Golden State of Domination: Warriors win second straight title, sweep Cavaliers in NBA Finals

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CLEVELAND – The brightest dreams of the Bay Area and the darkest nightmares of everywhere else – especially here – have come to fruition.

The Warriors, already great then supercharged by Kevin Durant, blazed through the field to win their second straight championship and third in four years.

The 2018 title came with a sweep of the Cavaliers, capped by a 108-85 win in Game 4 Friday. It was the first sweep in the NBA Finals since 2007, when the Cavs lost to the Spurs.

Back then, LeBron James was about to start a three-year contract extension he signed the prior year. This summer, LeBron James holds a player option he could use to leave Cleveland – and many expect him to.

A couple days ago, LeBron reflected on leaving the Cavaliers in 2010 because they weren’t good enough. These historically great Warriors and Cleveland’s inept supporting cast have left LeBron looking spent. Can the Cavs get good enough quickly enough to convince LeBron to stay?

They aren’t close.

After Golden State won a competitive six-game Finals in 2015 and the Cavaliers made a historic comeback in a seven-game Finals in 2016, the third and fourth matchups between these teams have been barely competitive. Since signing Durant, the Warriors have dominated – especially on the biggest stage.

The combination of Golden State’s record (8-1) and point difference (+94) is unmatched over consecutive Finals.

Only the 2001-2002 Lakers and 1989-90 Pistons equal the record:

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And only a couple versions of the old-school Celtics top the point difference:

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Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson now each have three rings – a significant line in their resumés when it comes to all-time rankings. Curry, with his two MVPs, could land quite high on those lists already. He put his Game 3 dud behind him and enters the discussion coming off a 37-point Game .

Curry (30), Durant (29), Thompson (28) and Green (28) are still young enough to keep the window open for several more years.

The Warriors have now reached four straight Finals and won three of them – a feat matched by only Magic Johnson’s Lakers (1985-88 with the Celtics winning in 1986) and Bill Russell’s Celtics (1957-66 with the St. Louis Hawks winning in 1958).

Where does this end?

Four in five? Five in six? Six in seven?

For these Warriors, it’s easy to let imagination run wild.

For the Cavs, this could be the end of the road. If so, it was a memorable four years with LeBron back. Cleveland will always have 2016 and the unprecedented comeback from down 3-1 in the Finals.

But Golden State has the present and an inside track on owning the future.

What will LeBron do about it? His free-agency decision will shape the rest of a league that has tried in vain to keep up with these Warriors or just surrendered to them.

Upending Golden State’s dynasty won’t be easy. LeBron knows that as well as anyone.

Nobody has found the answer yet. Any hope to starts with him.

Atlanta Hawks reportedly trade two second round picks for cash

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The Atlanta Hawks came into this year’s NBA Draft with six picks: No. 8 and No. 10 in the lottery, No. 17 (acquired recently as part of the Allen Crabbe/Taurean Prince trade), plus three second rounders (35, 41, 44). While the Hawks are a young team looking for players to develop on the Trae Young and John Collins timeline, they were never going to use all six of those picks for players they wanted.

So they have sold off two of those picks for cash.

First, the No. 44 pick to the Miami Heat, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Now the No. 41 has been traded to Golden State, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Players picked in the 41-44 range in recent drafts include Pat Connaughton, Tyler Dorsey, Damyean Dotson, and Bruce Brown. Some guys there never stick or make a roster, but sometimes teams can hit on a role player in that range.

Atlanta has been active trying to package a couple of their first-round picks to move up in the draft, something that could come together on a very active draft night. This is shaping up to be one of the most trade-heavy, chaotic drafts in years and Atlanta could be right in the middle of it.

Report: Boston trying to trade Aron Baynes, something good for both sides

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Just a little over a week ago, Aron Baynes opted into the final year of his contract with the Celtics, worth $5.4 million. He did so in part because he believed himself and Al Horford would split time at the five on a team contending in the East.

Horford is all but gone, likely following Kyrie Irving out the door in Boston. Anthony Davis isn’t coming (obviously). Title contention next season appears off the table for the Celtics.

