1. Best Players of the World Factor
The Finals will not only determine a new NBA champion but also crown a “King of Basketball” between Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Miami’s Lebron James.The former a 3-time scoring champion and the latter a 3-time MVP will be competing for their first NBA ring in what will likely be the duel of the decade.
Thus far in the playoffs, both players have had unbelievable performances and will no doubt bring their best game against one another–on both ends of the floor. Who ever can consistently win their match up will probably win the series for their team.
In that case, I would have to give the edge to Lebron for both his experience in NBA Finals and the redemption burden he has into this series. If Lebron can lock in like he did in Game 6 against Boston, he’s unstoppable and an extremely tough cover for Durant. On top of this Lebron can guard Durant with his size and strength making it difficult for the slender Durant.
On the flipside, Durant will not go down without a fight because he can score anywhere on the floor. He knows Lebron will use his strength to guard him and that is why he will use screens to tire Lebron down and hopefully free himself up to score. Defensively, despite the proper strength needed to guard Lebron Durant can use his length and quickness to make it uncomfortable for Lebron when he bullies his way to his sweet spots.
2. Dwyane Wade Factor
While I agree that this is “Wade’s team” I will admit that he hasn’t been playing like it. Wade hasn’t been as consistent as the Heat need him to be.The only thing he has been consistent at of late, was having slow starts–rarely getting into double figures in the first half against Boston.
Despite all the “up and downs” in Wade’s performance, Heat fans shouldn’t worry because Wade lives for the NBA Finals. In his first Finals Wade carried his team down 2-0 to four straight victories and the NBA title. Last year, while Lebron was struggling Wade was go to man for the Heat and hopefully Wade continues his trend of strong Finals performances.
Wade will need to be aggressive just like Lebron has been, to not only score but to also contain Russell Westbrook who he will be guarding at times. Although Wade has been prone to give guards reluctant to shoot space–see how he guarded Rondo–I would advise he plays closer up on Westbrook who has been hitting his jumpers at a more consistent basis in the playoffs this year.
3. Russell Westbrook Factor
I know it’s been said but it’s true, the only person that can beat Westbrook is Westbrook.
Westbrook’s greatest strength is also his biggest flaw: his competitive drive and tenacity. When Westbrook is playing you get the feeling he constantly wants to show the world that he can be the best player, the best point guard, and the best scorer on floor. And at times he succeeds in this campaign, but other times he can detrimental to his team with his shot selection and decision making.
So far, Westbrook has done a great job playing under control. He’s has been wiser with the ball–only 2.4 turnovers–and he has been deviating to Durant in late game situations. Although Westbrook could be shooting better from the field–only shooting 44 percent from the field–he has been hitting jumpers at a more consistent basis which has spaced the floor for his drives. Defensively, he will have to use his athleticism and quickness to bother Dwyane Wade which will be no small task but something Westbrook is capable of.
4. Jeff Harden versus Chris Bosh Factor
Both are the X-factors for their respective teams.
Harden provides versatility off the bench for the Thunders. He can score, pass, defend, and just bring whatever the Thunders need to win games. The reason why he’s an X-factor for the Thunder is because he comes off the bench. The Heat have no player in the same ballpark of potency that Harden brings. Yes Spolestra staggers the Heat’s “Big Three” minutes to have at least one of them on the floor but they will have a tough time finding someone guard Harden.
While Chris Bosh gives the Heat size and stretches the floor–two things that has been underrated since he went down with an abdominal strain. Without Bosh, the Heat’s lack of scoring depth is exploited when the scoring burden is placed on Wade and Lebron. It also allows teams to double more without anyone making them pay for it. Against Boston, Bosh was able to space the floor and drag Kevin Garnett out on the perimeter leaving he Celtics’ rim protection exploited and made it open season for Wade and Lebron’s drive. Bosh needs to be aggressive with his rebounding and make the Thunder pay for leaving him open on the perimeter.
5. Depth Factor
Also known as “the others” factor as Shaq would put it. A factor that would will be defined by one question, outside of the Thunders and Miami’s “Big Three” who will step up?
On the Thunders’ side, can Selfolosha, Ibaka, and Perkins can have the same game changing effects defensive effort that they had against the Spurs against the Heat If so, the Thunders will be tough team to score against. And if the Thunder can get the clutch shooting from Fisher and the endless energy from Collision they will be a tough team to beat.
And for Miami, can Miller, Battier, and Chalmers hit enough 3-pointers to make the Thunders pay for doubling Lebron and Wade? If so, the floor spacing will be in Miami’s favor. Haslem will have to do what he has done his whole career, do the the “dirty work.” Whether it’s grabbing rebounds with ferocity or setting sturdy screens he will have to be the “enforcer” and the backbone of the Heat’s defense for them to win.
6. Turnover and Rebounding Factor
Both teams thrive in transition which is why both turnovers and rebounding will be key.Turnovers off deflections and steals will ignite the fast break for either side where both teams are adept at scoring in transition.
As for rebounding, both team will have to cautious on long rebounds that will turn into transition offense. And also rebound will be crucial for the Heat who were below average in that department this season. Because of the Thunders’ size advantage the Heat will have to do a better job boxing out their opponents to secure rebounds.