The intriguing possibility of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James joining forces in 2015

By: Jon

 

Why LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony should opt into their current deals?

Over the long term, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will make more money. Instead of signing a five year deal this offseason for about $130 million, the two stars can make $21 million this season and then sign a similar $130 million deal the next summer. Although opting in would be allow the duo to score more money, Melo and LeBron have earned so much money over their careers on and off the court that they will look for a better team than money. If LeBron and Carmelo opt into their current deals, they will have a better chance at winning multiple titles in the future. Next season, James and Melo will have a difficult time winning a championship, if they remain on their same teams.

Although James will have a chance to win a title, Melo will have absolutely no chance of winning a title or even a playoff round next year. Without any cap room, no draft picks, and a first year head coach, the Knicks will be unable to improve their squad which did not even make the playoffs this season. Although Melo will likely make the playoffs next season as a six or seven seed because JR Smith will have a better season, Chandler will play better defense, Amar’e played well at the end of last season, and Tim Hardaway should improve from his solid freshman performance, Melo wants to become a legend and a champion, which will not happen without help.

Will these two USA teammates team up? Courtesy of ESPN
Will these two USA teammates team up?
Courtesy of ESPN

 

Along with Melo’s problems, James will have trouble winning another championship with his current teammates. Unless a miracle occurs, Wade retires, and Bosh leaves Miami, LeBron will have the same team. Dwyane Wade’s knees make him an inconsistent star and Chris Bosh is not a number two that can help LeBron reach a title. This season, LeBron was forced to carry the Heat and it has visibly taken a tole on the best and strongest player in the world. If the duo waits a year, they can create a new big three and win a few more titles. In 2015, the Heat will have very little on their payroll and will be able to sign three stars.

Along with the Heat, the Knicks will have a lot of cap room and be able to sign 3 stars. During the summer of 2015, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brook Lopez will be free agents. Any combination of LeBron, Melo, and another star would instantly make the Knicks or Heat instant contenders and the favorite to win the championship. The triplet of LeBron, Melo, and Kevin Love would give Melo and LeBron the best chance of winning multiple championships in the future. Unlike the other stars, Love is only 25 and is entering the prime of his career. When the duo reaches their age 35 season, Love would be 30 and carry the team. As seen from the current Miami Big Three, the Heat frequently have trouble rebounding against the bigger teams. Love is an overall better player than Bosh because he is a better three point shooter and is willing to rebound at a high level, unlike Bosh. Also, at this stage of his career, Carmelo Anthony is a better player than Dwyane Wade. Due to Wade’s injured knees, he does not have the same explosiveness and his jumper is inconsistent. Although Melo will eventually age, his ability to hit jumpers will make his skills diminish at a slower pace.

 

Why LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony should opt out of their current deals?

Although in a perfect world LeBron and Melo would opt into their current deals, become free agents, and form a new big three, the possibility of the plan laid out above is highly unlikely. Under the current circumstances, Carmelo is high likely to opt out of his current deal because he cannot stand another season of horrendous basketball. If Melo opts out of his current deal, he will have many enticing options this offseason, including the Bulls, Lakers, and Rockets. The Bulls have Derrick Rose, although frequently injured, Jimmy Butler, and Joakim Noah. The Lakers have Bryant, a top ten pick in a stud draft, but most importantly they are the Lakers and Kevin Love desperately wants to return home and play for the Lakers.

How great would it be if Melo joined forces with Kobe and Kevin Love in Los Angeles? Courtesy of Laker Nation
How great would it be if Melo joined forces with Kobe and Kevin Love in Los Angeles?
Courtesy of Laker Nation

 

The combination of Love, Bryant, Anthony, and Julius Randle would give the Lakers and Anthony a great chance at winning multiple titles over the next few years. Although Bryant will eventually retire, Randle, Anthony, and Love would be a great big three that could win multiple championships because Randle and Love have yet to enter their prime. Also, the Lakers have shown a willingness to spend money in order to build a strong bench. Although the Rockets will have to finagle and trade a few big contracts, they could sign Anthony and pair him with Howard and Harden. Although the option of LeBron and Love would be the best choice, the other teams would prove as great opportunities for Anthony and his hope to win a championship.

