We can draw a lot of observations from this year's NBA Finals. Some obvious ones are that the Toronto Raptors behind their plan of short term success beat the Golden State Warriors 4 games to 2, All stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson both went down with ACLs, jeopardizing their 2019-2020 seasons, and the Raptors survived a grueling series without any injury problems to Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. But what does this mean? How will it impact the future of the NBA regarding how teams base their moves on, doctors, and strategies to limit the minutes of their stars. Let's go into depth.
Before this year's finals, it was believed that you have to build a team with lots of long term guarantees in order to win a championship. But Toranto thought differently. They went all in, and it started back in May of 2018 when Dwayne Casey who won Coach of the Year after guiding the Raptors to 59 wins, was stunningly dismissed. Nick Nurse who didn't have a lot of NBA experience, was promoted to the job. They didn't stop in July, as they traded their loyal stat Demar DeRozan and backup center Jakob Pöltl for disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and cash. This was a risk because Leonard is going to be a free agent in this year's offseason. Reports have also stated his interest in going to the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers. Nonetheless, Leonard's mind was on one thing and that was winning a championship. It was pretty clear, as by the trade deadline, Leonard was playing some of his best basketball and the Raptors were 39-16. But that however, didn't stop them from trading two of their promising youngsters in Delon Wright Jr., Jonas Valančiūnas as well as CJ Miles and a second round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for their aging, but still formidable center Marc Gasol. Despite being the oldest in the team, the former Defensive Player of the Year winner elevated the Raptors defense from great, to special and it showed as they clinched the #2 seed with a 58-24 record. They suffered a few bumps along the journey to the finals which included a stunning game 1 defeat to the Magic, nearly falling behind 3-1 to the 76ers, and trailing 2 games to none against the Bucks. But every time Toronto fought back and clawed their way to the finals. In the finals, they put on the displays of team performances that makes an N.B.A. fan put on a big smile.
Everyone knows that Kawhi Leonard dominated this season and captured Fianls MVP. But some of you NBA fans may be wondering, How could Leonard play this good without injury problems? The answer, is that Toronto took the process of limiting Kawhi's minutes to a greater degree. Throughout the regular season and players Kawhi's workload was anything but James Harden's workload down in Houston. He played 60 out of 82 games without playing on consecutive days. Alex McKechnie, Toronto's director science put this system which was referred to as "loud management" into play. With all of the positive results from this system, other teams will probably use it so their star players will get injured less. Other contributions from this system included Pascal Siakam who enjoyed a breakout year, and Danny Green who served as a serviceable sharpshooter and defender during the regular season and playoffs. In one year, a system that's not even an x's and o's related, is now going to be popular next year.
However, we also had our negatives for this year's finals. The Golden State Warriors lost their all stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Thompson's injury in game 6 was unfortunate because he was having an amazing performance and it was a freak play. No need to blame the doctors. But for Durant's injury, there's no excuse for Golden State's doctors. Back in game 5 of the semifinals vs the Rockets, Durant injured his calf. He missed the rest of the series, the conference finals, and the first 4 games of the finals. All of the talk of the Warriors being better without Durant wasn't to be heard of, as they fell behind 3 games to 1. They needed Durant. The problem, was that Durant had a unsuccessful practice where he tried to do stuff that he wasn't healthy enough to do. Nonetheless, he was cleared to play for game 5 having only played one practice since his failed one. For the first 21:49 of game 5, everything was going well for Durant who had scored 11 points in 12 minutes. Then disaster struck. Guarded by Serge Ibaka, Durant awkwardly landed and couldn't get up with his own power. Durant was out for the rest of the game, and it was confirmed the next day that he tore his ACL. Despite being able to do most of the basics without any pain, Durant was not clearly ready for all possible scenarios that could've worsen the pain and it showed. Even though the Knicks (my favorite team) still has a great shot at Durant, he'll likely not play all of next season. A devastating blow that easily could've been avoided.
This finals brought a unique mix of takeaways. I don't think we've ever a team succeed on a plan that's made to succeed short term, go great lengths towards limiting the workload of your star player, and a great player likely missing all of next seasons because the doctors allowed him to play when he wasn't ready. All of this equaled an interesting NBA Finals that will go down in NBA history.
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