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Thursday, June 14, 2012

NBA Finals Prediction

I admit that this post is a little late.  Game One is already in the books.  But, nothing that happened in that back and forth battle changed what I think will happen in this series.  Before I get to the official Banshee Blog prediction, I have some commentary and a little analysis.

Thoughts:  The NBA is better now than it has been at any time since Michael Jordan retired.  The regular season was exciting.  The early rounds of the playoffs were compelling.  And, now things will reach a crescendo as two evenly matched teams face each other in the Finals.  Great sports drama is born from a clash of culture and style.  No two NBA teams could provide a more stark contrast than the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Miami has South Beach and the club scene.  OKC has the Cowboy Hall of Fame.  Miami has a celebrity-filled and late-arriving fan base.  OKC has the loudest and least famous crowd in the league.  Miami has three superstars who took advantage of free agency to join forces and win a championship in a glitzy city.  OKC has two superstars who skipped free agency to stay together and bring a championship to a cowtown.  Truth be told, both teams are comprised of primarily good and decent men.  But, there is a clear difference in the images they've chosen.

Analysis:  LeBron James is the best player on the planet, and he plays for the Miami Heat.  At 6'8", he can legitimately play four of the five positions on the court.  James is built like a bull but moves like a cheetah.  He is truly an amazing physical specimen.  Kevin Durant is the second-best player in the world, and he plays for the Thunder.  If this was a one-on-one competition, I am confident that James would easily win a best-of-seven series.  But this is not a one-on-one competition.  Even though basketball can be dominated by a single player more than any other major sport, it is still a team game.  And, Oklahoma City has the better team.

The Miami Heat are a fabulous defensive squad.  They play hard, and they take pride in it.  So, it might seem counter-intuitive, but it is at the defensive end that the Thunder have the real edge.  Not necessarily in terms of skill or effort.  But, in terms of match-ups.  If the Heat have any chance to slow down Durant, they must have LeBron James guard him the entire game.  But that takes a lot of energy.  Energy that James will need to hit clutch jumpers in the 4th quarter.  Guarding the league's top scorer also puts James at risk of getting into foul trouble that could limit his playing time.  On the other hand, the Thunder have several players who can take turns guarding LeBron James.  No one can actually stop LeBron, but everyone in OKC's starting lineup besides Kendrick Perkins can do a credible job guarding him for a possession or two.  But, the Thunder's best perimeter defender is Thabo Sefalosha.  At 6'7", Sefalosha matches up physically with James as well as anyone can.  And while Sefalosha is a capable scorer, the Thunder can survive a 4th quarter where he is limited by fatigue or foul trouble.

Banshee Prediction:  LeBron James will put on an extraordinary show.  At the end of this series, he will have nothing to apologize for.  But, at the end of the series, the NBA will have a new mega star in Kevin Durant when his Thunder win the championship on their home court in Game 6.

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