The NBA Championship is one of the most exciting events that takes place in sports every year, and the past three NBA Finals have been entertaining and fun to watch. The matchups in those series were highly competitive. The 2014 NBA Finals saw the San Antonio Spurs take on the Miami Heat. The 2015 and 2016 NBA Finals saw the Golden State Warriors face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in back to back years, and the high level of play in these championship series left basketball fans around the word highly satisfied. There were plenty of great players that made up these championship rosters.
Kevin Love, Draymond Green and Tony Parker are just a few NBA champions that played crucial roles in their team going all the way. A team cannot just have great players to win a title, they also have to know how to play together well as a team. Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers put together a team comprised of Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone in 2003-04, but could not win an NBA title because they just did not possess the team chemistry that the Spurs had in 2014, the Warriors had in 2015, or the Cavaliers had in 2016. A good starting five with good chemistry is a good ingredient in winning the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Let’s rank the starting five players of the last three NBA champions.
15 15. Tiago Splitter
Tiago Splitter was a member of the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs, and was part of a giant starting lineup. He and Tim Duncan made up a front court that had a lot of length and size, but Splitter was inept when it came to blocking shots. Despite being the team’s center he only managed to average half a block a game during the 2014 postseason. He lacked the ability to be an effective shot blocker, but his field goal percentage and shot selection helped his team avoid shooting themselves in the foot. Splitter converted on 61 percent of his field goals during the entirety of the 2014 NBA postseason. He also did not possess the drive to grab a lot of rebounds, and many people thought of him as being a soft player.
14 14. Andrew Bogut
13 13. Tristan Thompson
Tristan Thompson is a member of the 2016 champions, and his role on this team has not the most glamorous one. His responsibility on the Cavs' run to the championship was to grab as many rebounds as possible, block as many shots as possible, and hustle on every possession. Thompson seemed to enjoy this position that coach Tyronn Lue put him in, and he rewarded his coach by doing everything that was asked of him. His numbers did not shatter any records. The most impressive aspect of his postseason play was his rebounding statistics, and more specifically his offensive rebounding proficiency.
12 12. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes was a member of the 2015 Golden States Warriors, and although he was not one of the main contributors for his team, he still did everything coach Kerr asked of him during the 2015 NBA Finals. Andre Igoudala spent the most time having to defend LeBron James throughout the 2015 championship series. Barnes spent the second most time defending LeBron James, and did all he could to slow down the best player in the world. The length and athleticism of Barnes was what helped him play decent defense. He didn’t put nearly as many shots up compared to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but he still managed to score nearly 11 points a game during the 2015 NBA postseason.
11 11. J.R. Smith
10 10. Danny Green
9 9. Kevin Love
8 8. Tony Parker
7 7. Tim Duncan
6 6. Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson was a member of the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors, and was arguably the second best player on the team. Thompson and Steph Curry are a part of the duo known as the splash brothers. His reason for inclusion in this duo is because of his ability to make threes at a rapid fire pace. His scoring mostly comes from beyond the arc, and he does not typically drive to the basket much at all. During the 2015 NBA postseason he contributed 18 points per game for his team. There were games in which he was not much of a factor, but in other games he would score 20 or more points in one quarter. He did not do much outside of scoring the basketball.
5 5. Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving was a member of the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and hit what turned out to be the game winning shot to secure the NBA title. Irving has always been a flashy player who is speedy enough to get to the basket almost at will. The three pointer that was converted by Irving in the final minute of the game gave the Cavs the lead in the game for good. During the 2016 NBA playoffs he scored 25 points per game which was six points per game higher than his regular season average, and also gave up five assists per game in hope that his team would make it to the end.
4 4. Draymond Green
Draymond Green was and still is a member of the Golden State Warriors, and played a crucial role in delivering a championship to the Bay Area. He has a reputation around the association for being a dirty player. Some just look at him as a guy who plays hard, and does whatever his team needs him to do to help them win. There are a variety of ways in which he helped his team win the ultimate prize in 2015. He can score from anywhere on the court, and he proved that in the postseason in 2015 by scoring nearly 14 points per game.
3 3. Kawhi Leonard
2 2. Stephen Curry
1 1. LeBron James
LeBron James is a special player, and he came back to Cleveland and delivered them a championship in 2016, after the city had not won a major sports title in over 50 years. His determination throughout the 2016 NBA Finals helped the Cavaliers rally. LeBron put the team on his back, and he carried them all the way to a game seven after being down three games to one in the series. The blocked shot heard around the world that James had on Andre Igoudala was the turning point in the Cavs' Game 7 victory.
Impressively LeBron improved his numbers during this title run from the regular season, and this included grabbing around two more rebounds a game during the postseason. He was also able to score 26 a night and dish out almost eight assists every game. Deservedly he was awarded the 2016 NBA Finals MVP after leading his team to a historic title.
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