SUPERSTARS Lebron James and Stephen Curry are currently leading the all-star voting in their respective conferences, east and west.
And they are preparing to lead their respective Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors against each other in this weekend’s most anticipated clash.
It’s the superstar four time NBA MVP many call the best in the league versus the skinny point guard who torches opponents at will and serves it up on a platter for his team mates.
The Warriors boast an NBA best 27-5 record, and have only lost once on their home floor Oracle Arena, which has some of the rowdiest fans in the league.
The Cavs, after landing Lebron James from the Miami Heat and stretch four Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves to team up with young gun point guard Kyrie Irving, were the bookies’ favourite to win the title.
But it hasn’t worked out.
They’ve coughed and spluttered to a 19-16 record and were this week embarrassingly defeated by the league’s laughing stock, the now 5-28 Philadelphia 76ers.
Admittedly, it was without Lebron, and the Cavs, in a bid to improve, have pulled the trigger on a trade that brings streaky New York Knicks shooter JR Smith and defensive wing man Iman Shumpert to Ohio.
They shipped out Dion Waiters to the Oklahoma City Thunder (The Knicks got a bunch of non guaranteed contracts in a cap clearance) after the young shooting guard claimed he was better than Irving and whined when he was told by coach David Blatt he needed to become a spot up shooter.
He ended up on the contending Thunder and, while we at BettingPlanet.com can’t see him being more than a spot up shooter in a system that involves Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, we do wish him luck.
The Warriors are the truth.
They boast the number two offence in the league, dropping 108.2 points per game and have the 10th best defence, allowing just 98.2 points per outing – They were in the top three before giant defensive Australian centre Andrew Bogut’s injury and he is reportedly a chance to return on the weekend.
Do it all Curry is obviously the talisman, dropping 23 points per game to go with 7.8 dimes, 5.2 boards and a tick over two steals.
He sets the tone and makes it rain from deep.
But his partner in crime, fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, might be the side’s most important player.
When he is on, they’re almost unbeatable.
Thompson has made 90 treys, good enough for fifth in the league and four behind Curry. That’s 184 threes between them in just 32 games. Plenty of back court firepower for the Cavs to deal with there.
When you look deeper at Thompson’s overall game, his ability as a long and skilled wing defender is both under rated and a key to the Warriors’ brilliant start.
He teams with Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to form one of the toughest defensive units in the league.
On the Cavs side of things, not enough movement, lack of bench depth, a reliance on James and Irving to do almost all of the work and the under utilised talents of gun power forward Love have all contributed to their mire.
They’re middling in both offence (17th 100.6 ppg) and defence (15th 99.3).
That won’t cut it against the Warriors on their home floor.
James is still putting up 25-7-5, but is he working hard enough? Some say no.
Love has hovered around the 25 ppg mark in recent years, but he is down to 17.2 ppg and a tick over 10 boards – dare we say Chris Bosh-esque numbers from Miami’s Big Three days.
And, while Irving’s usage is high, he’s averaging just five dimes, despite the talented men surrounding him.
Fundamental problems with no quick solution.
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Result: Golden State Warriors win
The Warriors have a solid record against teams led by Lebron. They always tended to knock him over in the Heat’s dynasty days and we can’t see anything changing here.
The Cavs certainly have the offensive weaponry to match it with the Warriors, but they simply don’t have the big, defensive-minded centre that can protect the rim and clean the glass.
James will have his hands full up against Green and Iguodala, but he should get his, while Thompson will probably spend time on Irving to give Curry a break.
Despite the additions of Shumpert, the Cavs don’t have that defensive versatility, and we expect the Warriors, given the two teams’ recent form, to record a solid victory.
- Memphis Grizzlies to defeat New Orleans Pelicans
- Oklahoma City Thunder to defeat Utah Jazz
- Milwaukee Bucks to beat Minnesota Timberwolves
- Golden State Warriors to defeat Cleveland Cavaliers
We’ve spoken about why we think the Warriors will knock over the Cavaliers above, so we’ll throw them into the mix as one part of a four leg parlay for the day’s action.
The 25-9 Memphis Grizzlies are third in the standings and, despite hitting the road, should be too strong for the middling New Orleans Pelicans.
The Grizz are so well-balanced, with stars at almost every position, led by beastly centre Marc Gasol, who is in career best form, point guard Mike Conley and burly Zach Randolph at the four. They choke teams and while the Pelicans (17-17) feature one of the best players in the league, third year star Anthony Davis, and some handy support players in Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson, for some reason, they just haven’t quite been able to put it all together yet.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (17-18) were absolutely thumped by the Warriors this week, but you can expect this battle to be a much easier task against the Utah Jazz (12-23). Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the top 10 players in the league and they’ve just added a handy scorer in Waiters, from the Cavs.
It gives a better feel to their starting five and they should have no trouble accounting for the injury hit Jazz, who are starting two Australians in Dante Exum and Joe Ingles, with Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Enes Kanter all out.
The surprising Milwaukee Bucks (18-18) have already won more games than they did last season and should have no trouble disposing of the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves on their home floor.
The Bucks have uncovered a gem in point guard Brandon Knight, who orchestrates everything they do, and, despite losing Rookie of the Year hopeful Jabari Parker for the season, have been able to fill the gap with guys like giant swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo, OJ Mayo and the unheralded Khris Middleton.
The Wolves haven’t had a whole lot to smile about, with franchise star Love shipped out and star point guard Ricky Rubio (wrecked ankle) and scoring two guard Kevin Martin (broken wrist) still on the injury list. Big man Gorgui Dieng has beasted against the weaker teams and the form of young stars Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad has been promising, but this is a side looking three to five years ahead.