The NBA Finals finally begin tonight. Many players will play. Some will affect the series more than others. Here is every player on the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors ranked by how likely they are to affect the series.
27. Damian Jones
Like Festus Ezeli, he went to Vanderbilt. Unlike Festus Ezeli, he will not play in the Finals. Unless one team is up 30+ in the 4th quarter.
26. James Jones
James Jones is 36 years old and playing in his 7th straight NBA Finals. He did not step on the court in 2011. His highest point total in a Finals game is 11 in 2014. He scored 1 point in 20 total minutes in the ’16 Finals. His personality must be as great as his jumper.
25. James Michael McAdoo
He actually entered games that hadn’t been decided last year. Don’t expect a repeat of that.
24. Matt Barnes
A tough veteran on the Warriors who is most likely to start a fight in a blowout.
23. Dahntay Jones
A tough veteran on the Cavaliers who is most likely to start a fight in a blowout. He gets the nod over Barnes because he played 4+ crucial minutes in Game 6 of last year’s Finals, helping to save the game and series.
22. Patrick McCaw
If the Warriors sweep the Cavs and finish the postseason 16-0, they’ll have done it with Patrick McCaw starting 3 of those 16 games. If he starts any more this postseason, the Warriors will be in serious trouble.
21. Ian Clark
He’s the Warriors’ 5th leading scorer in the postseason.
20. David West
David West has been eliminated from the playoffs by LeBron James for 19 consecutive seasons. He who laughs last, right?
19. Shaun Livingston
He’s had one of the most interesting careers possible. Injury problems early have turned into durability late. He’s hung around the league as a guard who doesn’t (Not can’t. Doesn’t.) shoot 3’s in a league that does nothing but. Minutes will be short, but solid.
18. JaVale McGee
Imagine JaVale McGee playing in the NBA Finals. It’s going to happen. It’s not going to last long, but it’s going to happen.
17. Channing Frye
The last time a podcast host directly affected an NBA Finals game was in 2008 when Bill Simmons executed a flawless reverse-jinx that caused Kobe Bryant to go 7 of 22 from the field in Game 7.
15. Richard Jefferson
He played 26 minutes in Game 7 last year. He is trusted.
14. Kyle Korver
Korver has “struggled,” shooting just 41% from 3 this postseason. If he gets to show off his talents in this series LeBron might make James Jones retire so Kyle Korver can have his roster spot forever.
13. Deron Williams
He averaged 20 and 10 in 3 consecutive playoffs. That was before The Decision. Now he Korver and Jefferson will take turns as the veteran off the bench while Ty Lue tries to steal minutes for the stars.
12. Andre Iguodala
A Finals MVP, but how much does he have left in the tank? It doesn’t matter. He’ll have to play defense and make some open 3’s.
11. Iman Shumpert
How about the same thing Iguodala will be asked to do, but in a younger body with cooler hair?
10. Klay Thompson
The absolute most boring superstar. He will quietly provide some shooting when allowed. Hopefully he really cares about defense and winning because he’s not getting paid like a superstar and he’s only averaging 14.3 points this postseason.
9. J.R. Smith
He’s out there more than half the game. He’s had a down year with injuries, but he’s shooting the ball well in the postseason. A muted J.R. Smith is just no fun.
7. Zaza Pachulia
He will play about 10 minutes a game in this series and could do something dirty at any point.
6. Kevin Love
He’s shooting 48% from 3 during the postseason to go along with 10 rebounds a night. When was the last time he seemed involved for an entire game? I mean, besides the time he guarded the MVP on a crucial possession in a Game 7.
5. Stephen Curry
You know this guy won an MVP? Well, he’s actually having his best postseason from a scoring standpoint. He’s averaging a playoff career best of 28.6 points on 50% shooting from the field and 43% from deep.
4. Draymond Green
Draymond will be good as long as he doesn’t get himself suspended. He was amazing in Game 7 last year and good the rest of the time. He will be at the center of almost all the mental games in this series.
3. Kyrie Irving
He was injured in 2015. He made the game-winner in Game 7. He gets buckets. He can outplay Stephen Curry.
2. Kevin Durant
Has a chance to go head-to-head with LeBron in the NBA Finals. It didn’t work out so well last time even though KD averaged 30 in that series. This is why he joined the superteam. No excuses. Win like you’re supposed to or else.
1. LeBron James
He’s the best player alive. He will do everything in this series and if he does it well, there’s nothing the Warriors can do. The only thing he can’t do is change the way people compare him to Michael Jordan.