The 2017 NBA finals that we all awaited and expected are here. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State warriors are ready to battle for the coveted Larry O'Brien trophy for a third consecutive year. It's time to predict who will emerge as the victor. However, it is first important to predict who will win the individual matchups. Both teams are loaded with talent, and both rosters have seen some noticeable upgrades. It will be a ruthless battle in every position; there is no doubt about that. Let's take a look at these matchups.

Irving vs Curry

While I do believe that Klay Thompson will mark Irving on many occasions, the clash of these super point guards will happen. Kyrie Irving, yet again, is shining in the playoffs. He loves the pressured moments. His 'mamba' mentality, which he has openly attributed in great part to Kobe Bryant's mentorship, has enabled him to clearly become Cleveland's most important player in the clutch moments. Stephen Curry is also having an outstanding playoff run. He looks like his old self and is ready for revenge.

Prediction: Curry wins the matchup. I believe he will use these finals to redeem himself from a disappointing performance in last year's finals. While both Irving and Curry will have trouble defending each other, I see the defensive effort taking a greater toll on Irving, for Steph can always rely on his 'stephortless' outside shooting.

J.R. Smith vs Klay Thompson

Sharpshooter J. R. Smith is always a threat and can never be left open. While Curry will probably defend him for many segments of the game, Klay Thompson will have to be sure not to lose sight of Smith. But if Smith is a sharpshooter, then Klay has the ability to become the most lethal shooter ever on any night.

His 60 points on 11 dribbles in a regular season game this year are proof enough. However, Klay has not been able to find his confidence in these playoffs, and the Warriors will absolutely need him to step up his game in the finals.

Prediction: Klay Thompson wins the matchup. J.R. Smith is inconsistent, and we all know of Klay's defensive attributes.

I believe that Klay will be an important factor in the finals, and when his offense clicks, so does his tight defense.

James vs Durant

No one has been able to stop LeBron James in the Eastern Conference. While it is also true that his oppositions have lacked the necessary defensive skills to at least attempt to do so, LeBron can only stop himself like he did in game 3 against the Boston Celtics. The hope is that we can see the awaited matchup between LeBron and Kevin Durant on both ends of the floor. If this is the case, both will have a lot on their plate. Durant is playing at a high level after being back from the injury he sustained in the 1st round of the playoffs. His ridiculous length and shooting capability are always tough to handle for any defense.

All bets are open.

Prediction: LeBron wins the matchup. While one can be wary of LeBron's ability to put his team on his back in the most pressured moments, his greatness cannot be compared to that of Durant's. There is no reason for James to not destroy Durant physically and mentally. I cannot see Durant's lean figure posing trouble on the defensive end for the bull that is LeBron.

Love vs Green

Kevin Love is more comfortable than ever in a Cavalier's uniform. While one might want him to not fall in love too much with shooting from the outside and rather post up more, he is proving he can play at an elite level for a long period of time. Awaiting him will be Golden State's Draymond Green, Golden State's alpha player.

Green is their most important player, as he is the glue that brings the group together on the defensive and offensive end. Whether he is making the right defensive coverage or setting up teammates to score, Green's presence and intensity seems to always give his team a better chance of winning.

Prediction: Green wins the matchup. You have to take Draymond in almost any matchup. He usually is a defensive nightmare for any opponent, and he will be just that for Kevin Love. Green will also have to handle LeBron in many moments of the game, but that is a different story. Green can make things difficult for LeBron in the post, however, if dragged to the perimeter, Green can do little against LeBron's speed as he drives to the rim.

Getting back to the matchup with Kevin Love, it is probable that Love will focus on stretching the floor in order to disable Green from clogging the paint, but if that's the case the Cavs' offensive rebounding numbers will drop. Draymond is a master at getting under your skin and making you rethink your gameplan, and Love is surely not known to thrive under pressure. One plus one equals two.

Tristan Thompson vs Pachulia

The most awaited matchup of all, Tristan Thompson against Zaza Pachulia, is finally here. No, seriously, this is probably the least flashy matchup, but it still holds great relevance. Rebounding will be key in the series, and these two big men will surely be held responsible in this department.

Their offensive game will not shine, so it will be up to them to make a difference by the doing the little things right.

Prediction: Thompson wins the matchup. Tristan is one of the league's best offensive rebounders, and he will surely try to exploit the Warriors' well-known rebounding deficiencies. In addition, he is a better rim protector than Zaza.

Cleveland bench vs Golden State bench

Prediction: The Warriors' bench wins the matchup. Cleveland's bench was not a big factor in the series against the Celtics. The starters usually wrapped up the games early on, and it was game over. But Cleveland's bench has usually not shined on its own, meaning, without the presence of James or Irving on the floor to make their lives easier.

Deron Williams will get limited minutes and won't be able to get into a rhythm, and players like Frye or Shumpert will need LeBron or Kyrie to assist them.

On the other hand, while not always effective, the Warriors' bench transmits more cohesion as a unit. Iguodala is always a factor to take into consideration, especially for his defense on LeBron. This is why we will see more of the 'death lineup' that has Iguodala instead of Pachulia in the lineup, moving Green to the center position, if that position still exists. McGee brings energy around the rim, David West is a poised veteran, and players like Livingston, McCaw, and Clark are always ready to shoot it. What is certain is that neither bench will be able to survive without the help of one or two starters. That being said, long live the NBA finals' matchups.