OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 13: Kyle Lowry #7 and Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates his teams win over the Golden State Warriors in Game Six to win the 2019 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Random Thoughts: NBA Finals fallout from Raptors win, Warriors injuries, etc. 

We made it to another summer weekend, but not before the Toronto Raptors finished off an upset of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Now what? 

  • If you wondered what a six-game series of Ohio State-Florida 2007 BCS National Championship games would have looked like (with Ted Ginn Jr. hurt every game), you just saw it in the NBA Finals. The Raptors were a huge underdog but mostly dominated the series, albeit against a hobbled favorite. Regardless of who was available, one team brought a lot more juice, seemed better prepared and obviously deserved to win. Toronto didn’t just sneak by but made the Warriors look bad more often than not. 
  • I guess that makes Kawhi Leonard into Tim Tebow while Steph Curry is Troy Smith? 
  • I was prepared to say Golden State’s dynasty lost a fair amount of shine if they went down in five games while getting to seven without Kevin Durant at least showed some admirable grit (lacking early in series). Going down in six but without Klay Thompson in the fourth quarter kind of complicates things. 
  • Let’s break it down: The Warriors are 3-2 overall in the Finals, including 1-2 without Durant. They got by an injury-depleted Cleveland Cavaliers team in year one, lost to full-strength Cavs in year two, beat full-strength Cavs in year three overall and year one with Durant, swept a lesser Cavs team then lost to the Raptors with Durant sidelined most of the series. So their legend largely is built off two dominant regular seasons while being just so-so in the Finals, except in the NBA we’re not supposed to be impressed by much of anything that happens in the regular season, right? Something to chew on...
  • Hey, the banners stay up. The championships still count, but a dynasty for the ages? Not as impressive as we assumed they would be four years ago after they won the first one. 
  • The 2019 NBA Finals were shaping up to be a classic despite (because of?) the Durant injury... until Thompson got hurt again. Then it was just blah. Toronto won the title and no one can take that away from them, but it was an unsatisfactory end to a season no one seemed that interested in from the beginning. 
  • We don’t even get a “that’s why they play the games” feeling like when the Dallas Mavericks beat LeBron’s first Miami Heat team. Those weren’t the real Warriors so we still don’t know if they are beatable at or near full strength, but st least the rest of the season still felt like a waste of time. 
  • So anyway can we just do away with super teams in the NBA? And injuries. Yes. Let’s ban both and see what happens. 
  • Maybe I missed the run of columns about the existential crisis of injuries ruining the NBA playoffs almost every season now. Surely there is an SI cover story coming to blow the lid off this. 
  • It is pretty funny LeBron got three titles and three Finals MVPs out of eight years of ring chasing while Kawhi practically fell backwards into two of each — and took one from LeBron in the process. 
  • Of course that is not to say Leonard didn’t deserve what he’s won. I just find it amazing he ended up on one championship team kind of as an afterthought draft pick and then another via a shotgun marriage no one really expected to work or last. LeBron carefully choreographed his championship team in Miami and went only .500 in the Finals. His return to Cleveland was clearly more about the best basketball situation than anything else, and he won only one there, but of course there were mitigating factors (injuries, Durant joining the Warriors). 
  • Still feel very good about my prediction LeBron’s claim to be the GOAT will age poorly (though he’s safely No. 2 in my book), but the Warriors’ injuries might make it more likely he finds a way to get past half as many championships as Michael Jordan after all. 
  • Judging by the headlines, this was another great week to not like soccer. 
  • It would have been a better week to like baseball if we had a third Reds-Indians game, but MLB does not want us to have nice things. 
  • Watching a couple of games under the American League’s inferior rules left me thinking if you can’t put someone batting better than .249 at DH you should have to send the pitcher up instead. 
  • It’s funny watching Nick Senzel hit and thinking about older guys complaining about the shift. 
  • I like how they price donuts individually, like I’m ever gonna buy just one.  
  • Shopping for Legos for the first time in decades is eye-opening. 
  • If you think about it, gonna is a pretty hard-working word. Combines two words without needing an apostrophe. Impressive. 
  • Not sure there is a more overrated beer than Great Lakes Christmas Ale. How do they get $12 a sixer for that stuff? 
  • Once you put bacon bits and a hard-boiled egg on lettuce you shouldn’t even be able to call that a salad anymore. It’s more than next level. 
  • Can I invent the word Ohio Statriotic? I thought of it after seeing a gray portable storage crate with a helmet strip on it while driving through Appalachia. 
  • The Raptors even making the Finals without a top 10 pick offers proof of how the NBA has screwed up talent procurement and development. The pint-sized draft is all about potential and the more you have the less time you get to develop before people start writing you off. (Unless most teams are just terrible at scouting, which is not likely.) 
  • America’s pro basketball league continues to do a disservice to America’s young basketball players by keeping them out of the top level for a year out of high school but still welcoming in 19-year-olds who are barely less of a project then force feeding the highest-rated of them into that level whether they are ready or not. They often aren’t, and usually having to do it on a bad team certainly doesn’t help. 
  • It’s really strange: First round picks are guaranteed a roster spot and little else while everyone else is left to scramble for few spots in the one minor league or must go overseas. Many of those guys beating the odds and carving out careers in the NBA is great, but what about the top prospects who get lost along the way? I just think we could be doing this a lot better. 
  • Meanwhile baseball (though it has serious compensation issues, especially at the lower levels) provides developmental spots for thousands of players throughout five levels and lets them be eligible for the draft multiple times so they at least have better choices when it comes to deciding when to make the jump. Hockey still does it best with two levels of minor leagues and the option of staying in college or juniors as long as they need to even after being drafted. The NFL needs to expand its rosters during the season or develop a minor league (or both) but is still ahead of the NBA in terms of how guys actually get into the league since the offseason rosters provide some room to keep some developmental players in the fold. 
  • Meanwhile, I was struck by the name recognition I had while reading a WNBA season preview. I don’t follow the league closely but had heard of basically every player who was mentioned. Guess that says a lot about the value of the platform of college basketball. 
  • I don’t know if young folks appreciate fully how much the ascendance of bacon and peanut butter has changed our society for the better in the past 15 or so years.

“Random Thoughts” is a semi-regular feature here at the blog. While most of our other coverage is concentrated on news and analysis, this is a place to share opinions and have some fun. Have your own thoughts? Send them along to marcus.hartman@coxin.com or find us on Twitter or Facebook.

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About the Author

Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman
Marcus Hartman has been a digital sports columnist and reporter at Cox Media Group Ohio since 2016. 
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