Former NBA Commissioner David Stern’s ideal NBA Finals was said to be “Lakers vs Lakers”. Which is silly, it would surely be “Knicks vs Lakers”, but he never got that one as Commish. Whatever the current ideal NBA Finals now, it almost certainly cannot be “Nuggets vs Heat”.
The Denver Nuggets are a team almost no one in their home market could watch on TV, due to silliness involving local TV rights (the collapse of some local broadcast consortiums is likely a bigger factor in the “real hardcap and luxury tax” we saw implemented in the new NBA collective bargaining agreement. Along with old line NBA teams being unable to compete with free spending hedge fund and tech types.). Despite this, they have a strong and loyal local fan base.
The Miami Heat are a team almost no one seems to attend or care about during the regular season. (Seriously, watch a regular season Heat game, most notable for their invisible fans.) Now that the Heat are doing well, it would appear they are much beloved, but don’t be fooled. Miami passions run hot, but fleeting.
The national appeal of the two teams seems, if anything, more muted. Still, fans of basketball have been treated to a great, not good, playoff experience overall.
It’s hard to see how Miami will manage to compete with Denver. For Rockets fans who think Alperen Sengun is too small, Bam Adebayo is smaller. His appeal doesn’t lie in stopping The Big Chunks of the NBA, but in being able to thwart perimeter players, as well as protect the paint to a decent extent. In my opinion that’s just not going to cut it against Nikola Jokic. If Anthony Davis, playing both hard and healthy couldn’t do much, and Lebron James couldn’t get traction, with all his experience, strength, and guile, I think it unlikely that Bam will succeed where those two failed.
Jimmy Butler may be able to do something against Murray, but personally I might just see if Kyle Lowry couldn’t engage Murray in a flop-off, and we can see who can flail the most.
Of course it seemed as though Miami would get rolled over by the Bucks, and then by Boston. Yet here they are. I suppose we all are forced to admit, Heat Culture is real.
The good thing about these Finals, however, is the hope it should bring to fans of many teams. Neither is a team built by superstar signings or trades, unless you count Jimmy Butler wanting to be in Miami as such. Miami hasn’t picked high in the draft. Jokic was a second round pick (and in a real what-if moment, really could have been a Rocket under slightly different circumstances, or higher pay for assistants, perhaps). Jamal Murray was picked 7th. Caldwell-Pope was picked 8th, but by the Pistons. He’s well traveled. Aaron Gordon moved from The Perpetually Promising Magic Rebuild to A Real Contender. Michael Porter Jr ignored the curvature of the earth and made the trip from Missouri to Colorado as the 14th pick.
Nobody on Denver is a really high pick, except Uncle Jeff Green. Which hardly counts. Denver’s coach, Michael “Don’t Call Me Mike, and No One Cares About Denver!” Malone, has alone done a fantastic job. His dog in the manager act is a little tiresome though. He should take a page from Eric Spoelstra’s book. A page that appears to read “Oh, you think we shouldn’t be here? How about we kick your ass? How does that sound?”
Miami is effectively about half a team of undrafted players. The highest pick on the team is Kevin Love, at #5, and he’s more or less a buyout player at this point. Tyler Herro was #13. Bam #14. Butler #30. Lowry #24. The rest? Second round, or undrafted, pretty much. The Heat are in the Finals because they’re smarter, tougher, stronger, better conditioned, and simply outplay opponents in the crunch. They’re also better coached.
None of what Miami does relies on big free agent signings, or high draft picks. Pat Riley is old, so the Heat don’t tank, as he might not be around to see it work. Or, he simply might not be convinced it’s a good strategy. He might have a point. Caleb Martin, Gabe Vincent, Max Strus and Duncan Robinson sort of underscore that point.
The fact that the Nuggets and the Heat are in the Finals might be torment to the ghost of David Stern, but it should be encouraging to Rockets fans. It should mean that with player development, and the right coaching, the Rockets should contend every bit as a well as Denver or Miami. Is there really less talent on this Rockets roster, right now, in theory, in potential, at least, than on Miami?
Hopefully with the signing of Ime Udoka the Rockets are on the Spoelstra track.
Hopefully all the Rockets draft picks are on the track of the Denver picks.
The combination of both could be spectacular.
This poll is closed
Pour One Out For Captain Light Years
Still Praying for Wemby