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If you haven’t enjoyed the NBA Finals becoming a trilogy in consecutive years for the first time in league history, I’ve got bad news for you.

Odds are very good we’ll see a fourth version of Warriors-Cavs next June. Golden State is 1-to-4 to win the West at the Westgate SuperBook, while Cleveland is 1-to-3 to take the East. The Spurs, Rockets and Celtics loom as the top contenders to spoil another Finals meeting between the teams that have temporarily supplanted Boston-L.A. as the NBA premier rivalry, but with the first few days of free agency in the books, it can be argued the Warriors and Cavs will both be better in ‘17-’18.

Despite all the complaining, viewers made Game 2 the most-watched NBA Finals game since Michael Jordan won his last title in 1998 after the most famous push-off in league history, knocking down a jumper over Utah’s Bryon Russell. After the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead against Cleveland to tarnish their 73-win season, the addition of Kevin Durant into the mix turned many fans off by the look of Twitter and other forms of social media, but a glimpse at the Nielsen ratings suggests those criticisms added to the fanfare.

Love it or hate it, Warriors-Cavs is here to stay for at least one more go-round.

I called for Round 3 in this column space following Durant’s July 4 decision to leave Oklahoma City for Oakland, so you could’ve made yourself a bundle on futures considering we gave you both finalists and the series outcome before the season even began.

Although the offseason has been wild and player movement has further driven the league’s popularity upward, trumping what was admittedly a rather boring postseason, Golden State and Cleveland remain the teams everyone else has to chase.

Over a billion dollars in new contracts were agreed upon over the first few days of free agency and Cleveland even parted ways with GM David Griffin, but the collision course remains.

The Celtics were the teams that could’ve made the biggest dent by becoming a legitimate threat to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference, but GM Danny Ainge opted to hold on to his assets and didn’t make a play for Indiana’s Paul George. They’re hoping to land the top free agent available, Utah wing Gordon Hayward, but even his addition wouldn’t swing the balance.

We’ll see whether Dwyane Wade or Carmelo Anthony make their way to Cleveland, whose immediate future remains stunted by the fact they don’t have a GM in place. Chauncey Billups was offered the job by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, but opted to pass on the gig because of the uncertainty regarding LeBron James’ future.

This is where your silver lining comes in if you despise how predictable the league currently is and want to see new blood playing for a title, even if it’s old blood.

James, having already delivered a championship to Northeast Ohio, is free to do what he wants at the end of the coming season. If fans want to burn his jersey this time around, his legacy will endure considering he snapped the “Cleveland curse,” ending a 53-year drought without a title for the city.

He might stay and continue to entice friends to assemble, superteam-style. He might go be a part of something like that somewhere else, probably in a massive market like L.A. or New York. The world is his oyster, especially since Gilbert isn’t his favorite person in the world and the thought of continuing to work for him would certainly be placed in the “cons” list if he’s weighing reasons whether to stay or go and putting pen to paper.

LeBron’s run of consecutive NBA Finals should reach eight next summer, and he’ll be doing it in a Cavs uniform. Gilbert isn’t going to be happy about the idea he might walk for nothing once again, but can’t very well move him since he’s the best player on the planet and likely to lead another version of the team into a championship round.

Given the potential that both Wade and Anthony could accept a buyout and come join their good friend, not to mention Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, you can clean up on the Cavs getting back to another NBA Finals.

The Warriors should be there too, but their road will undoubtedly be more difficult.

Despite the fact they went 12-0 against Western Conference competition this past postseason and will return largely intact with better chemistry expected, the landscape around them has gotten tougher.

Houston added Chris Paul, weakening the Clippers but strengthening a team that should ascend to form a stronger No. 2 than the Spurs were this past season. San Antonio will obviously be back and hopes to have a healthy Kawhi Leonard in play, while George joining Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler arriving in Minnesota and Paul Millsap landing in Denver suggests the grind is going to be tougher, night in and night out.

By retaining Steph Curry, Durant, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Warriors will have their core back and should be even stronger considering how improved they looked over the season’s final months once the uncertainty over roles and meshing melted away. It won’t be easy, but Golden State has the look of a dynasty.

It’s great the rest of the conference is not viewing competing with the Warriors’ juggernaut an exercise in futility because it makes for a more interesting road to June. Once we arrive there in 11 months time, it’s hard to imagine we won’t see Golden State-Cleveland IV. As inevitable as that is, most will still watch, even if grudgingly. Hopefully you, having read this, will cash in again.


About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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