Somehow, we finally made it. We are sitting down to watch a championship in 2020. The NBA has blessed us over the past few weeks with some truly incredible basketball delivered from the Orlando bubble. In the process, the NBA proved it’s the most forward-thinking, modern-age league in the U.S. by a longshot. Its dedication to player health and safety has allowed COVID-19 to be a near non-factor as teams restarted the season, and once we hit the playoffs it almost felt just like any other year.
The postseason itself was incredible, with countless nail-biting series and surprise exits. Watching the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers get dispatched was a real treat, and seeing Houston’s roster implode in a storm of missed threes and Russel Westbrook shoot bricks was delightful for me as a Warriors fan. The two teams which emerged from the absolute mosh pit of an NBA postseason are truly deserving of their respective conference crowns. Let’s dig into them a bit, shall we?
The Los Angeles Lakers
The basketball world’s most obnoxious fan base has been reawakened, and with it, a team out for blood. Lebron James and Anthony Davis are a downright unfair pairing, and the duo has taken turns this postseason absolutely annihilating lesser squads. Lebron as a point guard has been a revelation, with him dishing out some truly beautiful passes to a somewhat quirky supporting cast.
The Lakers back up their pair of stars with a lot of gadget veterans who fade in and out almost at random. Kyle Kuzma is a promising young third scoring option, Dwight Howard has provided some defensive “oomph” down at the baseline, Rajon Rondo has been right there as another defensive veteran boost and Alex Caruso has been the analytics-driven fan’s truest image of perfection. The question for the Lakers is whether or not this ragtag supporting cast can step up for one final series. They’ve looked good so far, but any one of them regressing or making mistakes could expose the Lakers’ depth.
The Lakers are the truest incarnation of a star-driven team. They are built to serve the generational duo of James and Davis, and their success may simply boil down to the two playing lights-out basketball. But the depth of this team will be tested like never before as they suit up to face the Heat.
The Miami Heat
Miami has been a truly surprising entity in the 2020 NBA landscape. After they lost Dwayne Wade, the franchise somewhat went into hiding. However, after they traded for Jimmy Butler, the sleeping giant awoke. Years of savvy drafting and roster-building have yielded a truly deep and ferocious roster. You have Butler, the villain-turned anti-hero, as the heart and soul of this team on both ends of the floor. Bam Adebayo has emerged as a true superstar, punctuated by a dominant Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics.
While this star duo may be several pegs below Lebron and Davis, they don’t need to be. There’s also Tyler Herro, the rookie sensation who made history when he dropped 37 points in a playoff game. You have Duncan Robinson, the 3-point wizard. Andre Iguodala, a veteran from Golden State who has boundless experience playing on the biggest stage. I could go on. This team is deeper than the Mariana Trench, and they’ve gelled into something truly terrifying. This team has the chemistry, the coaching and the heart to make any series a nightmare for their foes.
So who am I picking? I am firmly and unabashedly proclaiming my love for this Miami Heat team. I have immense respect for well-built, deep and complementary rosters, and the Heat are just that. They bring the energy every night on both ends, and the competition they’ve dispatched to get here is superior to what the Lakers dealt with. They swept a surging Indiana Pacers squad, made a mockery of the runaway favorite in Milwaukee and stifled a talented Boston roster. They haven’t even kept it that close in a lot of these instances. I think their depth will make the Lakers sweat when LeBron and Davis can’t be on the floor, and they have a number of defensive stalwarts to throw at the talented duo in key moments. Miami is taking this series in six. Sorry city of LA, but the West can only win if Golden State is representing.