up-and-down playoff stretch. The 25-year-old looked afraid during the Raptors' Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers and missed some key free throws down the stretch in Game 3 against the Bucks. Siakam is a talented two-way player, but it's unknown if the bright lights of his first NBA Finals will be too much for him. If Siakam shrinks from the moment, it could be curtains early for Toronto.
No. 5: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors, PF
Green took his play to another level during the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. The three-time All-Star did it all against the Blazers and has been unleashed with Kevin Durant out with an injury. Green's ability to push the pace and create good shots for his teammates is an underrated part of his greatness. The Michigan State product's ability to disrupt the Raptors' offense and dictate the tempo of the game will be a key for the Warriors to take home their third straight title.
No. 4: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, SG
No matter what the All-NBA voters say, Thompson is one of the best guards in the NBA. More importantly for the Warriors, Thompson tends to shine when the lights are brightest. He took Damian Lillard out of the Western Conference finals with his phenomenal defense and hit numerous big shots to swing the momentum during the Warriors' comebacks in Games 2, 3 and 4. If Thompson is locked in, the Warriors are almost impossible to beat.
No. 3: Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors, PG
The difference between the final three players is so minuscule they should probably be labeled 1a., 1b., and 1c. That being said, Curry hasn't played his best games in the NBA Finals. That's not to say he's been bad, but the best of Curry hasn't fully come out with the title on the line. But Curry has been unstoppable since Durant went out with a strained calf, averaging 35.8 points, 6.6 assists and 7.6 rebounds while shooting 46.5 percent from the field. With Durant expected to miss the beginning of the series, it will be up to Curry to make sure the Warriors don't fall behind early in The Finals.
No. 2: Kawhi Leonard, Toronto Raptors, SF
No offense to Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, but Kawhi Leonard has been the best player in the playoffs. Last time Leonard appeared in the NBA Finals, he was wrecking the Miami Heat's dynasty and now he'll look to do the same to Warriors. With Durant out, Leonard could start the series shadowing Klay Thompson, or Nick Nurse could have him open on Andre Iguodala and be more of a rover on the defensive end. Once Durant returns, it will be to Leonard to stop the two-time NBA Finals MVP and carry the Raptors on offense. He's been shouldering an immensely heavy load in the playoffs, but he's four wins away from becoming Toronto royalty before he likely chooses to bolt in free agency.
No. 1: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, SF
Before suffering a strained calf in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets, Durant was having one of the best postseason runs in recent memory. He's one of the best players in NBA history and when healthy makes the Warriors practically unbeatable. If he can return and play at the level he's accustomed to, the Warriors will take home another NBA championship. But if Durant can't return or is less than 100 percent when he does return, it opens the door, ever so slightly, for Leonard to take over The Finals and deliver a title to Toronto. Durant is the NBA's grim reaper. If he's on the floor when the lights are brightest, the opponent rarely stands a chance.