The NBA Finals could not be a more intriguing match-up in my opinion. During the regular season, both the Golden State Warriors and (in the second half of the season) the Cleveland Cavaliers were high powered offensive teams that were capable of putting on the clamps defensively as well. A possible finals match-up seemed like basketball heaven, with their lone game with full lineups living up to the hype in the regular season:
With the injury to Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been forced to adapt on the fly. They are no longer a basketball symphony, rather a boxer who just keeps feeding body shots and defending, just hoping to hang around and capitalize at the end of the fight. It's a style that has proven tremendously successful in the postseason and one that can be epitomized by their forward Tristan Thompson. The gritty big man that can guard multiple positions and buy extra possessions for his team. But unlike in previous rounds, Thompson won't be going up against another traditional big man. Rather, it'll be another unique big that is also fighting for a contract this summer.
Green is a versatile big man that has shown throughout the playoffs that he can guard players with a considerable edge in size like Anthony Davis or Marc Gasol. At six foot seven, he is also capable of defending wing players if that's where he is needed and will likely see a ton of time defensively on LeBron James. But when the Cavs go big, the Warriors will be stuck in a difficult position. While Green's abilities defensively would be best used on James, that leaves his equally mobile and scrappy counterpart Tristan Thompson covered by a wing player, where he is certain to bring havoc on the boards.
The flip-side to this of course is on the offensive side of the floor. Green possesses a skill-set that Thompson hasn't had to contend with much in the playoffs. While Paul Millsap possessed some of the same abilities to stretch the floor as Green, he didn't have the same vision as a passer and is not nearly as mobile. He also plays more of an inside-out game, whereas Green will likely play outside more. This negates Thompson's height advantage and lures part of Cleveland's rim protection out of the paint.
As has been the case all playoffs, Thompson's rebounding may prove to be one of the best defenses for the Cavaliers. Throughout the season Green has become more and more comfortable securing a defensive rebound and starting the fast-break himself. With a legion of shooters surrounding him as well as his own size and speed, it's a dangerous weapon to contend with. If Thompson can not only secure offensive rebounds for the Cavs, but keep Green off of the defensive glass it may give the Cavs a better chance to keep the Dubs out of transition and play the style that's generated so much success in the playoffs.
While the Cavs will likely go small when Andrew Bogut is out of the game, it's the minutes where Thompson and Green are both playing at the four that will fascinate me the most. Both players are absolutely essential to their teams success and both are inline to get paid this summer. Whichever comes out on top may go a long way towards determining which team is holding the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the series.