Kyrie Irving: Cavaliers Would've Beaten Warriors in NBA Finals If Healthy

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2015

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Kyrie Irving and Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt drink from the same water bottle.

Blatt made some waves at a business conference in Israel when he declared that the Cavaliers would win a title next season, per Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. Irving has now matched his aplomb.

While making an appearance on The Big Podcast with Shaquille O'Neal ahead of free agency, Irving was asked about his role in recruiting Kevin Love to stay. And within his response, he indicated that the Cavaliers could have upended the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals if not for a crippling onrush of injury bugs.

Here's what Irving said around the 35-minute mark:

I’m more or less the voice of reason. I’m always gonna be a straight shooter with everyone and give them my honest opinion. Obviously, we had a great thing in Cleveland. We dealt with everything together. I felt like we would have definitely won an NBA championship if everyone was healthy. But almost doesn’t count.

Shots fired!

Well, not really.

More like: Basic logic fired!

Love was forced to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery after, um, getting tangled up with Kelly Olynyk in Game 4 of the Cavaliers' first-round matchup with the Boston Celtics. Cleveland then lost Irving to a fractured left knee at the end of Game 1 in the Finals.

And still the Cavaliers managed to steal two games from an historically good Warriors squad. They were even in firm position to win Game 1 before missing a ton of shots down the stretch and letting the contest leak into overtime, where Irving's injury took place.

It's only natural, then, to attribute the Cavaliers' demise to their uncanny run of misfortune. They were able to hang tough with the Warriors sans Love and Irving. Ergo, if they had Love and Irving, they would have won.

Maybe.

After all, the Warriors wouldn't have just rolled over because the Cavaliers were healthy. They just wrapped up a championship campaign in which they tallied the third most combined wins of any team ever, per ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes:

Stephen Curry wouldn't have necessarily played any less like an MVP to close out the series because of Love or Irving. Andre Iguodala wouldn't have stopped trying to wreak havoc on the defensive end.

Draymond Green wouldn't have ceased doing Draymond Green things.

There's even a chance the Cavaliers would have suffered defensively with Irving and Love—two longtime liabilities on that end—in the fold. And it was defensive excellence that propelled the Cavaliers to victories in Games 2 and 3.

Sure, it's fair to question what would have happened if Irving and Love played. The Cavaliers would have been a better match for the Warriors at full strength.

But as far as declaring them favorites, that's a different story. As Matt Moore wrote for CBS Sports, so much more would have gone into determining the outcome:

The Irving and Love injuries were certainly disappointing for all basketball fans and a significant blow to Cleveland. Unfortunately for those that would want to boil down their impacts to simple narratives, the reality is far more complicated.

We know that the Cavaliers aren't as talented or as good of a basketball team without Irving and Love. As for what would have happened had they played? Like any hypothetical, it truly is unknowable.

Of course, there is one way to kind-of-sort-of glean insight into the unknowable: a rematch.

Both the Cavaliers and Warriors should look largely the same to begin next season. Better yet, both should still be considered the favorites in their respective conferences.

If all goes according to plan and both squads remain healthy, it's entirely possible, if not likely, that Cleveland and Golden State will run it back for a Finals rematch.

Only then would we have some semblance of an idea as to what could have happened.

We'll never know what would have happened in the NBA Finals if Love and Irving were healthy.
We'll never know what would have happened in the NBA Finals if Love and Irving were healthy.Brian Babineau/Getty Images

And yet, even then, it still won't be the same. The circumstances and rosters will be different, even if only slightly. The Warriors will have players with championship experience, and the Cavaliers' Big Three will be two full seasons into their experiment.

We can imagine, debate and flat-out argue, but we will never truly know what would have become of the 2015 NBA Finals if Irving and Love were healthy.