LeBron James is one of those rare NBA stars – Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were two others – that no matter who is on a basketball floor with him, he will make them better players.
James could pull four athletic-looking types out of the seats at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and be at least competitive with some NBA teams.
But with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in street clothes because of season-ending injuries, what James is trying to accomplish with a bunch of ragtag leftovers is almost impossible – beating the Golden State Warriors with what could be one of the worst starting lineups in NBA Finals history.
Outside of James, the pound-for-pound best basketball player in the world, the Cavaliers’ starting lineup in the Finals has consisted of:
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▪ Tristan Thompson, a former No. 4 overall pick out of Texas in 2011, averaged 8.5 points this season. His inability to make free throws hurts the Cavaliers late in tight games.
▪ Timofey Mozgov, an unathletic 7-foot-1 center, averaged 7.0 points and 5.2 rebounds over five seasons, mostly with the Denver Nuggets. This season, he averaged 9.7 points.
▪ Iman Shumpert, the small forward with the 1990s Kid ’n Play, high-top fade haircut, averaged 8.0 points this season between the Knicks and the Cavaliers.
▪ Matthew Dellavedova has to be the Rudy Ruettiger of the NBA. Undrafted out of Saint Mary’s in Moraga, “Delly” is fortunate to have a job in the NBA. Though he has limited talent, he’s become a household name in these Finals because of his tireless defensive hustle against Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, the NBA’s MVP.
But no matter how hard his teammates play, it became obvious in Game 4 that James can’t beat the Warriors alone.
Golden State has too much depth and too many weapons for just one man.
Victor Contreras, (916) 326-5527, firstname.lastname@example.org, @SacBeeVictor
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