I agree with your assessment completely. Having said that, there is a caveat.
I’ve noticed over the years that coaches and FO’s fall in love with non-star opposing players who have career games against their team, or even mediocre players they have coached before:
Steve Blake had 14 assists in the first quarter of a game against the Clippers one year, and they signed him the next year.
Doc Rivers kept signing Celtics castoffs and corpses (Austin Rivers, Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Paul Pierce) hoping to recapture the magic of his one title in Boston.
I think the same kind of mind set was at work in Cleveland. They are frantically searching for ways to beat Golden State, and they looked at how well Boston had done against Golden State over the last two years.
Now look at Jae Crowder’s two games against Golden State.
Two seasons ago, Crowder was 3 for 6 from beyond the arc and filled the stat sheet (15–5–3, with 1 steal and 2 blocks) in a double overtime loss to the Warriors.
In March of this past season, playing on the road at Oracle Arena, Crowder hit two 4th quarters three-point shots, got a rebound, an assist, and guarded either Durant or Thompson, helping Boston go on a 13–3 run that won the game.
Regardless of whether Boston fans like Bill Simmons are terrified of the irrationally overconfident Crowder jacking up bad threes, he’s good when he gets a wide open corner three. And that basically sums up the Cleveland offense: let Lebron go iso and either get to the rim or find the open guy for the corner three-point shot. If Crowder plays his role properly, he could help Cleveland tremendously.
Looking ahead to the next Cavs-Warriors Finals, getting Crowder may turn out to be more important than getting IT. I know it sounds crazy, but think about how it changes the dynamics for Cleveland.
While no one can stop Durant, Crowder allows Lebron to rest on defense for the entire game (unless he chooses to guard Durant during the final couple of possessions). Lebron would either guard Green or Igoudala, and neither of them will physically tax Lebron the way Durant did in this year’s Finals.
That means the Cavs could field a great defensive team (Lebron-Crowder-Smith-Shumpert-Thompson), play super physical and at a snail’s pace, allowing them to stay close until the last five minutes. At that point, they bring in IT and let Lebron go 1-on-1, with three good 3-point shooters (Crowder, IT and JR Smith) waiting in the wings, and one guy to crash the offensive glass.
I’m not saying this will beat the Warriors, but nobody is going to beat the Warriors by playing better offense than them. The only way to do it is to beat them up and hope Golden State’s shooters get heavy legs and lose their rhythm.
In addition, I think the Celtics may regret using the Brooklyn pick on Irving, instead of getting Paul George or Jimmy Butler when they had the chance.
Kyrie Irving is a great offensive player, but prior to his impossibly good Finals games, he was never regarded as a great clutch player. You wanted to him to go 1-on-1 at the end of every possession because of the way it destroyed the rhythm of his teammates and because he was so good he would take low percentage shots (a la Kobe). If he hadn’t hit that pull up three to win the Finals, the entire discussion of his being a great closer would not even exist. Without Lebron, let’s see how he does when teams double him and he forces up bad shots anyway.
Boston is a complete unknown at this time, with only four players remaining from last year’s overachieving team (worst #1 seed in history, down 2–0 to Chicago and probably dead without the Rondo injury, came back twice from huge deficits against Washington, then saved by Kelly Olynyk’s miracle performance in game 7).
Even if Irving leads Boston to the NBA Finals, they still have no chance to beat Golden State, while Cleveland might be good enough to retain Lebron and then get a great pick from another bad Brooklyn team led by (no D) Angelo Russell.