While it would prove best for Anthony top opt out, James may opt out  in order to sign his max long term deal. James may be able to convince Bosh or Wade to take less money in order to sign and form a deeper bench. However, it is undecided if Bosh will reunite with the Heat as the third wheel on Miami. Although he has won two championships, he receives the most criticism on the team and his numbers have been declining over the past few seasons. Also, it is unlikely that Love will find his way to Miami because the Timberwolves are likely to trade him and if he goes to free agency the Lakers are the best option for him. If Miami wins another title against the Spurs, LeBron will be more likely to stay and believe that he can win a few more titles with Miami.

Biggest Surprise for each MLB team

By: Jon

 

Arizona Diamondbacks – Chris Owings

The 22 year old rookie shortstop for the Diamondbacks has been one of the few bright spots for the struggling Diamondbacks, who own the fourth worst record in the league. Owings has played in 58 games this season and has been a solid hitter. Owings has hit .276 with 20 extra base hits and 22 runs. On defense, Owings is one of the best shortstops in the major league baseball with a defensive WAR of 1.1. Due to his great defense and efficient hitting, Owings has the highest WAR on the Diamondbacks.

Atlanta Braves – Julio Tehran

Although the Braves were expecting a solid season from their 23 year old starting pitcher, they did not expect him to be one of the best pitchers in the league. Tehran ranks first in MLB in ERA, 1.89, and second in WHIP, 0.93. Unlike his first year in the bigs last season, Tehran has pitched deep into games. Tehran has thrown his only 2 complete games and shutouts this season while placing sixth in innings pitched. Although Tehran has pitched great, he has only six wins, which could hinder his chances at the Cy Young Award, if he can continue his excellence.

Baltimore Orioles – Nelson Cruz

After missing the final 50 games of the season because of his involvement in the PED, Cruz had to settle for a one year $8M deal with the Baltimore Orioles. However, the deal will probably be the best deal of the offseason. This season, Cruz is having a remarkable year, hitting 21 home runs, 55 RBI, 42 Runs, and .307 average. Cruz is leading the entire major leagues in home runs and RBI and ranks second in slugging percentage and OPS. Although he will not maintain his torrent pace of 57 home runs and 149 RBI, he has been an absolute steal for the Orioles and will likely post the best stats of his career.

Boston Red Sox – Clay Buchholz

After winning the World Series last season, the Red Sox are in danger of totally missing the playoffs. Although Buchholz has been frequently injured, he has been a great pitcher when he was on the mound. However, this season, he has not been the ace of the staff, but rather the worst starting pitcher on the team. Before Buchholz went down with a knee injury, he was 2-4 with an ERA over 7.00 and a WHIP near 2.00. During his 10 starts, Buchholz only pitched 7 innings once while pitching less than 5 innings 5 times. Also, Buchholz has allowed at least 10 hits three times and at least 5 runs 4 times.

Clay Buchholz Courtesy of The Boston Globe
Clay Buchholz
Courtesy of The Boston Globe

 

Chicago Cubs – Jason Hammel

The Cubs signed Hammel this offseason in hope that he would pitch well enough to trade at the trade deadline. Hammel has exceeded expectations this season, posting an ERA of 2.53 and a WHIP of 0.88. Hammel’s WHIP is second lowest in the entire Major League. Hammel’s performances have stabilized the Cubs’ rotation and have allowed the Cubs to play good baseball the last two weeks. Hammel has given the Cubs length, seven innings in 7 games. Although Hammel’s pitching has been important, his veteran leadership has permeated through the young Cubs’ locker room.

Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu

The Cuban rookie has been one of the best players in the league, which has set up a great competition for the AL Rookie of the Year with Masahiro Tanaka. Although Abreu was on the DL for 15 days, he ranks second in the MLB in home runs, 17, seventh in RBI, 47, and third in slugging, .592. During his first month, Abreu set the record for the most home runs by a rookie before May. Although people questioned the White Sox’s decision this offseason, he makes his contract look like a bargain because of his power. Last season, the White Sox ranked 29th in runs scored, but they are currently ranked fifth.

