Barry: James is great, Warriors are better

The NBA Finals hype has been going on for days now. The main focus has been on LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry of the Warriors, and rightfully so. Without question, they are the key players for their respective teams.

But one player doesn't win a championship. Certainly, one great player can be a major factor in winning a title, but without substantial help from teammates, the trophy isn't a sure thing.

That's why I believe the Warriors will bring an NBA title to the Bay Area next week.

Most people are asking, “How can the Warriors stop LeBron?” Well, as LeBron said himself earlier this week, they can't. Great offensive players simply cannot be stopped. Trust me when I tell you that the greatest defender in the world will never shut down an elite offensive player. Realistically, if you can force that player to take more shots than he normally takes to get his points, you have done a great job defensively. To be successful, the Warriors defense must make James work hard to get the points that he is inevitably going to put up in the series.

So, the better question is, what can the Warriors do to make things more difficult for LeBron? I believe the best way to guard him is to overplay him and force him out beyond the 3-point line to receive the ball. Then back off, conceding the 3-point shot, an area in which he has struggled this postseason.

At times, that will be difficult to do because James controls the ball, quite often bringing it up court. In that case, once he gets in range of the arc, again, back off, concede the long-range shot and attempt to prevent him from driving to his right. The Dubs must make LeBron beat them from the perimeter. Or if he drives, they have to make him go left. Praying that he has an off night shooting might not be a bad idea, either.

While all eyes will be focused on LeBron and Kyrie Irving for Cleveland and Steph and Klay Thompson for Golden State, the outcome of the series could very well rest in the hands of lesser-known players for both sides. To have a chance to beat the Warriors, Cleveland will need to get outstanding play from Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, and especially J.R. Smith. Along with Irving, whose health may be a factor, Shumpert and Smith are primary 3-point threats.

For the Warriors to be successful, they will need a healthy Thompson, as well as continued outstanding play from Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes at the wing positions. Rebounding from Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli will also be critical considering that the Cavaliers have yet to lose a playoff game when they out-rebounded their opponent. That is a significant statistic, one that could be a factor since Cleveland's is the taller and much bigger of the two front lines.

The only way the Warriors could lose the best-of-seven series is if they turn the ball over too much or shoot poorly from beyond the arc. At the same time, if they play solid defense, which they did in the Western Conference clincher against the Houston Rockets, and if they do not have any unusually bad shooting performances, they can overcome those mistakes.

There is no doubt in my mind that, if both teams play their best basketball, the Warriors will win it all in five or six games. The greatness of James and Curry will make the Finals even more special.

Rick Barry played eight seasons for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.

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