2019-20 NBA Finals Predictions

By Saransh Sharma, Anish Dhondi, & Nikhil Pradeep

The NBA bubble is soon to come to an end, and what a success it has been, and what a thrilling and unexpected Finals we are set to have. A Miami Heat team that is the third team in NBA history to be a 5-seed or lower to make an NBA Finals, against a Los Angeles Lakers team led by former Heat player, LeBron James, who is star-studded and back in their first NBA Finals since 2010. So much is at stake for both franchises, with Miami able to get their 4th ring and have this team be the greatest underdog story in NBA history, and LeBron James on his quest for being the Greatest of All-Time and winning his 4th ring. Here are our predictions for who wins this highly-anticipated NBA Finals:

Saransh’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Heat fan myself, this is beyond my wildest expectations for this season. Early in the regular season, Miami was the 2-seed, but then post-All Star Game hit, and the team started reeling, and I had lost my hope of anything crazy, like an NBA Finals appearance, happening. But then the bubble came around and they unlocked a potential the basketball world was not ready for. An excellent run to end the regular season, and then a sweep of the overhyped ‘MJ Warren’ and the Pacers led us to Milwaukee, whom all season I said Miami would beat, and I did not miss on that one. That being said, I thought our series against Milwaukee would be longer and more physical, resulting in Boston beating us there, but that was not the case at all, and Miami was able to tough it out against Boston in 6 games. Anyways, enough about my internal happiness and joy over us making the NBA Finals, now to the series. 

So Miami started off the season hot, but in the end, got themselves to a position even better than that. This next test against the Lakers is a beast like no other. As amazing as Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson have been, as well as veterans Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic, this is something they have not experienced, but they will have a former Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala to help them out with that. Him, along with Butler, will have the duties of guarding LeBron James and trying to slow him down, which I do not see happening. The Heat’s zone defense, however, could cause lots of problems and make the Lakers one-dimensional, meaning the support cast of shooters has to knock down their shots, as coach Eric Spoelstra will flex his forward thinking on this one. The backcourt of Miami, with Herro, Robinson, and Dragic, are going to feast offensively, against Alex Caruso and Danny Green, so one of those guys offensively has to be consistent every game in order for the Lakers to take commanding control of this series. The way that Caruso has been playing offensively with running the offense, he just needs to keep being aggressive as a ball-handler and floor general in order to keep the Lakers over the hump of Miami.

Matchup-wise, the Lakers would have preferred Boston. They could have played with a bigger lineup against guys like Daniel Theis and Jayson Tatum, and forced Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker to be the guys that beat them. This Heat squad makes it much more difficult, as despite their lack of size, they rebound much better than Boston (case in point, Bam Adebayo and Jae Crowder), they have so many different players who can take over a game and keep it close, and they are going to cause headaches at times for the Lakers. At the end of the day, Miami has all the matchups and depth they need, and Bam could do just enough to slow down Davis, but there is simply no one who can stop LeBron James. As great as Butler and Iguodala are at defending him, to see a guy at age 37 dropping 30-point triple-doubles casually might be the scariest sight in NBA history. That alone, along with the impact of having another superstar in Anthony Davis will prove too much for this great, young, and electric Heat team. Lucky for them, and lucky for me, there is going to be lots of success to cheer about coming in the future, and even with a more competitive league next year (with teams like the Nets, Wizards, and Warriors getting fully healthy), Miami is in prime position to make another title run next season. As much as I love my Heat, I can never go against LeBron and the better Lakers team (which, while it is a superteam, it is a balanced one, not like the Warriors of years past). This will go down as one of the most unexpected title runs in history for the Heat, but they will fall just short to an opponent that is simply better than them. 

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Anish’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As the Lakers and Heat meet in the NBA Finals I can say I was only surprised about the Heat, very surprised. I confidently had the Lakers and Celtics as my finals prediction but the Heat took the East by surprise and absolutely dominated as a team. Different players would go off different nights, as much as we’d call this “Jimmy Butler’s team” stat wise it was very balanced. The Heat have an incredibly deep roster where guys like Tyler Herro can come off the bench and drop 37! It’ll be exciting to watch this matchup, however I think the Lakers are clearly the favorite to win. It appears to be just another NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James as fans/haters are already getting to pull out LeBron’s finals record at the end of this. The LeBron slander has completely changed as now the West is being appeared as the “weaker” conference compared to the battles in the East. The hate towards LeBron James as a basketball fan is just laughable. I see LeBron dominating in this series, but when necessary he will take a step back to Anthony Davis. Regardless, the Lakers will win this series because they have the star power and are far more experience playoff wise. Miami is a great young team who just had an incredible run, however it’s no match for an experienced LeBron James led Lakers.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Nikhil’s Prediction

NBA Finals: (1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (5) Miami Heat

As a Wizards fan, it’s somewhat heartwarming to see a comparatively mediocre team like the Miami Heat make the NBA finals. By all means, the Heat are in no way, shape, or form lackluster in any respect, but the fact that they had to earn the respect of the league first, and then had to defy all expectations kind of shows how much of an uphill climb this roster had to make. In this respect, I’ve morphed into a Heat fan ever since the beginning of these weird and extenuating circumstances. The Heat have broken the stereotype of two all-stars per team and have managed to spread the wealth among their entire roster, spearheading this approach with the play of the totally deserving de facto leader of their squad, Jimmy Butler. They’ve used such unique techniques, like a 2-3 zone defense reminiscent of high school ball among other things, to get to this position, and head coach Eric Spoelstra has to be hailed for his forward thinking.

