Archive for June, 2012

2012 NBA FINALS PREVIEW

Posted in Basketball on June 12, 2012 by hoopsencyclopedia

HEAT-THUNDER

So I was wrong about the Thunder not being able to beat the “perfect” Spurs to advance to the 2012 NBA Finals. Of course there is no such thing as a perfect team. One can say the Spurs were playing perfectly, but their less than elite defense and lagging athleticism were imperfections which were both exploited heavily by the explosive, offensive-minded Thunder. But there is also no doubt that not too many predicted for this Thunder team to mature so fast and so completely. Seemingly wise and mature beyond their years, they matched the discipline and team chemistry of the Spurs and added their dose of superior collective talent to the mix for a thorough victory. Now they appear to be an unstoppable juggernaut with visions of a dynasty in the making.

But let’s hold that thought for a moment. On the other side, you have the current best player in the world on a mission to finally add merit to his self-proclaimed “King” status. The Heat were weakened by the injury to Chris Bosh, the curious inconsistency of Dwyane Wade, and the disappearance of quality bench performers. But then, Lebron James took his leadership to a new level and displayed his all-around brilliant game to push his team past the veteran Celtics. Lebron’s consistent, dominant play against the Celtics most likely was the best playoff series of his career in terms of statistics and symbolism and it finally appears that he may have shaken off the playoff ghosts of yesteryear to complete his quest of attaining his first championship.

So it’s The MVP vs. The Scorer; The Best Player vs. The Next Best Player; The First All-Weather Finals. Will it pour or will there be a greenhouse effect? Who will receive his first title and perhaps start a new reign in basketball? One must take a very close look for answers as both teams are capable of victory.

Both teams have amazing superstars but there is a small edge on both sides when breaking down each team piece by piece. Assuming a 10 point system to rank strengths at each position, let’s compare what each team has to offer:

POSITION              HEAT               THUNDER

PG                             7.5                    9

SG                             9                       7

C                               8                       7.5

SF                             10                     9.5

PF                              8                      9

Bench                        7.5                   8.5

Coach                        8                      8

Intangibles                9                      8

Offense                      9                     9.5

Defense                     9.5                  8.5

TOTAL                        85.5                84.5

That’s mighty close and the two teams splitting their regular season games at 1-1 don’t add much to the table. But usually, teams that reach the finals are always going to be close on paper, which is why I always believe the playoffs and the finals are about deeper elements – elements that make up a championship mindset. These ingredients are, in order of importance; veteran hunger (23%), chemistry (20%), leadership (18%), youth hunger (14%), athleticism (14%), and talent (11%). The numbers add up to 100% and are subjective as they are based on what I believe are the most vital characteristics of a championship team. So, think of it more as a synergistic system rather than a data driven one. Let’s take a look at how each team stacks up:

                             HEAT               THUNDER

Vet. Hunger          9.5                       8.5                    23%

Chemistry             9                          9                       20%

Leadership           9                          8.5                    18%

Youth Hunger       8                          9                       14%

Athleticism            9.5                       9                       14%

Talent                   9                          9                       11%

TOTAL                   9.05                    8.79

So there you have it. With the % multipliers, the Heat appear to have the edge in what constitutes a championship team. Coupled with the advantage in the individual, data-driven position breakdown in the first chart, the Heat have the overall edge through both lenses.

But that’s never the whole story of course. Amazing and unpredictable things may happen and a lone superstar going off might offset any balance on any given night. Also, how will each team respond to the pressure and constant adjustments? On paper, the Heat have the edge in experience but the Thunder are playing like the more experienced team. Also, how will the 2-3-2 format affect the Thunder’s home court advantage? It may just be that these teams are so evenly matched in both talent and drive that we may likely see a very legendary seven-game series. Looking into the future, the outcome may rely on how certain questions are answered. Will the Thunder’s shooting overwhelm the athleticism of the Heat? Will Westbrook shoot consistently? Will Wade return to form? Will Lebron seize the stage instead of being too unselfish? Will Harden be the difference? Will Bosh play like a Big Man? Will Ibaka continue to amaze? Will Miami’s free throws go in? Will Durant score like MJ on the biggest stage? Only time will tell.

What time won’t tell is what we already know. And we know that there are two extremely crucial constants that carry no question marks: Superior defense and Lebron James. And the Heat have both. If Michael Jordan said defense wins championships, this might be the perfect test. The Heat’s superior defense and physicality can be the difference maker in a grueling series and throw the Thunder off kilter. But more important is that they have Lebron James and his athleticism never takes a day off. And because of it, Lebron can consistently have great games even if his touch is off. He is the best player in the world and in his prime. He is also the only player who can dominate on both ends of the court. Appearing more focused than ever before, his leadership will offer his teammates no other choice but to follow him. The Heat should prevail in an epic seven games.