The Finals are upon us, and after a pair of seven-game series that at one point appeared set to yield two new championship contenders, we're left with yet another rematch -- the fourth consecutive -- between the Warriors and Cavaliers.
Rotations could be tighter than ever in the Finals, so identifying value plays that will see appreciable minutes can be especially challenging. However, given the current makeup and injury situations for both teams, there are some viable candidates whose skill sets line up well against some of the vulnerabilities of the opposing squad. Let's dive in:
Cleveland (4) vs. Golden State (2)
Regular season series results: Golden State 2, Cleveland 0
Notable Warriors metrics/areas to exploit: 47.0 points in the paint allowed per game; Sixth-fastest pace of play (102.5 possessions per game)
All three players should be priced very reasonably throughout the series, and the value of each would go up exponentially for every game that Kevin Love (concussion) potentially misses. Even if Love is ready to go for Thursday's Game 1, the Green-Nance-Thompson trio has the ability to exploit the Warriors' vulnerability in the paint.
Green logged almost half (48.9 percent) of his scoring in that area of the floor during the regular season, and he averaged 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in Games 6 and 7 against the Celtics while filling in for Love. Nance and Thompson posted 71.2 percent and 82.7 percent of their scoring in the paint, respectively, during the 2017-18 campaign. LeBron James will need all the help he can get to try and overcome a Warriors team that will push the pace significantly more than the Celtics did in the Conference Finals, and all three players have the ability to boost their production with the extra possessions they should see whenever they're on the floor.
Notable Cavaliers metrics/areas to exploit: 46.8 points in the paint allowed per game, including 48.3 on the road; seventh-highest offensive efficiency rating allowed to power forwards during regular season (25.6); fourth-most fantasy points (42.9) allowed to power forwards during regular season on FanDuel; third-most fantasy points (61.1) allowed to power forwards during regular season on DraftKings.
Looney was a suggested value play during the Conference Finals, as well, and he actually ended up running with the first unit for much of the series as part of the domino effect of Andre Iguodala's knee injury. While he didn't exactly exploit that opportunity – scoring no more than four points in any game – he continued to provide solid contributions on the boards (5.0 rebounds per game against the Rockets).
With Draymond Green now ailing with a sprained ankle and Iguodala's status still very much up in the air ahead of Game 1, Looney should again be in line for increased playing time. Meanwhile, Bell also saw double-digit minutes in each of the last five games against the Rockets and was serviceable on the glass. Moreover, both Looney (76.4 percent) and Bell (80.9 percent) logged the overwhelming majority of their scoring in the paint this season, leaving them poised to take advantage of the Cavaliers' vulnerability to power forwards in that area of the floor. Love is by no means a great interior defender, but if he misses any time, the Cavs will be left extremely thin up front.
One more note: If Green is forced to miss any time, which seems rather unlikely, head coach Steve Kerr could also opt to deploy veteran David West more often than he did against the Rockets, especially given West's considerable postseason experience. Therefore, it would be prudent to keep a close eye on any news that hints at such a development, as West would also be an appealing value play if he were to steal some minutes from either Looney or Bell in the frontcourt rotation.