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If Warriors continue to dominate Cavs in Finals, would it really hurt the NBA?

If Warriors continue to dominate Cavs in Finals, would it really hurt the NBA?

Everyone already jumped the gun with the conjecture and what-if questions, even before the Golden State Warriors silenced the home crowd at Quicken Loans Arena.

What if the Warriors, who lead 3-0, win in a sweep? Is Kevin Durant overtaking LeBron James as the league's best player? Are these Warriors better than any team Michael Jordan beat to win his six championships? Is this series hurting the league and is it even worth watching?

According to Nielsen ratings, through two games on ABC this was the most watched NBA Finals since 1998. Including streaming, the live audience is an average of 19.6 million which is 5% higher than a year ago. After Game 3, the series is averaging a 12.8 metered market rating which is up 4% from 12.3 in 2016.

There's the prevailing attitude from those that cover the game that this is bad for basketball. For the third year in a row, the same two teams are playing for the championship. 

Both teams are the product of an arms race. James joined Kyrie Irving and pushed for the deal that brought in Kevin Love to give them a big three after he left behind Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade with the Miami Heat.

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Golden State appeared content after winning the 2015 title in six games until it blew a 3-1 lead in 2016 to lose in seven. That led to Durant jumping ship from the Oklahoma City Thunder to join forces with his conqueror in the Western Conference finals.

It rubbed a lot of people beyond Russell Westbrook the wrong way. Those emotions are all understandable. 

Now all of a sudden, the Cavs, who stacked their team by busting the salary cap to be in this position, are the victims and the Warriors hold an unfair advantage. How many times since the Warriors won 132-113 on Sunday have you heard the hot take that "LeBron has no help." 

The same players who helped him bring Cleveland its first major championship in 52 years -- Love and Irving are All-Stars -- suddenly have morphed into Sasha Pavlovic and Donyell Marshall. 

J.R. Smith is still around though his three-point shot has evaporated. Tristan Thompson, who signed a $82 million deal in 2015, is now a liability trying to keep pace with the small-ball of Golden State.

These players not named LeBron haven't been as effective and he's wearing down late in games. Defensively, the Cavs were atrocious during the 82-game regular season when the Warriors finished 16 games better than them. Realistically, what did you expect to change? That's who they are.

James had 39 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, Irving had 38 points, Love 13 rebounds and six steals and Smith 16 points with five-three pointers in Game 3 and the Cavs still lost.

There really haven't been any major surprises. The Warriors have held to form and held serve at Oracle Arena, which should be expected for the home team with the league's best overall record. They closed with an 11-0 run Wednesday to win 118-113. That's who they are. 

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If they sweep, the viewership will likely remain high because the meltdown in Cleveland will be riveting TV. It also would be a spectacular development because it would mean unless a seismic shift takes place with the Cavs in the offseason, James probably isn't winning another championship as long as the Warriors' core remains in tact. 

It would move Durant that much closer James as the best player in the league argument but he has a long way to go in an all-time sense. He'd have to sustain it for longer than one season and his greatness will be soldified when he deals with adversity head-on and doesn't elope to greener pastures.

That might not happen to him soon but think of how James elevated himself by leading the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit to the first time in Finals history. 

This matchup probably isn't hurting the league anymore than all of those Lakers-Celtics matchups hurt them them in the Finals, or Michael Jordan with the Bulls or Shaqulle O'Neal and Kobe Bryant with the L.A. Lakers. Like those days, this series has star power and high scoring which attracts casual fans who love big events. Parity has been an issue for the NBA for years and all the tweaks in the collective bargaining agreement haven't done much to change that as long as there is a "soft" salary cap.

Viewers either still despise James for his "Decision" in 2010 to leave Cleveland for Miami or they detest Durant for his Hollywood Hogan-like heel turn.

A series blowout wouldn't be a travesty. It just would be a fitting end to a postseason that was atypically non-competitive from the opening tip, and all eyes will be on Game 4 Friday to see if Golden State can win its second title in three years on the road. And can they do it by sweeping the King out of his own castle. 

