The NBA Finals are upon us.
Not only does this face-off feature arguably the two most complete teams in the league, but it also pits two of the greatest players to ever play the game against each other: Lebron James and Tim Duncan.
Both players have won championships, but winning one more could really cement their legacies. For James, it would mean a three-peat, and only a handful of teams have accomplished that feat in league history. For Duncan, it would be his fifth championship, putting him in some elite company and arguably making him the greatest power forward to ever play the game of basketball.
Either way, there will be many storylines to follow during the finals. Will James be able to hit the jump shots that the Spurs give him in order to limit his looks inside the paint? Will Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli have enough in the tank to carry the Spurs to another title? And will Dwyane Wade remain healthy enough to have enough of an impact on this series? All of these are pressing questions that could have implications on which way the series goes, but ultimately this series will be decided based on one factor: depth.
The veterans on both teams will show up, this is what they have been playing for all year long. The key will be the younger players and role players off the bench for each team and whether those guys are able to bring enough to the table. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on the Spurs are two young starters that certainly had an impact on last year’s match-up, with that arguably being their coming-out party to put the rest of the league on notice. Cory Joseph and Patty Mills have also seen extended roles off the bench, and have played well so far in the playoffs to justify their increased playing time in such meaningful games.
As for the Heat, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole really have a chance to wreak havoc on the Spurs’ defense. Chalmers has come up big in the past with his three point shooting, and Cole has enough athletic ability to take advantage of Parker if he is not up to the task of being a quality defender due to health concerns. On the bench, Boris Diaw and Ginobli have enough scoring talent to complement the rest of the San Antonio rotation, while Ray Allen and Shane Battier provide deep shooting for the Heat along with Chris Anderson, whose inside presence has turned the direction of games on multiple occasions due to him being the real physical inside presence the Heat has.
Bottom line, I think the Heat bench and younger players are going to have the bigger impact on the series. Miami has the talent to spread the floor with five different shooters, between James, Chris Bosh and the rest of the talented shooters that are on the team. San Antonio can shoot the ball well too, but no player on their team has the ability to play efficient isolation offense when being guarded by either James or Wade. Both Heat defenders are world class, and can team up to shut down any scorer.
If the Spurs can continue to move the ball with such speed and precision, then the Heat defense will certainly be tested, but ultimately it comes down to match-ups, and the Spurs do not have an answer for James and a healthy Wade. Not only that, but when the Heat role players are able to spread the floor and hit shots, there is simply too much offense along with the big three for the Spurs to overcome. This series has the potential to be very close, but the Miami Heat should come out on top in this year’s NBA Finals. James will be crowned once again, and the team from South Beach will make NBA history.
Prediction: Miami Heat in 7