We're finally here, the NBA Finals.
The bizarre year that is 2020 gave us a bizarre season. The abnormal season turned out to give us all an entertaining postseason so far. I'll go as far as to say, the top two in the past decade, honestly.
Things are coming to an end and the last two teams standing are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. The finals matchup is filled with history, storylines, and great players.
The Los Angeles Lakers
Coming from the Western Conference are the Lakers. Before the season even started many people saw them reaching this point, so it's no real surprise they're still playing. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the Lakers, it's safe to say they are the best duo in the league today.
LeBron is 35 years old in his 17th season, and it's amazing to see him sustain his dominance for so long. Among the top finalist for the MVP, he looks like he hasn't lost a step. He's still the best player in the world and will be playing in his 10th NBA finals; his ninth in the past 10 years. Till this point, LeBron's postseason averages are 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 9 assists, and 1 block while shooting 54.7% from the field and 35% from the three. Just looking at those stats say LeBron's level of play hasn't dropped off. Maybe the most alarming thing is that LeBron has been pacing himself for most of the playoffs. This was evident in Game 5 of the Conference Finals in the closing minutes he just took over the game completely and went on to score 9 straight points. Each basket showing a higher level of composure. Each basket was a jump shot. Each basket signaling that "it's time., no more pacing."
Next to LeBron, we have Anthony Davis. The best big man in the league without debate. Offensively he is one of the most skilled. He's effective from the post, facing up, in the midrange, and on the three-point line. His offensive productivity is matched on defense; as a finalist for the Defensive Player of the Year. AD up until this point has been dominating the playoffs with all-time great stats to back up his top 5 player bid. Pairing one of the greatest passers of all-time in LeBron with a reliable big like AD who is averaging 29 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.2 steals is a scary sight for any defense. AD is entering the prime years of his career at the age of 26 and with LeBron on his team, his game is continuing to elevate even through these playoffs. The duo of LeBron and AD are peaking and we all know what happens when LeBron is hitting his peak before or in the finals.
Perhaps the most important factor in the Lakers championships hopes is the production their role players and bench gives them. That is always the story for teams that have duos or trios and most of LeBron's career. The Lakers' supporting cast is crucial to how this series plays out, and that can't be overlooked. Danny Green should be a concern, the man's jump shot is broken somehow. A whole starter averaging 8 points while shooting 35% from the field and 36% from three, it doesn't make sense. On the other end, we have Kyle Kuzma who's game is as sporadic as it gets. One minute he'll be hitting threes and cutting layups, the next you'll see him throwing up contested shots and air balls. The positive impact comes from the likes of second-year player Alex Caruso and veterans Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Rondo's approach of the game from a cerebral stand-point is matched by very few, and when he gets time to plan and learn a team's schemes, that's when he's at his best. That's why "Playoff Rondo is a thing. His ability to control the pace of the game and create for others will allow LeBron and AD to play off of the ball more. Dwight Howard is a three-time defensive player of the year and he has been showing why as of late. His defense and energy on the boards is a plus for the Lakers. KCP and Caruso are the 3 and D players that every contender needs. They aren't snipers but they are reliable. If KCP continues to shoot at the 42% clip rate from three things will be easier for the Lakers.
Representing the Eastern Conference, we have the Miami Heat. A team that not many expected to reach this point, myself included. They aren't as star-studded as the Laker's but the unity amongst the players and the leadership of Jimmy Butler has proved to be enough to get them here.
The Miami Heat is a first-class organization from top to bottom and this being their first finals appearance since 2014 when LeBron left is a testament to that. Any team that LeBron leaves is just left in ruins. That has been the case for the Cleveland Cavaliers both times he left them and Miami went through that the first three years post-LeBron. Pat Riley's dedication to producing a contender got them players such as Tyler Herro (through the draft), Duncan Robinson (undrafted), Kendrick Nunn (undrafted), Goran Dragic (trade), and Bam Adebayo (through the draft) to name a few.
With young players such as Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones, and Duncan Robinson the Heat are going into the finals with their future pretty much planned out. The shooting of Robinson and Herro has proven to be effective, as they gave every team they played problems. On the more experienced side, they have players such as Jimmy Butler who's leadership and faith in teammates launched them to contention. His ability to lead the Heat to wins without needing to put up crazy stats is a true testament to his leadership. Aside from Butler, there is Dragic is a crafty and composed veteran point guard, Jae Crowder gritty 3 and D veteran who has come up big these playoffs, and 2-time NBA champion Andre Iguodala.
While no one on the team is putting up insane numbers night in and night out, the Heat depend on the contribution of most if not all of their key players. Dragic leads their playoff scoring averaging 21 points, Butler follows up with 20 points of his own, Adebayo is pouring in 18.5 points, and Herro rounds it off with 16.5 points of his own. The ball movement and trust among the Heat players are the reason why they snook away with games these playoffs. Defensively, the Heat are solid and have players that can guard. Bam Adebayo was a second-team all-defensive team recipient, and players like Butler and Iguodala are known league-wide for their defensive prowess.
At the end of the day, the Miami Heat are playing with house money right now. They have nothing to lose. They win it's amazing, they lose it's amazing they got here.
I see the Lakers winning this series in 6 games. This is no disrespect to the Miami Heat in any way but it's tough to see the Lakers folding. Everything points to them winning. They have LeBron who will be a handful for the defense and Coach Erik Spoelstra to scheme for. Miami can throw Iggy, Butler, and Crowder at LeBron and hope to slow him down. On the other end, you have AD, who will make it harder for Miami to score with his defense and a handful on offense too. Miami is going to be able to take two games purely based on the shooting of Herro and Robinson which will open things up for the likes of Bam, Butler, and Dragic.
After everything that has happened this year within the Lakers organization, it seems like LeBron is on a mission to bring the city of Los Angeles a chip and honor Kobe's legacy. I'd be a fool to pick against him. So, the Lakers in 6 and LeBron wins his fourth ring.