Jose Abreu Courtesy of CBS Sports
Jose Abreu
Courtesy of CBS Sports

 

Cincinnati Reds – Johnny Cueto

Similar to Tehran, the Reds expected Cueto to have a solid season, but he has been one of the three best pitchers in the league. During the first third of the season, Cueto ranks second in ERA, 1.97, first in WHIP, 0.79, sixth in strikeouts, 97, second in innings, 96.0, and fifth in WAR, 3.0. Although Cueto has been great, the Reds have given him no run support, which has resulted in 5 losses compared to only 5 wins. During a 6 game stretch, Cueto pitched 51 of 54 innings, including 3 complete games, while allowing only 5 runs and accumulating 3 wins.

Cleveland Indians – Justin Masterson

Although the Indians made the postseason last year, they are barely above 500 this season. One reason that they have been unable to repeat their success is Justin Masterson’s inconsistency. Last season, Masterson pitched to an ERA of 3.45 and the Indians were expecting another solid season from their ace before they gave him a long term deal. However, his ERA has ballooned to 4.61, while winning only 4 games. Also, his WHIP is .3 points higher than last season. Lately, Masterson has been even worse, only one quality start in the last 6 contests. Over the past 3 seasons, Masterson has averaged 205 innings, but he is on pace to pitch only 190 innings.

Colorado Rockies – Charlie Blackmon

In his first full season in the big league, Blackmon has been a key cog for the Rockies and has a chance to make the NL All-Star team. Before this season, Blackmon played more than 80 games only once because he was behind stuck behind Dexter Fowler in center. Blackmon has done everything for the Rockies on offense because he has speed, power, and contact. Blackmon ranks second on the team in home runs, 11, RBI, 40, runs, 38, hits, 68, triples, 1, oWAR, 1.5, and total bases, 112. Blackmon is a solid base runner as well, the most steals on the team.

Detroit Tigers – Joe Nathan

The Tigers have been receiving quality production from their high priced stars except for Joe Nathan. Last season, the Tigers lost in the ALCS because their bullpen was unable to capitalize on the great performances from their starting rotation. The Tigers hoped that the addition of Joe Nathan would stabilize their bullpen and allow them to take the next step forward to a championship. However, Nathan has been horrible as the closer with an ERA of 7.04 and a WHIP of 1.57. Nathan has blown 4 of his 17 save opportunities, even though he blew only 3 saves last season.

Joe Nathan Courtesy of Detroit News
Joe Nathan
Courtesy of Detroit News

 

Florida Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton

After a horrible season, many questioned his ability to hit without protection and in the Marlins’ new cavernous stadium. Stanton is on pace to put together his best season of his career. On offense, Stanton has hit 17 home runs, first in the NL, 53 RBI, second in the Major League, .301 average, highest of his career, .589 slugging, fifth in the majors, .982 OPS, fifth in the majors, and 4.3 WAR, third in the majors. On defense, Stanton has posted the best statistical season of his career in terms of Defensive WAR. After a combined DWAR of -1.0 over the past three seasons, Stanton has a DWAR of 1.2.

Houston Astros – Dallas Keuchel

For the first time in the last three seasons, the Astros are on pace to lose less than 100 games. The 26 year old starting pitcher has been the ace of the Astros’ staff. During his first twelve starts, Dallas has been incredibly consistent and has put together 10 quality starts. Dallas has accumulated seven wins, 2.50 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 7 strikeouts. Over the past five games, Dallas has been fantastic and pitched 2 complete game shutouts and one six inning shutout. Dallas should continue pitching at a high level and lead the young Dallas rotation.

