Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
What intrigues you about these Finals? What will you be watching?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: This is a Tim Duncan series for me. For one thing, seeing how Miami copes with and attacks the Hall of Fame-bound big man should mean great basketball — Duncan’s different from Indiana center Roy Hibbert, not as imposing at the rim, but he’s also the best and smartest big man the Heat will have faced in its three Finals trips. Then there’s just the sense that we all had better enjoy and remember Duncan’s game; he’s been so good so long that it’s easy to think he’ll stick around forever.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: How Gregg Popovich defends LeBron James. After two breakout games by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson early in the Golden State series, Popovich came up with a plan to rein them in. Then, he drew up a defensive wet blanket to throw over the strong inside games of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the Memphis series. What can Pop do, not to stop LeBron, but get him out of a rhythm and put the burden back on Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh?
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The raw emotion. There’s so many storylines at play on both sides. You’ve got Tim Duncan at age 37 perhaps making his last trip to The Finals and Tony Parker‘s promise to get Duncan one more title. You’ve got Manu sort of struggling and Pop’s unwavering attachment to his Big Three and this great, proud Spurs organization that seemingly does everything the right way. Then there’s the always-scrutinized Heat, LeBron’s legacy, Wade’s legacy and the potential for this whole thing to come to and end next summer when LeBron, Wade and Bosh can all opt out. At times it gets so easy to pile on the Heat whenever they slip up and we begin to write their obituary, just as we have numerous times with the Spurs, rather than simply enjoying the process, enjoying an incredibly unique player and a team that has shattered conventional thinking. How these players react and respond to the highs and lows of each game and the plot twists between games, the intensity and the immediacy will be riveting.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: What the Heat get — or don’t get from Dwyane Wade. There is a conversation to be had about Chris Bosh as well, but Wade is under particular scrutiny after his wobbly conference final. Have a series against the Spurs like Game 7 against the Pacers and Miami is closer to a title. Struggle, because of health issues or otherwise, and the Heat are that much more vulnerable.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: First, I’ll be watching the Spurs’ pick-and-roll offense vs. the Heat’s aggressive defense. But like everyone else, I’ll have Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on my radar. Wade brought a lot more energy and athleticism to Game 7 on Monday, but we just don’t know how often he can play like that. And Bosh obviously has to play bigger than he did in the last four games against Indiana, when he shot 8-for-34 and averaged just 5.0 rebounds. Miami’s defense and Wade’s offensive boards were enough to get past the Pacers, but LeBron James will need more help than that against the Spurs.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: We saw LeBron James and Kevin Durant do their thing in The Finals last season and it was everything we could have asked for. But LeBron’s matchup with Kawhi Leonard brings something completely different for the four-time MVP. We finally get to see him matched up against a guy who could provide the ideal foil to what LeBron likes to do, based on Leonard’s size, length, athleticism. Plus, it’ll be his primary objective will be to try to stop LeBron. It reminds me of some of the defensive matches Michael Jordan faced during his reign, when everyone from Hall of Famer Joe Dumars to John Starks to Gary Payton to Bryon Russell took turns trying to deny him his sweet spots on the floor. I’ll be curious to see if Leonard is up to the task or if he’s simply going to be another member of LeBron’s highlight reel.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m really interested in seeing what Mario Chalmers brings to the series. The more I’ve watched him the more I’ve realized he is such a polarizing player — he either makes great plays or he makes mistakes and gets yelled at by LeBron and Wade. Tony Parker has played great of late, so if Chalmers can make him work even a bit defensively and wear him down, that could be huge. And can the Heat use Chalmers to defend Parker, or will they have to switch LeBron or Wade onto him to try and contain him?
Hanson Guan, NBA China: No doubt, I will be keen to see if James can eventually avenge the humiliation a half-dozen years ago. These Finals will be a defining moment in his career and a great opportunity for him to build his legacy (and the Heat dynasty). A defeat will smash any dream to outshine Michael Jordan, and may even make him a target of fans’ vitriol again. If he can defend the title and exact some revenge, James will reach the pinnacle of his career. This will also be a boost to his place in history. A duel which particularly intrigues me would be the one between Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade. Who will shine in The Finals?
Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I will focus in on two aspects: first of all, how Miami will handle the Spurs’ rebound advantage after they struggled so much against the Pacers. Tiago Splitter and Duncan are like Roy Hibbert and David West, plus the Spurs have a top-5 point guard, great perimeter shooters and solid backups. They can really hurt Miami. Second, I’ll watch how Kawhi Leonard will defend LeBron. Leonard is a potential star and this duel for him could be a breakout — or a sign that he’s not quite ready yet.
Selçuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: I feel like Manu Ginobili will be the star of The Finals, so I’ll keep my eyes squarely on him. I’m curious about Popovich’s defense strategy, in terms of how he’ll try to stop LeBron (and with whom). But mostly I will be watching Manu Ginobili.