But now with the Cavs staring at an 0-2 deficit against the Warriors in the NBA Finals as the series switches to Cleveland for games Wednesday and Friday, the “perfect roster” does not look so perfect.
That compliment from Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens during the Eastern Conference finals sounded good at the time, especially considering the Cavs continued dominance of the overmatched East. But against a team like the Warriors, who are loaded with offensive firepower and play several levels above the Cavs defensively, the Cavs are being exposed.
Once again, James doesn’t have enough help.
And even if a Cavs roster with eight players 30 or over gets an infusion of youth in the off-season, the Warriors have constructed a dynasty that may dominate what’s left of James’ prime years.
Curry is 29, Durant turns 29 in September. Thompson and Green are 27. The Warriors roster has five players 30 and over. They’ve put together the right balance of experience, youth and off-the-charts talent.
Everyone knows the clock is ticking on James’ prime, even though he continues to defy normal limits at age 32. On Sunday, he turned in his second triple-double of the 2017 postseason with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists. It marked the 18th of his career in the playoffs and his eighth in the Finals, tying Magic Johnson’s record.
But the Durant-led Warriors are not the 2016 Warriors, which seems to shorten the window on James delivering more championships.
The Warriors are using two or three players to box out Tristan Thompson and keep him off the glass, and he’s allowing it to happen. J.R. Smith has reached the virtually unplayable stage and may be benched for Iman Shumpert in Game 3, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. In their first Finals, the moment has looked too big for Kyle Korver and Deron Williams.
The Cavs may bounce back at home, but it doesn’t feel that way. They are 1-3 in four meetings with the Durant-led Warriors this season and needed an Irving turnaround fadeaway with 3.4 seconds left to win one in Cleveland on Christmas Day. The other three losses have been by 35, 22 and 19 points.
Once again, James doesn’t have enough help, and it’s hard to say where it’s going to come from. They have no picks in the June 22 draft and few tradeable assets beyond Irving and Love. General Manager David Griffin is working without a contract for next season and could be two games away from being let go by owner Dan Gilbert.