But this is the Lakers we’re talking about. And if history has taught us well, it’s that you bet on LeBron James when the odds seem to be in his favor.

The Lakers are the true embodiment of where the league finds itself today: a double-headed monster in James and Anthony Davis, surrounded by specific skill set journeymen, like Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, and Alex Caruso. This is the definition of a super-team, but one that seems to be pretty balanced in comparison to the 4 All-Star Golden State Warrior teams from years past. It just seems wrong not to pick this team, especially having beaten all opposition up until this point by 4-1 in each series. The Heat are a very similar threat to the Nuggets in many ways: underdog mentality, a well spaced out roster, a lot of young talent, but we all saw how that went. As much as the fan inside me wants to see Miami make this a series, deep down we all know what’s about to happen, and who’s about to pop off.

Prediction: Lakers Win the NBA Finals in 6 Games

Finals MVP: LeBron James

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How the 2019 NBA Free Agency Will Change the NBA For Years to Come

The 2019 NBA Free Agency will begin tonight at 6pm EST, and already there is plenty of shakeup in the league. Kyrie Irving has left the Boston Celtics to go to Brooklyn on a 4-year, $141M max contract, and Kemba Walker has immediately replaced him in Boston, also signing a max contract. Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler will be going to Miami in a sign-and-trade, and Kevin Durant joins Kyrie by going to Brooklyn. Despite that, there are plenty more free agents whose status is up in the air, and here is what I believe will happen to them, and the rest of the NBA:

D’Angelo Russell Prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves

This one is a bit more complicated because the Timberwolves have to trade away Andrew Wiggins to free up the cap, but it makes a lot of sense. Karl Anthony-Towns has talked for months now about the possibility of getting a big name free-agent to Minnesota, and he has often thrown out D’Angelo Russell as the guy he wants. The problem with this is that you have to trade Wiggins, but in order to get back players that have the same worth as Wiggins AND still sign D-Lo, you probably need to find a third team interested. It may take a bit longer than expected and could force Russell to look towards teams like the LA Lakers and Phoenix Suns, who already have the cap and don’t need to make big roster moves. As of right now though, Minnesota seems very confident that Wiggins is drawing interest from teams, and that they can get a deal done soon. Also, although the Warriors want to try to force Brooklyn into a sign-and-trade KD for D-Lo trade, that is not happening. Sorry Warriors, but the dynasty is over.

Kawhi Leonard Prediction: LA

As you can see here, I did not specify which Los Angeles team, but I am confident that it is between one of the two LA teams. The only problem that the Clippers have in this case is the fact that KD and Jimmy Butler are likely to snub the Clippers for other teams, and Kawhi wanted to go to the Clippers along with another superstar. That being said, if guys like Tobias Harris or Khris Middleton show up and want to play for the Clippers, than odds are Kawhi would too. On the other hand, it would only seem fitting that Kawhi went to play with LeBron and the Lakers after all the drama from last offseason, where he said he would only play for the Lakers, and that he would consider sitting the season with any other team. Obviously that was not the case and Kawhi went on to win the championship with Toronto, but if you made all that drama to go to be a Lakers, why not just be a Laker?

Klay Thompson Prediction: Stay with Warriors

This is a no-brainer. There is seriously no reason for Klay to leave, and for the Warriors not to offer Klay the 5-year, $190M max contract. Klay is one of the best shooters of all-time, one of the best 3-and-D players ever, and simply a Warrior-for-life. Thompson has been there in the clutch for Golden State so much, especially for Stephen Curry, who is 0-8 on game-winning shots in the playoffs, but Klay continues to catch fire in the clutch. This should have been the first major free agency deal that was made.

Danny Green Prediction: LA Lakers on a Pay Cut

Danny Green is by no means a superstar player in any stretch of the imagination, but he may be one of the greatest role players of all-time. He’s been to 3 NBA Finals, won 2 of the 3, and has been the best shooter on both of those teams (San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors). He is also a guy that wants to win and will do whatever it takes. If that means taking a pay cut and potentially joining Kawhi Leonard, Green will do it and take the mid-level exception contract (a $4.8 million contract per year, which means that he is the one legal, non-minimum veteran contract that the Lakers can use before they go over the salary cap). Even if Kawhi doesn’t go to LA, LeBron will convince him to come join the new superteam.

How Does the NBA Change Now?

The NBA will take a swing in which the East and West will be much more balanced and much more competitive, with it being as wide-open as it has ever been in recent memory. Teams like Miami and Boston have remade themselves into contenders, Milwaukee stays as-is, Toronto could fall massively, Brooklyn is the best team in New York for good, and Philadelphia still stays relevant. As for the Western Conference, Golden State has clearly fallen with the loss of KD and the injury to Klay Thompson, but with LeBron already beginning to create himself the team he wants, it will all depend on Kawhi as to whether or not he takes over the Western Conference for years to come. Not saying that teams like Denver, Portland, and OKC cannot contend, but LeBron always finds a way to get by those teams in the playoffs, like he did in the Eastern Conference. The NBA season will be as wide-open as ever.

What About the Rookies?

Guys like Zion and RJ probably won’t even be talked about anymore with all these familiar faces in new places, as the league is in its prime in terms of the number of contending teams, and guys like Zion and RJ are not in that position. The only rookie-led team that will make a splash is Atlanta, and even that may take a few years to do.