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Elena Delle Donne the favorite to win WNBA MVP, according to league GMs

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Elena Delle Donne the favorite to win WNBA MVP, according to league GMs

Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne is one of the best players in the WNBA, and thus is always in the discussion for MVP honors. 

And heading into the 2019 season, league GMs give her the best chance of anyone to actually hoist the trophy when it's all said and done. 

In a WNBA.com survey of general managers, 42 percent picked Delle Donne to win MVP in 2019. Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury had the second-most votes at 25 percent, followed by A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas Aces at 17 percent then Las Vegas' Liz Cambage and Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun at eight percent. 

Delle Donne won her first and only WNBA MVP award in 2015 as a member of the Chicago Sky when she averaged a career-high 23.4 points per game. And with the Mystics set to make another run at the WNBA title (58 percent of GMs predicted Washington to have the most regular season wins in the Eastern Conference), she has a great opportunity to get her second this season. 


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Explained: What is an NBA supermax contract and how does it work?

Explained: What is an NBA supermax contract and how does it work?

As All-NBA teams are announced and franchises have to make decisions about contract extensions, fans will see the term "supermax contract" thrown around a lot. 

Here's a quick primer with everything you need to know about the NBA's most lucrative player deals. 

What is a supermax contract?

Officially known as the "Designated Veteran Player Extension," this rule allows teams to re-sign qualified players to maximum five-year contracts worth up to 35 percent of the salary cap with eight percent escalation in each subsequent year.

The length of the supermax deal depends on the player's years of NBA experience and years remaining on his current contract. 

  • A qualified player who has completed seven or eight years of service and has two years left on his contract is eligible for a four-year supermax (keeping the player with the same team for a total of six seasons)
  • A qualified player who has completed seven or eight years of service and has one year left on his contract is eligible for a five-year supermax (keeping the player with the same team for a total of six seasons)
  • A qualified free agent who has completed eight or nine years of service is eligible for a five-year supermax 

Furthermore, teams cannot trade a supermax player for the first year after he signs the contract.  

How much is a supermax contract worth?

Valued up to 35 percent of the salary cap in the initial year and subject to eight percent escalation in each subsequent year, these deals are mammoth money.

For example, the Wizards signed John Wall to a four-year supermax in the summer of 2017 when he had two years left on his contract. The supermax money begins in 2019-20 and pays Wall $38.15 million that year. With annual escalations, his supermax is worth $170.912 million over the four-year lifetime of the deal. 

According to a report by Yahoo's Chris Haynes, Damian Lillard—who has two years remaining on his current deal with the Trail Blazers and is expected to be named to an All-NBA team—will be offered a four-year supermax extension worth roughly $191 million this summer. 

Who is eligible to sign a supermax contract?

Very few players qualify for a supermax contract. First, only a player that has (or will have) completed eight years of NBA service by the end of his current contract is eligible to sign a supermax deal, which can only be offered by the team that drafted him or traded for his rookie contract. 

Then, a player must meet one of the following three criteria.

  • Be named to an All-NBA team in the most recent season or both seasons before it
  • OR, be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season or both seasons before it
  • OR, be named NBA MVP in any of the three previous seasons

Which players have received supermax contracts?

  • Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors
  • James Harden - Houston Rockets
  • Russell Westbrook - Oklahoma City Thunder
  • John Wall - Washington Wizards

Who could receive a supermax contract this summer?

Anthony Davis is already eligible for a supermax offer from the Pelicans. And depending on the All-NBA, DPOY and MVP selections, the following players also could receive supermax offers:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo - Milwaukee Bucks
  • Damian Lillard - Portland Trail Blazers
  • Klay Thompson - Golden State Warriors
  • Kemba Walker - Charlotte Hornets
  • Andre Drummond - Detroit Pistons
  • Bradley Beal - Washington Wizards 

What are the drawbacks to supermax deals?

The supermax contract was designed to help teams retain their players by allowing them to offer significantly more money than the competition; however, teams that offer such contracts are squeezing themselves in terms of salary cap room to fill out their rosters. 

No franchise can carry more than two supermax players at 35 percent of the cap each. Functionally, though, it's difficult for a team to have more than one.

Two supermax players would account for 70 percent of a team's salary in any given year, leaving the club virtually unable to sign a competitive supporting cast.