NBA Finals: Series Prediction and a Few Prop Bets
If you had allowed David Stern to sit in a room with all 16 playoff teams on the wall by conference, and allow him to pick his dream matchup for the NBA Finals, it's without a doubt the Miami-Oklahoma City matchup we're getting here. LeBron versus Durant, big market versus small market, good versus evil, monster television ratings.
The series starts in a matter of hours, so I wanted to use today's post to quickly get on the record and give you a few prop bets if you really want to get medieval on your bookie (or your bank account, it'll be one or the other).
So let's go....
By the way, if David Stern were putting together a big board of "dream" NBA Finals scenarios for his league before the playoffs, my guess is the draft would have looked like this:
1. Miami vs Oklahoma City
2. Miami vs LA Lakers (LeBron vs Kobe is the Durant consolation prize)
3. Miami vs LA Clippers (LA market, big stars on both sides)
4. Miami vs Dallas (rematch of last year)
5. Chicago vs LA Lakers (healthy Rose, two of three biggest markets)
6. New York vs LA Lakers (Knicks would have beaten Miami, two biggest markets involved)
7. Boston vs LA Lakers ("uniform" series, big markets, old rivals)
8. Miami and pretty much anybody else in the West
As you can see, in my opinion and as my best guess, other than a few "big market" matchups, it's all about LeBron. King James equals ratings. In fact, the Boston series contained the three highest-rated NBA games in cable history, including a boffo 9.1 on Saturday night for Game 7. As much as we want to bang on LeBron for whatever reason (few of them justified, most of them completely inane and petty), he is big business. It will be very interesting to see if LeBron remains as astronomically compelling to television viewers after he finally wins a title as he is chasing a title. Will he prove to be Tiger Woods/Michael Jordan (people can't get enough of his dominance) or was there a chunk of his intrigue wrapped up in rooting against his getting a ring?
Someday, we'll find out.
I just don't think it will be this year.
Heat vs Thunder - Exact Result
Miami 4-0 +1500
Miami 4-1 +500
Miami 4-2 +600
Miami 4-3 +550
OKC 4-0 +850
OKC 4-1 +500
OKC 4-2 +230
OKC 4-3 +230
PICK: OKLAHOMA CITY in 6. I think the chess match between the two coaches should be very compelling. Depending on how the coaches want to play the different match-ups, there could be some prominent rotation players getting far fewer minutes than we're used to seeing them. (If Brooks wants to have Sefolosha on the floor to check LeBron, it probably eats into Kendrick Perkins' minutes. Similarly if Spoelstra wants to have Shane Battier on the floor to defend Westbrook or Harden (or even Durant, here and there) and take some heat off Wade and LeBron, who gets sacrificed?
Do they go big with more Haslem/Anthony and have LeBron handle the ball, or go small with Chalmers at point and Haslem/Anthony sit? In the end, I like the Thunder's ability to close out in tight games (Heat were a mess from the foul line during the Celtics series at times), and I like the home court in OKC.
KEVIN DURANT +100
LeBron James +150
Russell Westbrook +700
Dwyane Wade +700
James Harden +1500
Chris Bosh +1800
PICK: DURANT. Looking back at the Finals MVP of series past, since 1990, the only times the Finals MVP hasn't been the clear-cut best player from the winning team were:
-- 2004 (Chauncey Billups, a Pistons team that didn't really have an obvious "best player")
-- 2007 (Tony Parker, at this point Duncan was still the chalk)
-- 2008 (Paul Pierce, Garnett was a near MVP of the regular season)
In all three of those instances, you could at least make an argument for the guys who won that maybe they were their team's best player. The other MVP's since 1990 are names like Jordan (6 times), Olajuwon (twice), Shaq (3 times), Duncan (3 times), Kobe (twice). While I love Russell Westbrook, there's no argument who the best, most valuable player is on the Thunder. Durant is a name that belongs alongside the monsters I just named in this paragraph. Even money doesn't feel like great value, but make no mistake -- if the Thunder wins, Durant is getting the MVP.