Airhead Airballers

Two CNU students debate who will win the NBA’s Larry O’Brien Trophy this year

~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~

~Steven Baxley, Staff Writer~

The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Finals are upon us, ladies and gentlemen. Sure, it definitely does not look like it usually does, but the spirit of competition from the two battle-tested teams is present and unwavering. With the hazy smoke cleared, we see the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers still standing on the hardwood battlefield. The fallen combatants lie dormant in the beautiful family destination of Orlando’s shadow. 

In the wake of cutthroat destruction and social distancing, Miami and Los Angeles will clash to prove who is the best of the best for the 2019-20 NBA Season. Their struggle will determine who was able to withstand a global pandemic and 141 day suspension and still come out looking like a presentable representation of the world’s premier league. 

But that’s just the thing, isn’t it? We don’t know what team will be the victor of all the spoils mentioned above. Luckily, you’ve got just the two ragtag hoop analysts to give you the answer to that all important question. The 2019-20 NBA Champions will be…

Steven

The Los Angeles Lakers. Why? There’s one name synonymous with basketball today, and that’s LeBron James. He’s making his tenth trip to the NBA Finals in his 17 year career, and he looks poised to claim his fourth championship ring. However, James’ production throughout the postseason in the NBA Bubble wasn’t as electric on the scoresheet as in years past. In the Western Conference Finals, for example, he only averaged 22.3 points per game. 

Meanwhile, his teammate Anthony Davis averaged 34 points. That’s the offensive threat the Lakers pose that leaves their opponents helpless. The Western Conference’s teams can not double-team both James and Davis. If teams double-team James, Davis ends up lighting up the scoreboard. 

At the moment, James looks content to draw the attention of the second defender in order for others to score and win the game for the team, and that’s the scariest part of it all. In the Western Conference Finals, James never took on his alter ego of “Playoff LeBron.” Why take his game to the next level, and exhaust himself in the process, when his team will win regardless? 

As for his NBA Finals opponents, Miami isn’t built to stop the production from Davis, or James, for that matter, when he chooses to engage. The rebounding differential will be dominated by the Lakers, so Miami will be forced to solely rely on perimeter shooting in order to win the series. 

The last category the Lakers will undoubtedly control, and it’s one that makes all the difference, is the mentality it takes to become champions of the world. James played four seasons for the Miami Heat organization from 2010 to 2014, and he led them to four straight NBA Finals appearances. They even won two of them. James understands the approach Miami will take in order to win the Finals having won with the same organization only seven years prior. Two out of Miami’s three championships in their history came with James at the helm of the team. 

James also played alongside Jae Crowder, who currently plays for Miami, during his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and James’ defensive stop on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals, referred to as “The Block,” is considered one of the greatest defensive plays in NBA history. 

Miami has seen firsthand, from players who are former teammates of James, players who lost to James and executives and coaches who saw James take over playoff games night in and night out, the dominance this one man can impose on a series. It has been a great run by

the Miami this 2020 postseason, but no team can stop the freight train called LeBron James when a championship ring is on the line. 

Matthew

 In the semi-altered words of the great Lee Corso, not so fast, Steven. Sure, the Lakers and James are great, and they may be the final Los Angeles team standing this year, but as you mentioned, James’ past is coming back to haunt him in the Finals. Owner Micky Arison, President Pat Riley, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra and perennial “locker room guy” Udonis Haslem will once again get to call themselves champions when the Miami Heat win the 2019-20 NBA Championship. 

Now I know what you’re all thinking, how can a  team led by Jimmy Butler, the supposed poison to any contending team, beat out James, Davis and Alex Caruso? Throughout the playoffs, Butler has averaged over 20 points, 2 steals and 8 free throws per game. While those numbers may not be eye-catching, you have to remember this guy has the innate ability to will his teammates to perform. I know that sentence was all fluff, but don’t take some silly college kid’s word for it. In Feb. of this year, after he was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to Miami, the former Bill Russell Award winner Iguodala said, “When he was in other places, he got knocked for saying he was disruptive towards his other teammates, but you put him around some guys that actually want to get to the grind, what did he do for them? He upped their level of play, right?”

Right you are, Mr. Iguodala, and wrong you continue to be, Steven. I bring up Iguodala’s quote and Butler’s knack for getting more from his teammates because Miami has more guys that can either sustain or quickly obtain a hot hand when the lights are on brightest for all the virtual fans. After James and Davis, the Lakers’ next highest scoring average comes from the streaky Kyle Kuzma at just over 10 points per game. Meanwhile, apart from Butler, Miami has Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragić and Tyler Herro all nearly or just averaging 20 points a game. I know basketball isn’t individually about how many points a guy can score, but collectively, it is. 

I didn’t even mention shooters like Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn because Miami hasn’t needed them during their incredible run. My point is Steven and all other “Heat hesitators” and “Miami mistrusters,” James and Davis need someone else to step up if they want to win the championship. That’s not some new development I came up with. We see it all the time. The 2011 Dallas Mavericks had four three pointers from J.J. Barea, the 2010 Lakers got 20 points from a struggling Metta Sandiford-Artest (formerly known as Ron Artest) and, as previously mentioned, the 2015 Golden State Warriors got a standout defensive performance from Iguodala. Who will step up from the Lakers’ bench? JaVale McGee? I rest my case. 

While we may not be able to agree on who will win the NBA Finals, we’ll both be watching with bated breath. Neither of us are fans of either team, so this really comes down to winning those all important bragging rights. The NBA Finals begin on Oct. first. 

All stats compiled from: https://www.basketball-reference.com/

Iguodala quote obtained from: https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29947115/nba-playoffs-evolving-conversation-surrounding-jimmy-butler

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