Wow in a year of such uncertainty, full of bubbles, testing and all sorts of other things we've made it to the NBA Finals. Credit the league for doing a masterful job with the bubble. Many, including myself at times didn't think they could pull it off. They did and they did it flawlessly.
Heat. Lakers. Let's do it. Currently at the Barstool Sportsbook, the Lake Show are a -375 favorite. Heat are +280. The Heat are the biggest underdogs to make the NBA Finals in 18 years. The 2001/2002 Nets were the last team that was 50/1 or higher to start the season to make the Finals. Lets break it down.
It's important to commend the Heat on being one of the most spectacularly run teams in the league. This group has been created through shrewd front office moves and some of the best drafting you'll see. Whether it was acquiring Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder or Goran Dragic. They also found gems in Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones who were all undrafted. They also hit big on Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro in the lottery. Everything has worked. Erik Spoelstra has went from the depths of the video room to one of the best coaches in the league. They are a picture of how a team is built.
The Lakers obviously have Lebron, and AD. But made moves for Dwight Howard, Danny Green and KCP. They also through the draft have also done a great job of hitting on talent as well with Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso. They are built on defensive principles but obviously have superstars that create nearly impossible matchups to defend. AD has gotten great matchups facing guys like Nurkic and Jokic who aren't adept in defending him. They also faced Houston who were just flat out not able to throw anything at him.
The key when playing the Lakers is understanding that their defense creates transition. They love to get out and run and struggle somewhat in the half court. They spend a ton of time in transition and only the Raptors spent more time offensively in transition in the playoffs. That's concerning for me in that the Heat haven't exactly excelled in transition defense. It's imperative that in this series it turns into a half court matchup and that Heat RUN ZONE. In looking at the Heat, they have tremendous individual defenders and work well defensively in the half court. They rebound well and can have a better defensive rim protection than a team like the Nuggets. The key against the Lakers is to run zone and make the Lakers a jump shooting team. That's something they struggle at and are border line bad from 3 sitting in the bottom 10 all season. The major key for the Lakers is clearly to make those shots. If they do, they win but that's a big if. One other thought... Bam Adebayo seems prepared to give AD his biggest issue in the playoffs yet. None of the teams the Lakers have faced have really had an answer for him, Miami does. Jimmy Butler, Iggy and Crowder are all very good individual defenders and seem somewhat ready for the challenge of Lebron. You have to force Lebron to shoot the ball. We all know down hill, its game over. Outside of that, there's clearly nothing that bothers me a ton from the Lakers on offense. Miami has plenty to counter. This will come down to jump shots, history has shown us that could be bad news for the Lakers. In final, lets say Lebron and AD combine for 60 in a game, that's not necessarily enough to beat the Heat. Look at game 3 in the series against the Nuggets, that was on full display there and in certain other series. The Heat have the horses to win some of the games teams like the Nuggets couldn't.
The Heat offensively are tailored to finally be the team that can blitz the Lakers. They have capable shooters everywhere and are adept at getting to the line seemingly better than anyone in the league. The issue for the Heat is that the Lakers are built to defend the 3 with length. They will attempt to just run shooters off and trust the back end of the defense near the rim to handle Dragic and Co. Kick out shooting will be key which I'll get to in a second. Bam is the first key to this series, I think he can school guys like Dwight Howard, he has to be a force and seems ready to be it. He's the most important player in the series for the Heat. The Heat are also able to change their stripes offensively and are more well rounded than the Lakers. My other problem for LA that could the difference is that Duncan Robinson just moves around better than most. He's constantly running around looking for catch and shoot spots and or drive and kick opportunities. On the season, Robinson has made over 44 percent of his 710 3pt shots. Who guards him for the Lakers? He's a sneaky MVP candidate at 200/1. Goran Dragic will aid in getting guys like Herro and Robinson the ball through his ability to get the rim and kick it and can also finish and or get to the line. Every Heat player is a factor. I just can't say that for every player for the Lakers offensively. And for the love of God Heat, when Dwight Howard is one the court. pick and roll to the death!
You're probably thinking... okay you fuck, who wins and what actually happens? I just think the Heat have many more auxiliary pieces than the Lakers. Yeah Lebron and AD are superstars and transcendent talents but I think the Heat are supremely able to bother them. The Lakers just haven't consistently had that third or fourth guy emerge. Not having that was enough against previous foes, I don't think it will be here. I trust guys like Herro, Dragic, Robinson and Olynyk over KCP, Danny Green and Kuzma honestly. I think the Heat guard play is superior and the wings and bigs are right there with the Lakers. The most important players for the Heat are guys like Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder. They need to knock down the shots they will get from deep. Dragic is one of the more underrated players in the league. Butler is a do it all lunch pale star who does a bit of everything but can drop 35 on you. Bam can bother the hell out of Howard when the Heat have the ball and he can bother AD when the Lakers have the ball.
The Heat just seem built to win this thing. The bubble comradery has been evident. I've said it for months, if you can find an exploitable major flaw from the Heat, I'd like to hear it. They remind me of the 2004 Pistons. Bam is a better Ben Wallace. Dragic is similar to Billups. Butler and Herro are Rip and Tayshaun. Crowder isn't as good Rasheed but similar. It's interesting to think about
Far too much value on the Heat. AD and Lebron may be too much. Lebron has just a few more opportunities to cement his legacy. But I can't pass up almost 3/1 on the better more all around team. I feel like the series can go 7... almost 3/1 is too high!
I'll say Heat in 7.
In whatever you bet, make sure you do it responsibly! Enjoy the series.