2012 NBA Finals: Grading Each Superstar's Performance in the Finals
This NBA Finals matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat is really a battle of the stars. Each team has its own Big Three, and even though each team gets contributions from role players, the squads live and die with how well their superstars play.
This is a grading for each superstar through three games of the 2012 NBA Finals.
Harden has been the worst of the superstars so far during the NBA Finals. In Game 3 he shot 2-of-10, and for the series he has struggled, going 11-of-27.
During the year Harden was the spark plug that could effectively run the offense when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were out. During the Finals, his PPG is at a playoff low, and he has struggled with the Heat's defensive intensity.
One of the more underrated plays the Thunder run is the pick-and-roll, with Harden coming off a Nick Collison screen. These two work wonderfully together, and more playing time for Collison should help Harden become more comfortable on the court.
If the Thunder want to win a game in Miami, Harden is going to have to prove that he belongs on this list of superstars and step up his game to Sixth Man of the Year type of play.
Everyone knew the Miami Heat would play small, but when Chris Bosh plays the center position, they are not getting burned as much as you would think. This is because Bosh has stepped up his interior defense and rebounding.
Bosh is always brought up as one of the NBA's softest players, but in this series he has shed that label completely. If he was not in the lineup, the Heat would have no one to be the second line of defense against the slashing Durant and Westbrook.
He's only scoring 12 points per game, but his 10.3 rebounds and solid work on defense have made up for that. If he can find his mid-range jump shot, he could turn into the X-factor of the series and swing it decisively in favor of Miami.
Yes, Westbrook needs to pass the ball more.
But the Thunder are truly at their best when he is blowing past Wade, slamming home transition dunks and pulling up for his patented mid-range jumper. When he gets his offense in rhythm, it's much easier for Durant to follow suit.
Westbrook has always been a streaky shooter, but in the Finals he seems to be starting the games shooting poorly.
Many media members are writing that Westbrook needs to take fewer shots. Westbrook took 50 shots through the first two games of the series in comparison to Durant's 42.
In reality, only three or four of his shots per game are truly him forcing it. Many of them are open shots that are just not falling.
I'm expecting a big Westbrook game in either Game 4 or 5, once he becomes comfortable with the pressure of the Finals.
Wade is extremely hard to grade during this Finals series. He has been both hot and cold and delivers both frustrating turnovers and spectacular offensive plays.
He actually is averaging fewer points and assists than Westbrook, and has committed more turnovers per game as well.
What he has done better than Westbrook however, is play within his team's offense.
In Games 1 and 3, Wade has tried scoring mostly with his jumper and has missed quite a few. In Game 2 however, he became much more aggressive and started to resemble the Dwyane Wade from 2006.
He won't speak on his injuries, but whether it is health or just an aging body slowing him down, Wade is not the same player as he once was.
His defense is always superb, and he remains one of the best shot blockers from the guard position. With Thabo Sefolosha, Harden and Westbrook all sharing time guarding him, Wade can not rely on his declining athleticism to get him buckets.
The way for Wade to score is to be the crafty offensive player we have seen in the past. When he is aggressive, Wade garners almost every foul call to go his way.
If he keeps jacking jump shots during the series, the Heat's offense is going to struggle. If he can become aggressive and attack the Thunder defense, he can get to the free-throw line and contribute heavily to the Heat's winning ways.
There are only two things that stopped Durant from receiving an A+.
His foul trouble has kept him out of parts of both Game 2 and 3, and he is the leader of the Thunder, who are currently trailing in the series.
Besides his fouls, Durant has played as well as anyone could have hoped in his first Finals appearance.
He is shooting over 50 percent from the field and averaging an astonishing 31 points per game. His defense has been surprisingly above average, and for the most part, he has kept the turnovers down.
If he can raise his assist numbers while staying out of foul trouble and continuing to score almost at will, Durant will be well on his way to having a classic Finals appearance.
All that needs to be said about LeBron James is that he is the best player in this series.
The MVP discussion between him and Durant mostly looked at offensive numbers, but James is far and away the most complete player in the game and this series.
Averaging over 30 points and 10 rebounds per game to go along with four assists, James has helped lead the Heat to a 2-1 series edge.
His one weak spot during this whole playoff run has been his three-point shooting. Despite this, his slashing and jump shooting have been so on point that the long ball has not been needed, especially with Shane Battier picking up the slack from beyond the arc.
There is still a good chance that the Thunder win this series, but through three games, no one can say LeBron choked or was not the best player on the floor.
James came back this year determined to not have a repeat of last year's Finals, and so far he is proving that he deserves his first Finals ring.