Kansas City Royals – Mike Moustakas

The former top prospect for the Royals has not met expectations and is bordering on bust. Along with Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, Mike was set to be a powerful and formidable bat in the middle of the Royals’ order. However, Mike is currently batting .151 with only four home runs, 20 RBI, 10 runs, and .303 slugging percentage. Mike was so bad that the Royals needed to demote him the minor leagues and recently brought him back up to the majors. Overall Moustakas has cost the Royals 0.4 wins this season although he adds 0.3 wins on defense.

Mike Moustakas Courtesy of USA Today
Mike Moustakas
Courtesy of USA Today

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – David Freese

The former World Series MVP for the St. Louis Cardinals was acquired by the Angels this offseason. However, Freese has not met expectations. Through the first 42 games, Freese has hit only 2 home runs, 15 RBI, 17 runs, .231 average, .299 slugging percentage, and only 6 extra base hits. In terms of WAR, Freese has not added any wins above a replacement player offensive and deducted 0.1 wins on defense. Although the Angels have been playing better this season, Freese is not the reason for the Angels’ turnaround.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Dee Gordon

Last season, the Dodgers expected big things from Dee Gordon because of his great speed and ability to hit at the top of the order. The Dodgers had such little faith in Gordon that they signed a Cuban shortstop to a 4 year $28M deal. However, this season, Gordon showed the potential that excited the Dodgers. Dee is leading the league with 36 steals while batting .284 and posting an OWAR of 1.6. Also, Gordon accumulated 17 extra base hits including 6 triples while recording 33 runs. Although Gordon has great range due to his speed, he has committed 5 errors and has not added any wins in terms of DWAR.

Milwaukee Brewers – Jonathan Lucroy

The 27 year old fourth year catcher has been one of the main catalysts of the Brewers. The Brewers have been a revelation this season because of their offense led by Gomez, Lucroy, and Braun. Although Lucroy does not hit many home runs, he is a very good line drive and contact hitter. Lucroy is second in the majors in batting average with a .335 average. Although Lucroy only has 4 home runs, he has recorded 23 doubles, 28 extra base hits overall, 27 RBI, 28 runs, and a .398 on base percentage. Along with his offensive skill, his DWAR, 1.0, is the highest on the team.

Minnesota Twins – Brian Dozier

Although Dozier is a second basemen, he has impressive power and leads the team in home runs, 13. Along with Brian’s home runs, Dozier has 31 RBI, 11 doubles, .246 average, 13 steals, and .451 slugging percentage. Also, Dozier is leading the whole MLB with 53 runs. In terms of WAR, Dozier leads the team with 2.5. After a few horrible seasons, the Twins have been one of the surprises in the league and has a chance to reach .500 this season. One of the main reasons for the Twins turn around is the emergence of Brian Dozier and an improved pitching rotation.

New York Mets – Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson was the Mets biggest offseason addition because the Mets hoped that his power could give protection for David Wright. However, Granderson has not provided the power or formidable bat that the Mets were expecting when they gave him a long term deal. Although the Mets were expecting Granderson to strike out over 25% of the time and possess a .221 average, they hoped that Granderson would hit more than 8 home runs, drive in more than 30 RBI, and 28 runs. Without the Yankees’ right field porch, Granderson has been unable to reproduce his gaudy power numbers.

Curtis Granderson Courtesy of New York Times
Curtis Granderson
Courtesy of New York Times

 

New York Yankees – Dellin Betances

Although the Yankees had high hopes for Betances when he was in the minors a few seasons ago, he could not locate his pitches and many believed that he would not make a significant impact on the major league team. Although Betances is not a closer, he is incredibly important to the bullpen because he can pitch multiple innings. However, his best attribute is his ability to strike out batters and his nasty fastball-slurve combination. Over 36 innings of work, Betances has struck out 61 batters, 15.25 K/9, which ranks fourth in the majors. Along with his great strikeout numbers, he has an ERA of 1.50 and a WHIP of 0.75

Oakland Athletics – Brandon Moss

After an impressive last year, Moss backed up his quality numbers with great numbers. This season, Moss has shown his ability to hit for average, .279, which leads the team, and power, 16 home runs, which is second on the team. Moss’s biggest asset could be his ability to drive in runs, 53 RBI, second in MLB, and 31 runs. Along with Josh Donaldson, Moss has provided pop to the middle of the A’s rotation, which has allowed them to have the best record in the AL. Although he does not carry a great glove, his bat makes him one of the best players on the best team.

