Guest Post: NBA Finals Preview


Oklahoma City is in a fervor about their Thunder. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Due to a busy schedule (and a limited knowledge of the topic at hand), I have handed the NBA Finals duties over to my blogging buddy, Steven Jeffries. Leave me your prediction for the NBA Finals below and be sure to check out more sports write-ups from Steven.

NBA Championship Series is Set

Well, we have our final two teams — the Heat and the Thunder. And while this sounds like it could be a weather report, these two teams are ready to provide some real excitement of galactic proportions.

As for the team/individual stats, they can be somewhat informative. They are two teams who will run their opponents right off the court!

And if you kick the gameplay up to the next level, as is necessary in the finals, this will be a series which resembles something like watching basketball at the Daytona 500!

While the entire team had a role in getting them to the championship series, the Heat’s success will likely depend on the performance of their “Big Three:” LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Let’s take a look at some raw data for each player’s stats from the regular season:

LeBron James

It comes as no surprise that James led Miami in several categories. These include points per game with 27, field goal percentage at 53 percent, and tied for first in rebounds per game with 8. He scored 1,683 points in 62 games, which was 600 more than the second-highest teammate, D-Wade. However, Wade only played in 49 regular-season games. He also lead the Heat in assists with 387, and steals with 115.

James is deadly in the paint, where he gets a majority of his points. But if he is held to jumpers of 20 feet or more, James is somewhat defendable. He hits 36 percent of his three-point attempts, (very good, but not great), and he’s an average free throw shooter at 77 percent.

Dwyane Wade

Wade is certainly one who plays “in the shadow” of LeBron James. Nevertheless, he commands great respect of his own, both as a player and a team “spark plug.” He is, however, more than occasionally hampered by nagging or chronic injuries. He missed 17 games in the abbreviated 2012 season with one problem or another.

Despite this, he did score 22 points per game, shooting 49 percent from the floor. However, Wade hit only 27 percent of his three-point attempts and is only a slightly better free throw shooter at 79 percent. He was second on the team in assists with 225, slightly beating out Mario Chalmers, who had 220. Wade averages about 5 rebounds per game, but was second in blocked shots with 63. He also had about 61 percent fewer turnovers than LeBron James. Wade seems to have better production in the second half of games.

Chris Bosh

Often the somewhat “overlooked one” of the Big Three, Chris Bosh lives in the shadows of his two formidable teammates. But make no mistake — he makes considerable contributions to Miami’s success. Bosh will give the Heat a solid 18 points per game. He almost mirrors James in offensive, defensive and total rebounds, placing him at third-highest on the team, just 14 behind Haslem: 452 to 466.

Bosh hits on 49 percent of his shots, but can run “hot and cold” from three-point range, hitting an average of about 29 percent of his attempts. He is, however, the best of the three from the free throw line at 82 percent. He is the only other Heat player to score more than 1,000 points in this last season, amassing a total of 1,025 in 57 games.

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Of course, the Miami Heat will be up against the Western Conference champs: the Oklahoma City Thunder. Some may believe this is the first chance at a championship for OKC. They would be both right and wrong.

The 2012 season is the first time they will play for an NBA championship in Oklahoma. However, the Thunder are the former Seattle SuperSonics franchise, who won the NBA Championship in 1979.

No doubt, OKC is a team of young up-and-comers, led by three of the league’s top players: the NBA’s leading scorer Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man Award winner James Harden. In fact, their average age is less than 23 years old! So, as we’ve done with the Heat, let’s look at the season totals for each of these team leaders.

Kevin Durant

As mentioned, Durant was the leading scorer in the league this past season. He averaged 28 points per game, scoring a total of 1,850 points and playing in all 66 regular season games. Durant is lethal in almost any offensive category you look at, shooting 50 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range, and 86 percent from the free throw line. He was second on the team in assists with 231, and steals with 88.

What’s more, after the league’s supreme shot blocker, Serge Ibaka, Durant was second in that category for OKC, with 77. He also led the team in defensive rebounds and total boards with 487 and 527, respectively. The bottom line is simple: Kevin Durant is a force that is sure to cause a lot of trouble for the Heat in every way!

Russell Westbrook

As with Durant, Westbrook played in all 66 this past season. He averaged almost 24 points per game, amassing a total of 1,558 points. Westbrook takes a lot of two-point shot attempts, comprised of drives and short- to medium-range jumpers. He also hits those shots at a crisp 46 percent clip.

However, he specializes in feeding both Durant and Harden in three-point range, leading the Thunder with 362 assists. When he does put up a three-pointer, however, he hits it about 32 percent of the time. As with his teammates, Westbrook is very good from the charity stripe, making 82 percent of his tries. If anyone is adept at finding a way to beat a team, Westbrook is one of the very best in the NBA.

James Harden

Although he’s not a regular starter, (he had only two starts in 62 games), Harden did play the third-most minutes on the team this year at 1,946, or about 31 minutes per game. He averaged about 17 points per game and is the only other OKC player to score more than 1,000 points, running up a total of 1,044. Harden hits on 49 percent of his shot attempts, and 39 percent of his three-point shots. And just for good measure, he is a close second to Durant from the charity stripe at an impressive 85 percent.

Harden was just two assists behind Durant this year with 229, and had fewer turnovers by far than either Durant or Westbrook with just 137. He is one more complete player who can drive the lane for a lay-up or just as easily step back behind the arc and pour in a three-pointer. Harden is a fine compliment to Westbrook and Durant in finding ways to beat an opponent.

Now, as if these aren’t enough statistics to assimilate, it may be good to look at the team rankings in a few categories for more telling information. Here are a couple of quick notes of interest:

Points Per Game
Thunder: 103.1 (No. 3 in the league)
Heat: 98.5 (No. 7 in the league)

Field Goal Percentage
Thunder: 47 percent (No. 3 in the league)
Heat: 47 percent (No. 4 in the league)

Free Throw Percentage
Thunder: 81 percent (No. 1 in the league)
Heat: 78 percent (No. 7 in the league)

Three-point Percentage
Thunder: 36 percent (No. 11 in the league)
Heat: 36 percent (No. 10 in the league)

Total Rebounds
Thunder: 2,883 (No. 6 in the league)
Heat: 2,746 (No. 21 in the league)

Turnovers
Thunder: 1,079 (No. 30 in the league)
Heat: 1,002 (No. 23 in the league)

Blocks
Thunder: 539 (No. 1 in the league)
Heat: 355 (No. 10 in the league)

Of course, both teams came into the playoffs this year as the No. 2 seed in their respective conferences. Both endured large swings, both up and down. They both had moments of great accomplishment, and of near elimination.

On paper, the overall stats somewhat favor the Thunder. Experience goes to Miami. But as former NFL great Alex Karras once said, “statistics is for losers!” The bottom line is simple: whichever team can more consistently execute on defense, minimize turnovers and play with more heart, will win this series. However, that can be said of any contest in any sport!

My humble prediction: The Thunder will take it in 7 games

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