The NBA Finals are set. I don’t know who will win, but I do know that for the 2nd straight year, and Australian will be hoisting the championship trophy. Last year there were 2 — Patty Mills and Aaron Baynes of the San Antonio Spurs. This year it will be either Andrew Bogut of the Warriors or Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavaliers.
Basketball is a huge part of my life since I have 2 boys obsessed with the game and playing all the time. So I’ve followed the journey of many an Australian in the game since moving here. It has mirrored the internationalization of the game overall. In college ball, it seems you can hardly watch a game without seeing an Aussie, and certainly some non US born players. St Mary’s, in Moraga California, seems to have a perpetual 2 or 3 Aussies on its roster every year (we see ALOT of St Mary’s games here on TV). I suspect Dellavedova’s success will only increase that pipeline.
To me, it is great for the game. International players seem to play a more team oriented game. Move the ball, get teammates involved, get good shots, do the dirty work and non glamorous things that are needed to win. That is they way basketball is coached here. And that is the way that both Dellavedova and Bogut play. And I love it.
So who will bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back Down Under? Well, let me first admit to a bit of bias. Prior to moving to Australia, I lived in the Bay Area for 20 years. Had Warrior tickets. And suffered through all the bad times like everyone else. So I WANT the Warriors to win. Badly.
But can they? My first question is — who guards LeBron? I’d guess Draymond Green gets the first shot, with a bit of Andre Iguodala on the side. Whatever happens, LeBron will get his. The other side of the coin is — who guards Steph? I’m guessing Iman Shumpert gets first shot here. Again, Steph will get his too.
So LeBron and Steph cancel each other out. Look at the rest of the lineups — Mozgov, Thompson, Irving and Shumpert for the Cavs. Bogut, Green, Barnes, Thompson for the Warriors. On paper, I like the Warriors a bit better.
Benches? Dellavedova and JR Smith are major cogs for the Cavs. Maybe a bit of James Jones as well. The Warriors are a bit deeper. Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli and Shaun Livingston all play fairly big roles off the Warrior bench. So again, I think the Warriors get the edge here.
Intangibles? Lebron is a huge one himself. Its his 5th straight trip to the Finals, 6th overall. He’s the best player on the planet, knows what it takes to win, and makes all the guys around him better. On the other hand, no Warrior has ever been this deep before. Unless we count Steve Kerr. Lets not discount his 3 titles with the Bulls and 2 with the Spurs. He knows what it takes to win this thing. But edge to the Cavs here.
Coaching? Two rookie coaches in the Finals. One with great success overseas, including championships. One with a great pedigree as a player and GM (and a great broadcaster too!). It’s a wash.
Better Aussie? Bogut does the dirty work. Hits the boards, blocks shots, protects the paint. Second team NBA All Defensive team. A key cog in igniting the Dubs offense off of the defensive glass. Dellavedova is a hustler. Always plays hard (ask the Hawks!). An irritant. Love him on your team, hate him as an opponent. It’s close to a wash, but since 1) I am a Warrior fan and 2) Andrew Bogut is the highest paid Aussie athlete in the world, I’m giving it to Bogy….
What does it all mean? Well, my head says the Cavs will win, just because of LeBron. He is so good. But I’m going with my heart….. Warriors in 6. I would say 7, but since I have to be on a plane to the USA during game 7, I am hoping for it to end early!
And lastly to all you Bay Area folks — I hop you are enjoying the ride. Giants with 3 World Series titles in the last 5 years. Niners with 3 NFC title game and 1 Super Bowl appearance in the last 4 years. And now the Warriors? When it rains, it pours!! Enjoy…