Philadelphia Phillies – Domonic Brown

The Phillies’ young left fielder had a fantastic season last year and showed his power. However, this season, the inability of Brown to add his home run potential to the middle of the lineup has led the Phillies to the worst record in the NL East. Through 59 games, Brown has 4 home runs and 13 extra base hits. Along with his lack of power, Brown is batting .218/.268/.322, which gives him an OWAR of -0.8. On defense, Brown does not make the team better and supports an DWAR of -0.5.

Domonic Brown Courtesy of Phillies Nation
Domonic Brown
Courtesy of Phillies Nation

 

Pittsburgh Pirates – Tony Watson

The 29 year old third year reliever from the Pirates as been surprisingly great for the Pirates this season. The lefty Watson pitches with a 94 mph fastball, but has started using his changeup, which has allowed him to thrive. Before this season, Watson averaged less than one strikeout per inning and an ERA above 2.75. However, he has been great during his 29 innings. During his 29 innings, he has an ERA of 0.93, WHIP of 1.03, 15 holds, 5-0 record, 35 strikeouts, and a K/9 of 10.86. Although the Pirates have not been the same team this season, Watson has enabled them to almost reach 500 and he has a WAR of 1.5.

San Diego Padres – Jedd Gyorko

The Padres recently signed Jedd Gyorko to a long term deal and hoped that he would be part of their core for the future. However, through the first third of the season, Gyorko has been awful and the Padres will not been the darkhouse team to make the playoffs. On offense, Gyorko provides nothing because he is hitting .162 with 5 home runs, 24 RBI, 13 runs, .213 on base percentage, and .270 slugging percentage. His offensive WAR is -0.9. On defense, Jedd has a DWAR of -0.3 and has committed 6 errors.

 San Francisco Giants – Tim Hudson

The former ace of the Braves and A’s is putting together the best season of his career at age 38. During his first 12 starts, Hudson has been one of the best pitchers in the league, even though many teams passed over him during the offseason. Hudson ranks second in MLB in ERA, 1.97 and fifth in WHIP, 0.96, while posting a 6-2 record for the first place Giants. After the Giants experienced a horrible season last year, Hudson has provided veteran leadership and a consistent proven winner to the rotation. Along with the Giants’ improved offense, Hudson has added another reliable pitcher to the Giants’ talented rotation.

Tim Hudson Courtesy of Mercury News
Tim Hudson
Courtesy of Mercury News

 

Seattle Mariners – Fernando Rodney

Last season, Rodney was expected to be a star closer for the Tampa Bay Rays, but blew 8 saves and recorded an ERA of 3.38. His horrendous season left him jobless, but the Mariners took a chance on him this offseason. Unlike previous seasons, the bullpen is not blowing the great starts by their fabulous starting rotation. Rodney has been able to stabilize the Mariners bullpen and they have a chance at making the playoffs. Rodney ranks third in MLB with 18 saves while only blowing 2 saves. Also, Rodney has recorded an 2.19 ERA while striking out more than 9 batters per nine innings.

St. Louis Cardinals – Matt Holliday

Although the Cardinals have a deep lineup, they have not performed at a high level and the Cardinals are barely over 500. One of the main culprits is Matt Holliday. Although Holliday has been one of the most consistent hitters over the past decade, Holliday has been unable to produce at the plate. During the first 62 games, Holliday has hit only 2 home runs, 29 RBI, 31 runs, .368 slugging percentage while compiling only a .264 average. On defense, Holliday does not add any help and he has the lowest DWAR on the squad, -0.4.

