2012 NBA Finals Preview
At the beginning of the NBA season, I predicted that the Miami Heat would win the NBA title. In fact, I even went as far as to say that it was inevitable, and that all we could do is search for whatever silver linings we could find in that otherwise depressing outcome.
So, now that the Heat are actually in the NBA finals, why do I expect them to lose?
Because, as it turns out, this team is way more flawed that I initially noticed. For one thing, they really aren’t all that deep. Sure, they have two superstars in Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, and another very good player in Chris Bosh, but what is there after that? A bunch of washed up dudes who are only good at hitting threes (Mike Miller, Shane Battier, James Jones), and a pack of below average centers with no offensive skills whatsoever (Joel Anthony, Ronny Turiaf, Dexter Pittman). For all their flash, the Heat just don’t have a lot of substance.
In contrast, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a far better constructed team. They have a Big Three of their own in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden, and they also have a lot of quality players beyond that. Power forward Serge Ibaka led the league in blocks, and many thought he deserved Defensive Player Of The Year honors more than the eventual winner, Knicks center Tyson Chandler. The combination of Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, who has always been known for his defensive prowess, gives the Thunder one of the toughest front courts to score on in the league. Considering that many of the Heat’s playoff victories came from Lebron’s ability to score at will, they could be in some serious trouble.
And really, Lebron is their only hope. Yes, Wade is a great player, too, and he won a title in 2006, but anyone who views the situation realistically can tell you that Lebron is the Heat’s best player, and he should be their leader. As good as Durant is, Lebron is probably still a little bit better at this point. If he is able to thoroughly outplay Durant, it could make up the Heat’s lack of depth and catapult them to victory.
That, however, does not seem very likely. Let’s not forget who we’re talking about here. For all of Lebron’s raw talent and athleticism, he has an odd tendency to struggle in clutch situations. When the pressure is on, he panics, often deferring to Wade, or even a role player like Mario Chalmers. Last year he choked against a Mavericks team that wasn’t even close to the talent level of the Thunder. Admittedly, he’s had several big fourth quarters in these playoffs, so he may be improving in this regard. Still, going against a team as strong as the Thunder, it’s not hard to picture him falling into old habits.
Which is why for all of Lebron’s skill, and as powerful as the Heat’s Big Three can be, they will most likely lose in the finals for a second straight year. Kevin Durant’s leadership and lights out shooting will carry the Thunder to their first title, and we’ll have another year to make fun of Lebron’s inability to take charge when it really matters. Won’t that be nice?
The pick: Thunder in 5