The Celtics are now reportedly looking for potential trades for the Baynes, the defensive-minded big man, something Adrian Wojnarowski reported. Baynes is reportedly good with the move.

If you want to take that a step further, if Boston trades Baynes into cap space — meaning the Celtics don’t take a player and salary back, just a pick — then renounces all its free agents, they could have enough money to sign a 7-9 year max player, such as Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler, something noted by Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. Not the Celtics will go that route, they probably can’t land one of those guys at this point, but it’s an option.

With Danny Ainge’s best-laid plans in tatters (pairing Irving and Davis), the Celtics are looking to regroup. They still have a good team with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward (who is probably better next season, two years removed from his injury), Marcus Smart, and others. With player development and shrewd moves to get an elite player or two, they can return to contention in a couple of years. How exactly that comes together remains to be seen, but it is possible. It just requires patience.

Aron Baynes isn’t going to be sticking around to see that.

Report: Lakers reportedly never asked Anthony Davis about waiving trade kicker

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The Lakers reportedly didn’t address the trade date with the Pelicans before agreeing to deal for Anthony Davis. That oversight cost the Lakers leverage in negotiating parameters that’d open max cap space.

So, the Lakers are scrambling now.

Different proposals for revising the deal include Davis waiving his $4,063,953 trade bonus. At last check, he intended to receive the full the amount, though maybe he’s willing to leave money on the table to help his new team.

But the Lakers apparently haven’t even asked him yet.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

The Lakers could have asked Davis to waive the kicker as part of the deal. Per league sources, they never broached it.

To give the Lakers (far too much) benefit of the doubt, maybe they’re waiting to see which free agents they can attract before asking Davis about the trade bonus. The Lakers might think they have a better chance of getting Davis to waive the bonus if they can present a compelling plan of how the extra money would be used.

More likely, it seems Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka just isn’t covering all the bases he should.

There are still ways for the Lakers open max cap space and get Davis more, if not all, of his bonus. Essentially, the Lakers must send out more money in the trade so they can take in more money, including Davis’ trade bonus. They could guarantee more of Jemerrio Jones‘ salary and/or sign-and-trade Alex Caruso in a revised version of the deal.

But Jones and Caruso would have negative value in those scenarios. So, the Lakers would have to attach sweeteners to whichever team took them.

That might be a justifiable cost of forming a team with LeBron James, Davis and a third star. It’s also a cost that should have been more thoughtfully considered before agreeing to terms with New Orleans.

To get under luxury tax, Thunder reportedly would trade Steven Adams, Andre Roberson, No. 21 pick

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As you read this, without their roster completely filled up yet, the Oklahoma City Thunder are more than $6 million over next season’s luxury tax line of $132 million. That’s just the guaranteed money. By the time you factor in non-guarantees and the cost of the No. 21 pick, the team will be more than $19 million into the luxury tax.

That price may be a little steep for Thunder ownership, according to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated.

It would be impossible for the Thunder to avoid the luxury tax without doing serious damage to their chances to chase a ring next season — and in a Western Conference that doesn’t have a dominant Golden State team on top, the Thunder believe they have a shot. This is likely more about reducing the tax hit than avoiding it.

The Thunder will pay $38.5 million next season to Russell Westbrook and $33 million to Paul George, and obviously those two are untouchable.

Adams will make $25.8 million next season and $27.5 million the one after that, however, trading him would do serious damage to OKC’s fourth-ranked defense last season. Adams is an integral part of the Thunder identity on and off the court, and trading him is highly unlikely. Dennis Schroeder will make $15.5 million each of the next two seasons, and he provided a lot of value for the Thunder off the bench.

Andre Roberson seems a more likely candidate. He missed all of last season due to a ruptured left patellar tendon (although they did miss him(. He’s set to make $10.7 million and if a team can be convinced the defensive specialist is back and healthy there would be teams interested. The challenge for the Thunder is constructing a trade that does not bring back salary.

Nothing may happen around the draft, but keep an eye on Thunder this summer as they try to save a little cash without damaging their playoff dreams.