Tampa Bay Rays – David Price

This season, the Rays’ rotation has been one of the worst in the league because of the multitude of injuries. Along with the unfortunate injuries, David Price has not pitched like an ace of the staff. After winning the Cy Young two years ago, Price has an ERA of 3.97, WHIP of 1.15, and only 8 quality starts in the last 14 games. Price has lost more games than he has won, which is inexcusable for the ace of the staff. Price has been beaten by the long ball, 13 home runs, which must change if the Rays are going to turn around their season.

David Price Courtesy of Zimbio
David Price
Courtesy of Zimbio

 

Texas Rangers – Alex Rios

The veteran outfielder has been a major surprise for the Texas Rangers, who are struggling to stay alive in the competitive AL West. Rios was acquired last season, but the Rangers are reaping the benefits this season. Rios is leading the AL in average, .335. Along with his high average, he has been a very good line drive hitter, which has resulted in numerous extra base hits, including 8 triples and 14 doubles. Along with his solid average, he has recorded 32 RBI, 29 runs, and 1.1 OWAR.

Toronto Blue Jays – Mark Buehrle

The veteran Blue Jay has been a revelation for the surprising first place Blue Jays. Although the Blue Jays are known for their great offense, the pitching has been the reason why they are playing great baseball. During his first 13 starts, Mark has accumulated 11 quality starts and 10 wins while losing only 2 games. Although Buehrle has a high WHIP, 1.20, he has limited these base runners from scoring and has an ERA of 2.04. Buehrle has been incredibly consistent this season and has allowed more than 3 runs only once. Along with his consistency, he is an innings eater for the Blue Jays, who have a below average bullpen.

Washington Nationals – Rafael Soriano

The Washington Nationals’ closer has revitalized this season and is pitching very well. Last season, Soriano recorded 43 saves, but blew 6 saves, WAR of 0.9, ERA of 3.11, and a WHIP of 1.23. However, this season, all of his stats have improved and he has become one of the best closers in the league. Soriano has recorded 12 saves while compiling an ERA of 1.13, WHIP of 0.96, WAR of 1.2, and has blown only 2 saves all season. Soriano has been through pressure filled situations and should be able to handle the stress down the stretch.

Prediction and Preview of the NBA Finals: Heat vs Spurs

By: Jon

After nearly a month of playoff action, the finals are set and most NBA fans would say that this is the matchup they would most like to see. Last season, the Heat and Spurs played one of the greatest finals of all-time. This year’s finals should be as compelling because the storylines are even more enticing and many believe that the teams are evenly matched.

 

Why the Miami Heat will win?

They have the best player in the world and the two best players in the series. If the Heat are going to win this series, both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade must play well and continue their great postseason. Although the fatigue of playing in the last three finals and the Olympics has visibly diminished LeBron’s energy, he is averaging 27.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 56% from the field. During the postseason, LeBron has differentiated the games where he must go all out and defeat his opponent verses the games when he can relax and allow his teammates to shoulder the load. During the games that LeBron has tried his hardest, the Heat have won every game and most of them have not even been close.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.49.23 AM

 

The major difference between last year’s Heat team and this year’s team is the consistent performances from Dwyane Wade. Last year, Wade looked like a shell of his former self throughout the playoffs and it seemed like we would never see the same aggressive Wade again. However, this year, Wade’s knees have stayed healthy and he is averaging 3 more points per game and shooting 6% higher from the field, including 15% higher from three. The two have shown throughout the postseason that they have the capability to take over tight games and win.

Besides LeBron and Wade, another key for the Heat will be their ability to hit threes. James and Wade are two of the best slashers and passers in the history of basketball, which leaves shooters, like Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Mario Chalmers, and James Jones, wide open for three. If they can shoot a high percentage from three, they will force the Spurs to play “small ball”, which will play into the advantage of the Heat. This postseason, the Heat have shot 40% for three and they must continue to shoot a high percentage in order to win.

 

Why the San Antonio Spurs will win?

They want to avenge their loss to the Heat in last year’s final and they have a better overall team than the Heat. Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been the most consistent team in the league because of their Hall of Fame head coach, top ten all time player, and the willingness to pass and play like a team. Although the Spurs have a “Big Three” of their own, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili, they are really the “Big Seven” because seven of their players play more than 24 minutes per game, but none over 32 minutes per game.

