1)Which coach will emerge as elite? Scott Brooks/Erik Spolestra is not the dream coaching matchup of Gregg Popovich/Doc Rivers. Both Spolestra and Brooks have their doubters about the skills with X’s and O’s.
Both teams also rely heavily on isolation and pick & roll sets, which lead many to believe they don’t draw up plays well. However, both coaches made key adjustments in the conference finals that helped their teams to advance to the NBA Finals. It may come down to which coach messes up less, not which one becomes elite.
2) Which Dwayne Wade will we see?
Quietly, Wade has become the most inconsistent member of the Heat Big 3. He was non-existent in Game 5 & 6, especially in the 1st half. In Game 6, I’m not even sure he played though, he was bailed out by an all-time great performance by LeBron James. To match the firepower of the Thunder, the Heat will need Flash to play four quarters of each game. If he doesn’t, people may start to forget about that ring he won in 2006. Then, he may start to face the criticism he has evaded but deserved for the past 2 years.
3) Which 3rd option will continue their hot streak–James Harden or Chris Bosh?
James Harden has been every bit the 6th man of the year. He has averaged 17.6 points/game and 5.2 rebounds/game in the playoffs, while proving not afraid of the big moment by taking and making some huge shots. Chris Bosh has proved he belonged in the Heat Big 3 once he returned from injury. Oddly enough, his stock rose during the injury when the Heat couldn’t find a soul to take any pressure off James/Wade or have anyone that’s tall enough to stop Kevin Garnett from having his way. Bosh played well in limited minutes in first couple games back from injury leaving people to wonder if he wasn’t fully healthy or if Coach Spolestra can’t coach. We may have found our answer in Game 7 when Bosh played 31 minutes and scored 19 points and chipped in 8 rebounds.
Bosh played well in the finals last year so you would expect him to keep this up. Harden poses a bad matchup problem for the Heat though so this one will be fascinating to watch unfold.
4) Can Russell Westbrook handle playing Robin on the biggest stage of his career?
The biggest concern I would have about raising the Larry Obrien trophy if I was a Thunder fan is this question. The gift of Russ is we know he’s a great talent, and when he is hitting jumpers, he can be close to unguardable. With that comes the curse of him making the mistake of thinking he is the team’s best player. He goes stretches of games making bad decisions and committing turnovers. The worst decision that he makes is forgetting about Kevin Durant, even while Durant is dominating games. Will Westbrook be able to “stay in his lane” and let Durant take center stage?
5) Who will become the undisputed King of the NBA–Kevin Durant or LeBron James? These two finished 1 and 2 in MVP voting this year. Both have lived up to that in the playoffs by putting their teams on their backs to get there. Durant has three game winning shots this year in the playoffs, leading his team past the three teams to represent the Western Conference in the finals since 1999. He has averaged 27.8 points/game, 7.9 rebounds/game, and 4.2 assists/game in the post-season and looks ready to become the King.
I thought we already had a King though? By the looks of it, he is not ready to give up his crown. In the playoffs LeBron James has averaged a staggering 30.8 points/game, 9.6 rebounds/game, and 5.1 assists/game. The ECF Game 6 performance will go down in history. Putting up 45 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists will do that. In games 6 and 7 of the ECF we saw a different James, one with a sense of urgency; One who yelled at teammates and showed frustration with them often, as to say, “not this time” “we will not come up short again.”
Ultimately, to be The King, you need a ring. Will we see the celebration of James who we have been calling “King” since he was in High School? Or will we see the final steps to Superstar status taken by the unassuming, skinny assassin, Kevin Durant?
The answer to this question will not only answer who wins this championship but just who will be coronated as King of the NBA.