B/R Staff Roundtable: Predicting Lakers vs. Heat Winner and NBA Finals MVP

Bleacher Report NBA StaffFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2020

B/R Staff Roundtable: Predicting Lakers vs. Heat Winner and NBA Finals MVP

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Six months after the COVID-19 pandemic put the NBA's regular season and postseason in jeopardy, we've finally made it to the 2020 NBA Finals.

    Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James can take another sizable step toward all-time supremacy by capturing his fourth NBA title with his third team. Anthony Davis can make the leap from superstar to immortality by winning his first ring.

    Meanwhile, Miami Heat swingman Jimmy Butler could solidify his status as a Hall of Famer by topping James, Davis and the Lakers. If Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro continue their ascendance, could we be witnessing the makings of another dynasty on the rise? 

    Perhaps the most intriguing question is whether Erik Spoelstra can outcoach LeBron...I mean, Frank Vogel. 

    Our experts give their take on which team will win the title in perhaps the strangest season in NBA history. 

The King's Court

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    LeBron James found his championship form during his wildly successful four-year stint with the Miami Heat. The same organization now stands between him and a fourth NBA title.

    Forget about what could have been the latest chapter of the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics storied rivalry. This is the real championship collision that will drive narrative-based Finals MVP voters wild.

    In theory, the Heat have all of the chess pieces they need to pester James.

    There's Erik Spoelstra, who knows his game better than any coach. There's Andre Iguodala, who squared off in four consecutive Finals with James—and took home the 2015 Finals MVP largely for his defensive work in the matchup. There are pliable, relentless stoppers in Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Jae Crowder.

    The problem is there are only so many chess moves to make against a grandmaster.

    The James-Anthony Davis combo will prove more than even the Bubble Heat can handle, and James will have his three-ringed fingerprints all over this six-game series win. He'll lead all players in points and assists, and if Davis gets dragged out to the perimeter, James might take the rebounding crown, too.

    Checkmate, in other words.

    Prediction: Lakers in six

    Finals MVP: LeBron James 

    Zach Buckley

Is Bam Adebayo Ready for the Challenge of His Life?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Betting against LeBron could look stupid in a few weeks, but I love everything about this Heat team. They have the better role players and the better coach, and Jimmy Butler isn't afraid of guarding LeBron James.

    Their team identity and culture is also built for the bubble in ways other teams are not. They've been underestimated in every round of the playoffs to this point and seem perfectly situated to complete this run with a title.

    As Butler said after the Heat closed out the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Adebayo will be "the reason we win a championship." He showed in the fourth quarter of the decisive Game 6 that he isn't afraid of the moment, and that he's capable of carrying the Heat for long stretches when Butler struggles.

    He'll face the biggest challenge of his life against Davis. I believe he's up to it.

    Prediction: Heat in six

    Finals MVP: Bam Adebayo 

    Sean Highkin

Miami Has an Attack...Lakers Have a Dominant Force

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    Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers will win their 17th NBA championship against the Miami Heat, in what will be a competitive Finals. LeBron James will be named Most Valuable Player for the fourth time in his career.

    The Heat have one of the best individual bigs to match up against Anthony Davis in Bam Adebayo. They have more scorers than the Lakers in Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Jae Crowder. Defensively, they can throw some combination of Andre Iguodala, Crowder and Butler at James.

    It will work, at least for a few Miami wins. The challenge for the Heat lies behind Adebayo. Kelly Olynyk is not a defensive presence, and Meyers Leonard hasn't played much this postseason. Davis has better support from Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee and Markieff Morris.

    James is still one of the most dominant forces in the league. The Heat will try to force Davis to beat Adebayo one-on-one, with as little help as possible, while using everything else they have to try to stop James from driving into the heart of their defense.

    Miami's attack may work initially, but over time, James and the Lakers will get it done.

    Prediction: Lakers in six

    Finals MVP: LeBron James

    Eric Pincus

A New Kind of Matchup for L.A.

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Miami Heat may enter the Finals as underdogs, but they are far from outmatched. They present a matchup unlike any the Lakers have seen during the playoffs.

    For starters, the Lakers haven't faced a rim protector quite like Bam Adebayo. The Heat possess a plethora of wings to throw at LeBron James in Jae Crowder, Jimmy Butler and Andre Iguodala, who locked horns with him repeatedly in the Finals during his time with the Golden State Warriors. 

    James and Davis may overcome Miami through sheer force, but can they withstand the shotmaking and off-ball movement from Heat guards and wings that will force them to expend energy on every possession?

    The Heat are nasty, disciplined and experienced. They have swagger and a number of legitimate weapons. Crowder and Iguodala have beefed up their wing defense, and Adebayo and Tyler Herro have emerged as complementary stars alongside Butler.

    The Heat will win, but it will not be because LeBron or Davis underperformed. Miami is a championship team masquerading in an underdog's uniform. As the team's emotional leader, Butler will be named Finals MVP and will cement his place in the Hall of Fame.

    Winner: Heat in six

    Finals MVP: Jimmy Butler

    Preston Ellis

Bet Against LeBron James?

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    The Heat are a tempting upset pick, if only because they've been so disarming all postseason, and because their depth functionally outshines that of the Lakers. Sure, Los Angeles should have the two best players in this series, but on any given night, Miami will have somewhere between the five and eight next best players on the floor. That is terrifying.

    Also terrifying: Betting against LeBron James. And this version of Anthony Davis. 

    LeBron has never averaged fewer minutes in the playoffs—though he played 37-plus in each of the final three games against the Nuggetsand should be ripe to log over 40 minutes per game in the Finals. That both limits the reps the Lakers must survive without him and exposes the Heat to more of his bulldozing drives. Davis, meanwhile, is slashing roughly 57/37/81 and hitting more of his tough-to-make shots.

    That Miami has so many different defensive bodies and schemes to throw at LeBron and AD certainly matters. But the Lakers are athletic enough to bust up whatever approach the Heat take by controlling the defensive glass and getting out in transition. Equally important, their supporting cast is subject to fewer question marks on defense, where they actually match up quite well with all of Miami's best ball-handlers.

    Prediction: Lakers in six

    Finals MVP: LeBron James

    Dan Favale