NBA

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

The NBA Finals (finally) start tonight in Oakland and here are three things to keep an eye on during the series, three things that could decide the Finals rubber match between these two superteams:

  • How will this series be officiated? Last year the Cavaliers were able to get very physical with Steph Curry -- holding him, bumping him and keeping him from the constant movement that helps him get free. If that happens in this series, not only with Curry but the other players who make the Golden State motion offense the best in the league, the Warriors are going to have trouble.
  • Can the Warriors bring down Cleveland's three-point field-goal percentage? The Cavaliers are making an impressive 43.5 percent of their threes and if that continues it's going to keep Cleveland in this series. And that percentage is not based on a small sample size. The Cavs have made 45 more three-point shots than the Warriors have in the playoffs. And people wonder why LeBron James is playing so well this postseason? He's got help in the form of shooters who have spread the floor, allowing him to get to the basket easier than ever. People talk a lot about Kyrie Irving but Kevin Love is critical for this team. So far, he's averaging 17.2 points per game in 32 minutes, with 10.4 rebounds per game and a 47.5 shooting percentage from three-point range. If those numbers hold firm in the Finals, the Cavaliers have a real shot.
  • How much coaching is Steve Kerr going to do in the Finals? I have tremendous respect for what he's done for that team and I think the Warriors can only reach their maximum potential with Kerr on the sidelines. Mike Brown is probably a very capable replacement but he's a replacement -- and substitute teachers are never as good as the real thing. Kerr has created a team that is superior on offense and very good on defense and it would be a shame if he couldn't be there to guide it to the end of the season. And it could also be detrimental to the Warriors' chance of capturing the championship.

Who do I think will win? Golden State. This is one of the league's all-time great teams and if Kevin Durant doesn't crack under the pressure of the Finals the Warriors should win. But I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as many people figure. Cleveland is the one team that can match Golden State's three-point production and that's a big key in the modern game. And to beat Golden State, you better score a whole lot of points.

Draft Profile: Thomas Welsh (7'0" C, UCLA)

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Draft Profile: Thomas Welsh (7'0" C, UCLA)

Thomas Welsh

Height:  7’0”

Weight: 255lbs

Position: Center

School: Senior, UCLA

2017-18 season averages: 12.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 0.9 bpg

Did You Know That…

His rebounding average of 10.8 as a senior was UCLA’s highest since David Greenwood averaged 11.4 rebounds in 1977-78. One of five finalists for the 2017-2018 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the nation’s top center. Holds the No. 3 spot on UCLA’s career rebounds list (1,035). Ranks third all time at UCLA in blocks (143) and fifth in blocks per game (1.09). Registered 37 career double-doubles, tied for sixth in program history.

Draft Profile: Brandon McCoy (7'0" C, UNLV)

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Draft Profile: Brandon McCoy (7'0" C, UNLV)

Brandon McCoy

Height:  7’0”

Weight: 250lbs

Position: Center

School: Freshman, UNLV

2017-18 season averages: 16.9 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.8 bpg

Did You Know That…

Top-five finalist for the 2017-2018 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award, 2017-2018 John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list for National Player of the Year, 2017-2018 Mountain West Freshman of the Year. Led the Mountain West Conference with 19 double-doubles in 2017-2018, ranking ninth in the country and third among freshmen.

Draft Profile: Jacobi Boykins (6'6" G, LA Tech)

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Draft Profile: Jacobi Boykins (6'6" G, LA Tech)

Jacobi Boykins

Height:  6’6”

Weight: 175lbs

Position: Guard

School: Senior, Louisiana Tech

2017-18 season averages: 14.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 apg

Did You Know That…

Was the only Bulldog to start in all 33 games. Became the 40th member of the 1,000 point-club, finishing with 1,393 career points, which is tied for 23-most in LA Tech history… Ranked first on the team in scoring, recording 26 double-digit scoring games.