The biggest advantage for the Spurs is their bench, ability to pass the ball, and size. During the series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the difference between the two teams was the performances from the bench players. If the Spurs are going to win this series, the bench must play a huge role. Although they do not need Boris Diaw to score 26 points or Ginobili to average over 20 for the series, the bench must shoot threes at a high percentage and take advantage when LeBron or Wade is on the bench.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.50.14 AM

 

Although Tony Parker is the only Spur who can consistently break down opposing defenses, the schemes that Pop devises and player’s ability to see open cutters or men near the basket allows them to convert easy buckets. Unlike the Heat’s big men, Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Tim Duncan are capable passers. Although the big men need to look for open shooters, they must dominate the Heat down low if they are going to win the series. The Heat like to play small lineups with Bosh at the five with LeBron, Wade, Lewis, and Cole. When the Heat put these five on the field, Duncan and/or the other big man must take advantage of their matchup with Chris Bosh. Although Bosh is a capable rim defender, Duncan and Splitter have significant advantages in terms of weight and size.

The duo will need to score efficiently and punish the Heat on the glass or the Heat will hit too many threes. Similar to the Heat, the Spurs bench and role players must knock down threes and spread the floor. Last year, the emergence of Danny Green and Gary Neal almost led the Spurs to a title. This year, Green, Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, and Marco Belinelli must step up and hit threes, so Duncan and Parker have room to operate in the paint.

 

Miami Heat’s X-Factor: Chris Bosh

Each year that Bosh has been with the Heat his scoring and rebounding numbers have slowly dropped. Throughout his time in Miami, Bosh has slowly transformed from a dominant big man in the paint to a more finesse player that shoots threes. When Bosh has played aggressive and well, the Heat have been nearly unbeatable. If Bosh can shoot the three at a high percentage, he will pull the big men away from the basket and allow James and Wade to drive in the lane. During the last three games, Bosh has averaged over 23 points and 8 rebounds per game. During the three games, the Heat won two and almost beat the Pacers when LeBron scored only 7 points. Bosh will want to avenge his game 7 performance from last season when he did not score and grabbed only 7 rebounds. If Bosh has a big series and the Heat win the series, LeBron will have more confidence to stay with Bosh and the Heat this offseason.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.50.47 AM

 

San Antonio Spurs’ X-Factor: Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili’s performance during last season’s final is the reason why the San Antonio Spurs did not claim their fifth ring. Last year, Manu averaged 11.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.1 rebounds while shooting only 43% from the field. During the series, Ginobili scored in the single digits 4 times, looked lost for most of series, and averaged nearly 3 turnovers per game, including 8 in Game 6. Ginobili has played better this postseason, averaging 15.2 points per game while shooting 50% from the field during the series against the Thunder. If Parker is not at 100%, Ginobili will be called upon to be a facilitator and generate offense for the Spurs. Like many of the Spurs, Ginobili has the ability to shoot and pass at a high level. Manu is an incredible competitor and will be determined to avenge his horrid performance. Manu is the heart of the team and needs to have a big series in order to claim another title.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.51.22 AM

Prediction: Heat in 7

Similar to last year’s series, the series should go to seven because they are evenly matched. However, I do not see LeBron losing a chance to win his third straight championship in a game seven. Although the Spurs will be determined to enact revenge for their loss, D-Wade and LeBron have the same intensity and tenacity to achieve greatness. While Wade wants to continue adding rings in hope of passing Kobe on the all-time list, LeBron cannot waste chances like this if he wants to reach seven rings and pass Michael as the best player of all-time.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.52.56 AM

Like Wade and LeBron, Duncan hopes to add to his ring collection in order ascend on the all-time rankings list. Although Duncan is already the best power forward to play the game, another ring will enhance his claim as one of the best big men of all time as he would pass Shaq with 5 rings. Along with Duncan, Pop heightens his argument as one of the top five coaches of all time.

 

Pics and Stats from ESPN.com