NBA

NBA Finals: On paper the LA Lakers should cruise to victory but don’t count on it

September 30, 2020January 6th, 2022

THE NBA finals are upon us. Today both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers will begin their quest to be named NBA champions. The stylistic differences between both teams are visible, while the narrative of LeBron James facing his old coach in Erik Spoelstra is palpable. 

Until this point, we have looked at multiple games from different series, aiming to pinpoint the best value. However, with only one series left, we will need to change course a little. With that said, let's look at some individual players and what value can be found in their play. 

LeBron James

Arguably the greatest to ever play the game. A cerebral winner, who at age 36 is showing no signs of slowing down. For the Lakers, James has transformed his game, operating as the teams' quarterback rather than the human battering-ram he was earlier in his career. 

James is averaging 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists. The apparent value here is taking James to score 25+ points or finishing the game with a double-double in points and rebounds. There's also a case for the Cleveland native for notch a triple-double. 

Outside of his statistical output, there's a genuine chance that James finishes the series with a Finals MVP award, which would be his fourth in total. As someone who's writing the closing chapters of his legacy, you will be hard-pressed to find a more motivated player than James, making this a high-value bet.

Anthony Davis

Davis came to the Lakers to win. With his contract expiring after the playoffs, there's every reason for Davis to be taking stock of the situation around him before making his decision on re-signing. The Lakers are in "win now" mode, which should be enough to convince Davis to sign with them long-term. 

However, if the team faltered at the finish line, it could be a catastrophe should Davis become disillusioned. For as much as the Lakers want to win to retain Davis moving forwards, Davis' own performances will be critical to their success. 

Unlike James, Davis is not a playmaker. Instead, he hurts teams on the glass, along with his scoring abilities. Doing most of his damage on the interior, the former New Orleans Pelican is currently notching 28.8 points per game with the lion’s share of his attempts coming within the paint. 

Priced at 19/20 to record a double-double, Davis is an exceptional value proposition. With him averaging 9.3 rebounds per contest throughout the playoffs, it's not unfathomable that the 6'10'' big man reaches this statistical milestone. 

If you're looking for a bit of an outsider bet, then Davis is 11/10 to finish as the top scorer in game one. With the contest boasting numerous offensive threats on both sides, Davis isn't a guarantee here, but it's certainly a likely outcome. 

Bam Adebayo 

Arguably the most diverse offensive players in the NBA right now, Adebayo, can hurt you in a multitude of ways. A former point-guard before a growth spurt saw him change position – you can see those guard traits in his game, from facilitation to dribble-drive penetration. 

Adebayo is another double-double threat in this series, having averaged one throughout the playoffs with 18.5 points and 11.4 rebounds. Sure, the double-double is a safe bet, yet, Adebayo is the Miami Heat's offensive fulcrum, making a triple-double a riskier, albeit potentially more attractive, option.  

Coming off the back of his series-winning fourth quarter antics, Adebayo will enter game one full of self-belief. At 22/25, the Miami centre is a steal to record over 30.5 total points, rebounds, and assists

Jimmy Butler

Miami’s emotional leader. An All-Star. A born winner. Jimmy Butler will feel confident coming into this series, having played an enormous role in the Heat’s fairy-tale run. 

Butler isn't a transcendent scorer, nor is he a pass master, what he is though, is a multifaceted wing who takes pride in shutting down his man. Arguably one of the league’s best closers, Butler doesn't wilt under pressure – he embraces it, raising his game to new levels. 

Butler isn't a double-double threat, nor is he a value option to score more than 20+ points in a single game. However, in game one of the conference finals, Butler will be motivated to prove he belongs on this stage. Motivation is an exceptional tool in sport, making Butler a long-shot option for 25+ points.

A more reasonable offering is Butler recording over 31.5 points, assists, and rebounds – currently valued at 23/25. 

Lakers

A top-heavy roster that will lean on their superstars to get them over the finish line. The Lakers play a drop scheme in their defensive coverage, which will play right into the sharpshooting Miami Heat's hands. Until this point, the Lakers haven't faced an opponent as stern on defence as Miami. 

Los Angeles does possess championship know-how throughout their roster, most notably in James, Rajon Rondo, and Danny Green. However, the Lakers roster is on the older side, which could create cause for concern when dealing with an up-tempo team such as Miami, who will look to hurt the Lakers with their shooter flying off screens while the bigs drive the lanes continuously.  

On paper, the Lakers should win this series easily, but if there's one thing the bubble experience has taught us, it's that what's on paper doesn't matter in this new environment. 

Miami

Underdogs since the second round. The Miami Heat have beaten the champions-elect, Milwaukee Bucks, before making light work of the up-and-coming Boston Celtics. This team is for real. 

Head Coach Erik Spoelstra is as good as they come and will have plans hidden away to stop his former superstar. 

A hard-working, gritty team that boasts numerous sharpshooters along with a sprinkling of championship know-how, the Heat could end up causing an enormous upset at the end of this series. Their offense will put the Lakers on their heels every time down the floor, as the Heat will look to exploit the lack of trail defenders on the Lakers’ roster, while also using their youth to outlast them throughout the series. 

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