Draft Profile: Jaylen Barford (6'3" G, Arkansas)

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Draft Profile: Jaylen Barford (6'3" G, Arkansas)

Jaylen Barford

Height:  6’3”

Weight: 202lbs

Position: Guard

School: Senior, Arkansas

2017-18 season averages: 17.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg

Did You Know That…

Named 2017-2018 All-SEC First Team by the coaches and Second Team by the media. Shot 43.3 percent from three-point range. Built like a linebacker at the guard spot. Scored at least 20 points in 13 games in his final season at Arkansas.

Draft Profile: De'Anthony Melton (6'4" G, USC)

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Draft Profile: De'Anthony Melton (6'4" G, USC)

De’Anthony Melton

Height:  6’4”

Weight: 190lbs

Position: Guard

Age: 20, University of Southern California

2016-17 season averages: 8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.5 apg

Did You Know That…

High-energy player and athlete. Likes to play in transition, where he has a solid playmaking feel. Great foot speed getting up and down the floor. Rangy defender with a good sense of anticipation. Averaged 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per-36 as a freshman. Measured with a 6’8” wingspan. Can defend either guard position given his length. Makes plays on the ball.

Draft Profile: Shake Milton (6'5" G, SMU)

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Draft Profile: Shake Milton (6'5" G, SMU)

Shake Milton

Height:  6’5”

Weight: 195lbs

Position: Guard

School: Junior, SMU

2017-18 season averages: 18.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.4 apg

Did You Know That…

Played and started 22 games…Missed remainder of season due to broken right hand… Double digit scoring in 22 games, 23 straight going back to 2016- 17. AWARDS: All-AAC Second Team... AAC Player of the Week (11/13, 12/4, 1/22)... Wooden Award, Naismith Trophy, Bob Cousy, Lute Olson Watch List... AAC Preseason Player of the Year.

Draft Profile: Jairus Lyles (6'2" G, UMBC)

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Draft Profile: Jairus Lyles (6'2" G, UMBC)

Jairus Lyles

Height:  6’2”

Weight: 175lbs

Position: Guard

School: Junior, UMBC

2017-18 season averages: 18.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 2.6 apg

Did You Know That…

Scored 1,086 points in just two UMBC campaigns and is currently 17th on the school’s all-time scoring list... Became the third player in school history to reach 600 points in a season and his 604 points is the most ever by a UMBC junior... Also became the second Retriever (Darryl Proctor, 2008-09), first junior and first UMBC guard to amass 600 points and 200 rebounds in a season in 2016-17… Currently, UMBC’s career leader in scoring average (20.5 ppg) and has recorded the top (23.0 ppg, 2015-16) and fifth-best (18.9 ppg, 2016-17) scoring averages in school history

Draft Profile: Hamidou Diallo (6'5" G, Kentucky)

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Draft Profile: Hamidou Diallo (6'5" G, Kentucky)

Hamidou Diallo

Height:  6’5”

Weight: 198lbs

Position: Guard

School: Redshirt Freshman, Kentucky

2017-18 season averages: 10.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.2 apg

Did You Know That…

Diallo recorded the highest vertical at the 2018 NBA Combine at 44.5 inches. His wingspan is also fourtbest among guards at 6'11 1/2".

Redshirt Freshman: Declared for 2018 NBA Draft and hired an agent, effectively ending his collegiate career ... Averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while starting in all 37 games during his redshirt freshman season … Scored in double figures in 16 games, topping the 20-point plateau three times … Named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week following a 20-point, three-steal effort vs. Virginia Tech where he also knocked down a career-high four 3-pointers … Hauled in at least three boards in 24 games … Led the Wildcats in scoring in four games, rebounds in three games, blocks five times, steals six times and assists twice … Finished the season ranking fourth on the team in points (371), sixth in rebounds (135) and third in blocks (31).

Draft Profile: Chimezie Metu (6'11" F, USC)

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Draft Profile: Chimezie Metu (6'11" F, USC)

Chimezie Metu

Height:  6’11”

Weight: 225lbs

Position: Forward

School: Junior, University of Southern California

2017-18 season averages: 15.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 59 total blocks

Did You Know That…

Chimezie Metu is a 6-foot-11, 225-pound junior forward who affects the game on both ends of the court. His athleticism and length makes him especially impactful on the defensive end. Ranks seventh all-time in blocked shots by a Trojans with 109.