The Miami HEAT's 3 Kings will give the older gods from the San Antonio Spurs their first loss in their last trip to the NBA Finals.
Once LeBron James said he came to the Miami HEAT to win #Not5Not6Not7 championships, it signified a new era in the NBA. Shaquille O'Neal and Allen Iverson retired. Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Chauncey Billups, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce went from MVP trophies and the NBA Finals to 1st round exits and the lottery. The only god from the old order left standing is Tim Duncan, who's 4-0 in his trips to the Finals. It's his turn to be carried off the stage and the Miami HEAT will be his pallbearers.
Make no mistake - this is the HEAT's series to win or lose. The HEAT built a team to be in the NBA Finals. The Spurs built a team to keep winning at the end of Duncan's career. There's a difference in expectations there. The HEAT's season is a disappointment if they don't win the title. The Spurs season is a disappointment if they don't make it to the Conference Finals.
The Miami HEAT will show how big the difference between the mindset and talent of those two approaches is in this series.
Prediction: HEAT in 6
LeBron James is the foundation for everything the HEAT do on the court. The idea that Kawhi Leonard will impede LeBron's production in any shape, form or fashion is fueled by nothing but the fumes of player hatred. LeBron produced a 15.5 Win Score per 48 minutes (WS48) this season. Win Score is a measure of NBA players' productivity created by sports economist David Berri (see the HEAT Produced Page for more info on Win Score). The Pacers led the NBA this season holding opposing small forwards (SF) to a 3.1 WS48. LeBron produced 11.1 WS48 against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. That production at SF was good enough to increase the HEAT's chance of winning by 29% for every 48 minutes he played in the ECF. The Spurs and Kawhi Leonard are not as good at limiting SF production as the Pacers and Paul George. The Spurs ranked 8th in opposing SF production with 4.7 WS48 allowed. NBA SFs produced a 5.1 WS48 against the average NBA team this season. Leonard and the Spurs are barely above average. LeBron is three times above average. LeBron will prove Leonard and the Spurs are #ChildrenOfALesserGod in this series.
The HEAT can't win the series on the strength of LeBron alone. That will be dictated by the other two kings and the HEAT defense.
If Dwyane Wade was healthy, the numbers indicate the HEAT would beat the Spurs in 5 or 6 games. With Wade's limited production this postseason, the numbers indicate the HEAT will beat the Spurs in 6 or 7 games. Last year, Wade battled Westbrook to a standstill on one leg in the Finals after struggling against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Can he pull that off against an older Manu Ginobili who's struggling with a sore hamstring? It's possible, but the Spurs defense may make it a struggle. The Spurs defense ranks 1st or 3rd guarding 3 of the top 5 plays Wade uses to score.
Wade's Offense vs. Spurs
- Pick & Roll Ball-handler: Wade uses these plays 27.3% of the time. Spurs defense ranks 11th.
- Transition: Wade uses these plays 16.2% of the time. Spurs defense ranks 8th.
- Isolation: Wade uses these plays 14.9% of the time. Spurs defense ranks 3rd.
- Cuts: Wade uses these plays 11.3% of the time. Spurs defense ranks 1st.
- Post-Ups: Wade uses these plays 10.1% of the time. Spurs defense ranks 1st.
Regardless of how difficult the task will be, Wade WILL outplay Ginobili. Six games is plenty of time for him to figure it out.
Chris Bosh outplayed the entire Thunder frontcourt in last year's Finals. His production in the ECF didn't inspire confidence that he could do that again with just a 2.1 WS48. His career vs. the Spurs does inspire confidence, however. This season, he produced a 14.1 WS48 against Tiago Splitter with a little Old Man Riverwalk sprinkled in the mix. For his career, he's produced a 9.3 WS48 against the Spurs. Bosh will be a factor in this series.
The last key for the HEAT is their perimeter defense. Tony Parker is in trouble this series. All the talk about him being the best PG in the NBA is about to R.I.P. The HEAT ranked 3rd this season in production allowed by opposing PGs behind the Clippers and Grizzlies.
HEAT PG Defense
- Points allowed: 1st
- Shooting efficiency: 14th (5th in FG%, 14th in 3pt shooting)
- Free throws allowed: 4th
- Offensive rebounds allowed: 8th
- Assists allowed: 3rd
- Turnovers: 2nd
Those defensive numbers are from the regular season - when LeBron James didn't spend much time defending PGs. That will be the difference between what Parker was able to do against the Grizzlies and what he'll be able to do against the HEAT. Tony Parker is going to be destroyed and the Spurs will be destroyed along with him.
What are the chances these predictions will be right? Let's recap how the predictions have done so far...
See this post for more discussion on the 2013 NBA Finals.
Picked winner of 10 series correctly.
Picked correct number of games in 4 series.
Picked 4 series incorrectly.
The spreadsheet below lists the wins produced stats estimated for HEAT players from the box scores of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
Conference Finals Recap
Picked winner of both series correctly, but didn't pick the number of games correctly in either one.
HEAT vs. Pacers: HEAT
in 5 (Who knew the HEAT wouldn't give a fuck until they had to?)
Spurs vs. Grizzlies: Spurs
in 7 (Who knew the Grizzlies were bitchmade?)