Publish Date: 05/31/2018
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
With the 2018 NBA Finals ready to tip off, here’s a look at four x-factors that could dramatically impact the series.
The 2018 NBA Finals arrive on Thursday night, with the yearly meet-up between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors going into round four.
If this were a heavyweight bout, the Dubs would be leading in punches thrown and landed, having gone up 2-1 in the NBA’s title series over the last three years.
The Cavs would be in their corner nursing an eye that has swollen shut and a burst lip.
You can tell that just by looking at how Vegas sees this series, as the Dubs are massive -800 favorites.
Golden State has been the main favorite to win again after easily dispatching the Cavs a year ago, though, so none of this should be much of a shock.
While the Dubs are clear favorites and will probably win, there are certainly a few reasons why the Cavs could win. One of them is without a doubt the presence of some x-factors that could shake this whole thing up.
Said x-factors reside on both sides of this series and there are at least five that could end up dictating how this thing unfolds:
I’m sure this series ultimately comes down to the star talent, but if the Cavs are going to win, they’ll need to do two things at an elite level; tighten up their porous defense and hit shots from outside.
Smith has always been known as a capable perimeter defender, so if he can man up and effectively cover Klay Thompson and/or slow down Stephen Curry, it’d be a big win for Cleveland.
His offensive game needs to be alive in this series, too. Smith has the ability to catch fire from long range as evidenced by his 37% deep ball percentage during the regular season.
If he can actually hit shots and provide timely offense while defending at a high level, he could be a key component to Cleveland’s plight to flip the script in this year’s Finals.
Iggy won’t suit up in game one and he seems to genuinely be ailing with a knee injury, but the former Finals MVP is going to be a major key to this series, one way or another.
Simply being out for any amount of time could create a huge hole for the Dubs, who rely on Iguodala for his playmaking, defensive intensity and outside shooting.
Not having Iggy at their disposal hurts their “Hamptons 5” dream squad and also saps their bench.
On the flip side, Iggy still has the ability to completely alter the course of games with his scoring and defense. If he’s healthy and plays well, it could be a massive boost for the defending champs.
Going back to the Cavs, I think they may need more than just one x-factor if they’re going to pull off quite possibly the biggest NBA Finals upset ever.
Throw in the Kevin Love injury (as well as his poor play) and it’s very likely the Cavs will turn to some bench guys they had otherwise left to die in previous playoff series.
Nance could be a hero in this series, as he can get easy buckets down low, rebounds well and can be a real force in the shot-altering and shot-blocking department.
There is a very real narrative brewing here considering Nance’s dad spent half of his career with the Cavs. Nance has flashed brilliance thus far in his career, but just imagine him effectively manning the five spot when Golden State goes small.
Whether he plays the four or five, Nance may be handed a chance to prove he can change the outcome of this series. If he can play like he did in spurts while with the Lakers, he could step up and be a true X-factor.
Depending on Iggy’s status and/or whether or not Draymond Green finds himself in trouble via suspension at some point in this series, Looney may be called upon for big minutes.
Golden State has already been confiding in the young UCLA product, handing him around 20 minutes most night during the playoffs.
Perhaps it’s because they see a time in the Finals where they’ll need him or they truly believe he’s another Draymond Green in the making.
Either way, Looney has the ability to defend at a high level and allows the Dubs to go small. If he’s needed with Green or Iggy ailing, he could end up being a key to their championship puzzle.
Last, but certainly not least, is Korver. This is a 37-year old sharpshooter that continues to chase his first ring in the NBA and of everyone on this list, he fills the role as x-factor most easily.
Korver has provided far more reliable offense than J.R. Smith and he plays more than Nance, while he’s even stepped it up as a defender during the playoffs.
If anyone is going to bail the Cavs out and chip in huge outings and alter the state of the 2018 NBA Finals, it might be him.
One big reason? He literally had a chance to do that in 2017 and missed a wide-open baseline three that he’d normally make in his sleep.
There may come a time (or two) where King James again defers to Korver in such situations and if his elite outside shooting can pull through, he just might be the missing link for the Cavs.
In the end, this is 100% Golden State’s championship to lose and betting on the Cavs is probably a huge waste of time.
That being said, if guys like Smith, Korver, and Nance can chip in better than expected performances and stars like Love and James beast out like they should, Cleveland could just be on their way to being the best underdog story in league history.