Weighing in on matchup of NBA on ESPN/ESPN’s all-time Cavs/GSW 5’s

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images /

The NBA on ESPN/ESPN has capitalized on the nostalgia kick of basketball fans, and here, I decided I’d weigh in on how a series between their all-time Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors’ starting fives would go.

With basketball not officially back yet, even while it is reportedly likely the league will have some sort of resumption at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, it’s understandable for fans to look back/to what-if scenarios. It’s also reportedly uncertain if non-playoff teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers will be participating in some sort of season resumption, making that even more so the case.

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports on Sunday, he’s heard “rumblings” of non-playoff teams not eventually participating if regular season games are to be played before playoffs, too.

From there, though, on Monday morning on ESPN’s Get Up, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said there’s a “really good chance” there’s no more regular season and that there would be a 16-team playoff, as h/t Chris Grenham of Forbes. Grenham also said how Windhorst alluded to a 1-16 seeding playoff is being left open and which would have to come an “owner vote.”

Although, it’s not exactly certain how a potential resumption following the NBA’s novel coronavirus-induced hiatus will for sure play out, though, and given that, I decided to weigh in on how a series between two rivals would go.

The NBA on ESPN/ESPN tweeted for fans to consider teams’ all-time starting fives against one another’s recently. Factoring in that, I decided to look at an iconic rival for the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the Golden State Warriors, and the result if both teams put out historic starting fives in a series.

The Warriors’ all-time starting five was mainly seen in the 2017-2019 NBA Finals. ESPN listed the Warriors’ starting five as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt joins the group as a legend and a five-plus year member of the then-Philadelphia Warriors and then-San Francisco Warriors.

We know exactly what this lineup could do. Golden State four grabbed two titles in three years in times with Durant, and last year, they were almost entirely without Durant against the Toronto Raptors due to an Achilles rupture. Golden State was without Klay Thompson in Game 6 due to a torn ACL, too, and when healthy, the recent Dubs were virtually unstoppable when they had Durant.

Meanwhile, Wilt fills a role at center that Golden State leaned on at times with Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli. The group has seven MVP’s and five titles between them. This is a starting five that would impress any basketball fan, obviously, in all-time circles.

The Cavs reach more into the 90’s for their starting five from ESPN’s perspective. Everyone could guess Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were in the starting five, and they are joined by three players who have their jerseys in the Cavs’ rafters. Mark Price, Irving, James, Larry Nance and Brad Daugherty fill out an equally impressive five.

Kyrie and LeBron are Cleveland’s championship faces. The duo ended a championship drought with incredible highlights and elite seasons, and in that 2016 3-1 comeback over Golden State, James led all teams in points, assists, rebounds, steals and blocks.

Price, Nance and Daugherty also made regular playoff runs while earning accolades of their own in the early 90’s. All-Star appearances, All-NBA teams, and basketball accomplishments surround the group.

Now, we’ll dive into how this hypothetical matchup between NBA on ESPN/ESPN’s all-time Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting five and their all-time Warriors’ starting five would go.

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The guard matchup holds four names with unique skills. The Splash Brothers seemed unstoppable from 2015-2018. Curry, an all-time shooter, is again paired with Thompson, an elite three-and-D player. Irving would still handle the ball for the Cavaliers, and Price’s shooting ability shouldn’t be lost with the point guard label.

Kyrie would still have the ability to drive, slash and pull up on any team, even in this all-time hypothetical sense.

Price even shot 48.6 percent from three in 1987-88 and 40.2 percent for his career, per Basketball Reference, and would be an upgrade over J.R. Smith as an Irving backcourt partner, who lacked consistency at times. Of course, Ron Harper was not included in this starting five from ESPN, either.

Unfortunately, while Irving and Price show incredible duo potential, the Splash Brothers seem to hone more talent at their positions.

The forwards can steal the show in a potential matchup, though. LeBron James and Durant are all-time talents at small forward and have a mini rivalry of their own. At the 4, Green had a stretch of being a top defensive player, but Larry Nance holds great value in all this.

Kevin Love never played great defense and disappeared at times on offense versus Golden State. Highs of 17 points, injuries, and lack of switchable defensive ability left Cavs fans wanting more against Golden State. Conversely, Nance would offer impressive scoring and defense the Cavs fans would drool over.

We know well what LeBron and Durant’s offenses look like, but adding a three-time All-Defensive player who matches Tristan Thompson’s rebounds would change everything. Nance doesn’t seem like a deal breaker but would give the Cavs energy and athleticism on both ends of floor.

The center matchup holds flaws, however. Chamberlain is a legend, with ridiculously high scoring and rebounding seasons, but he was not a shooter and this matchup would be much different for him. Brad Daugherty lived up to #1 pick potential and played well in an injury-shortened career. He competed well against top centers and kept himself among top names.

Despite talent at center, I believe both teams would prefer other names in their lineup. The Warriors thrive in a small lineup. I think Wilt slows the Warriors’ offense down immensely. Curry, Thompson, and Durant won’t give the ball up to watch Wilt work in the post. The Warriors would probably prefer Andre Iguodala in the mix, who always meshed well in Golden State.

For the Cavs, Daugherty has impressive passing for their offense with top scoring potential. I still think the Cleveland Cavaliers would prefer Thompson’s fit and mobility more at the position, though. In a make-or-break situation, the centers have a better chance at breaking their teams.

Overall the matchup may already be answered. LeBron couldn’t beat Golden State with Durant both tries, and the first time even with Irving. The general disapproval of the Warriors signing Durant is evidence of the team’s dominance.

This five gives the Cavs more talent and a different matchup, but another elite piece is still missing.

Next. Weighing in on NBA on ESPN's all-time Cavs/Raptors' 5's debate. dark

ESPN’s Cavs’ starting five would most likely lose in six to its’ Warriors’ starting five.