Pelicans Scoop: Finals Edition!

Published: June 4, 2014

1. Once again, the NBA Finals is the Heat and the Spurs. Assign probabilities to each of these outcomes.


2. Explain why you think the Spurs or Heat have an advantage in the series.

McNamara: I think the Spurs know how to play Wade and they have the type of versatility at center to contain Bosh. Beyond that, I think Miami is a lot thinner than the last 2-3 years and the Spurs can allow Lebron to get his, but it still won’t be enough. Meanwhile, the Spurs play the only kind of offensive basketball that gives the Heat problems. I really think we can see a 30-40 point differential in this series if it goes the way I see it going, even if it goes 7.

Pellissier: Danny Green’s absurd shooting was so beneficial to the Spurs in their series with the Heat last year and then fell off a cliff towards the end. Ultimately, the Spurs rely on this kind of space for Tony Parker and co. to operate. Their role players struggled to make shots on the road in their series with Oklahoma City and you saw how much OKC’s athleticism (particularly with Serge Ibaka back) bothered them when their shots weren’t falling.. when Miami’s defense is dialed in, they are so quick on their rotations, and though they lack someone who can block shots as capably as Ibaka, I think their quickness and athleticism is enough to make life hard for them. Miami’s defense has been anything but stellar so far, but I think a lot of that is an effort issue.

On defense, you saw San Antonio really flood the ball side of the floor versus the Thunder. They chose to over-help on Westbrook and KD and just close late on a player receiving a skip pass on the weak side rather than let Durant/Westbrook get open shots or get to the line. Miami is fortunate to have the greatest tall ball-handler in the game today (who regularly throws laser skip passes over the top of defenses) and they also have tons of guys who are capable of making perimeter shots. I just think they’ll spread San Antonio too far to recover. Also, the Spurs typically don’t do much in the way of offensive rebounds, and I think defensive rebounding is the only real Achilles heel of this Miami team.

Smith: Size is the Heat’s biggest weakness but last year in the NBA finals the Heat were able to beat the bigger Spurs by either using two of the best finishers in the game in Lebron James and Dwyane Wade to win games inside/at the line or they got inside and kicked out to one of their many shooters, and this year the Heat shot the 3 ball better than any team in the playoffs. Also with Tony Parker’s ankle giving him issues, even if he start the series with it at 100%, I think that the Heat’s aggressive play will wear that ankle down quickly.

Ginsberg: When comparing last year’s finals match-up to this one that was about as close to a coin flip as you could make a series, I look at what has changed between then and now for the two teams. For the Heat, LeBron is a little better, but I’m not sure what else is. For the Spurs, two pivotal pieces are much improved from last season: Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw. Ginobili has also been a bit more consistent this postseason than he was last year. Add that to home court advantage, and it tips the scales in San Antonio’s favor.

Madison: I agree a lot with Mason. The Spurs had some players take a step forward and are seemingly better than last season. Compare that to this Heat team being weaker than ever in the past three years, and I see a bit of a gap between the two. Tony Parker’s ankle is a worry, and a fairly significant one at that but Gregg Popovich is such a tremendous coach that he knows how to compensate.


3. Tim Duncan is still an effective player, but he is 38 years old and has lost a step. Does he retire at the end of this season? Is it dependent on the outcome?

McNamara: I would love to believe that he would win and ride off into the sunset, but why would he? Has he ever showed he is passionate about anything other than basketball? Is he going to kick start his once promising swimming career in time for the Rio Olympics? I think he comes back regardless.

Pellissier: At some point this season, I believe Duncan said he had no intention of retiring. The Spurs’ core is constantly evolving, Pop knows how to manage his minutes, and Duncan has been healthy enough for me to believe this is not his last run.

Smith: I’d be shocked if Tim Duncan retired at the end of this season. Tim Duncan, even with a lost step, is still a top big man in this league. He’s with a group of guys he loves playing with, he’s has a coach he loves playing for, and he’s still in a position to win championships. I don’t see a reason to retire.

Ginsberg: To be perfectly honest, a loss may drive Duncan more towards retirement than a win. I could see a scenario in which coming so close and yet coming up short vs. the Heat two years in a row would be demotivating enough for him to hang it up. That being said, the answer is still likely no, regardless of who wins the series.

Madison: Barring him suffering a major injury I don’t see it. He can still play at a high level and the Spurs will keep making the playoffs. I think he’s good for a little longer.


4. If LeBron James and the Heat win another title, where does he stand in the hierarchy of the greats? Where does he wind up at the end of his career?

McNamara: I already have him as the 2nd best perimeter player of All-Time, so if he wins this, he could move into the discussion for top 3 player of All-Time. And he moves within striking distance of MJ. If he wins here and keeps up this dominance for another 3-4 years and adds another title or two, it will actually be a debate.

Pellissier: I think he’s pretty close to being mentioned in the same breath as Magic, and I think, if he wins, you can put him in the same company (already). I honestly don’t know if he’ll ever catch Jordan, though. I know basketball is more than statistics, but MJ’s stats are beyond insane.. and that’s not even mentioning his legacy. I love watching LeBron, but I don’t think his accomplishments will ever quite stack up to what MJ did.

Smith: In my lifetime I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a more complete player that can play as many positions as Lebron can.Another ring will make him, without a doubt, the best SF in history in my mind. I think that his skill set and dominance could put him in the top 2 of the all time greats in the NBA when his career is over.

Ginsberg: If LeBron and the Heat can 3peat, he puts himself on a pretty solid trajectory to challenge Jordan for GOAT status. I don’t think he will get there, but that’s not to say the argument will be entirely ludicrous when all is said and done. All that being said, I’m still uncomfortable determining where to rank him among the all-time greats before he even turns 30.

Madison: He’s already up there so adding a third title into the discussion pushes him that much further towards the top. It’s tough to compare different eras but if LeBron gets ring number 3 and has another 4 years of top-level basketball, and adds a 4th title? Yeah, the comparison with Jordan because that much more serious.


5. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been in the Finals. What has watching them taught you about how the Pelicans could/should build a champion?

McNamara: That you need to be able to win in multiple ways. The Spurs played Duncan and Splitter the whole season, but once Ibaka came back, they just couldn’t win that way. But they had Bonner and Diaw, who could allow them to play a totally different way when the situation called for it. Same for the Heat. They face off against Hibbert and West, and all of a sudden, they bring Rashard Lewis out of nowhere and go small to destroy them offensively.  Teams like the Rockets, Grizzlies, and Clippers can really only play one way and that means they could look great one series but majorly flawed the next depending on the matchup. The Heat and Spurs can play different ways at a very high level, and that is what you need to win 3 or 4 rounds against really good teams.

Pellissier: I started crossing off a lot of potential targets for the Pelicans once I saw how far the Spurs were cheating off Sefolosha. You don’t just need guys who can make shots- they have to be willing to launch them quickly. Otherwise the defense can just recover. Aside from that, versatility is so huge. Being able to move effectively and prevent mismatches on defense and create them on offense give your a team the upper hand. You need guys who can do more than one thing and you need guys who can play on both sides of the ball.

Smith: You need ball movement and good role players. We have the two best passing teams in the NBA going back at each other once again in the finals.  The Spurs and Heat both can move the ball to perfection but they also have role players that aren’t afraid to take big shots. Also because of how much these teams move the ball they often create mismatches which the Spurs excel in taking advantage of, whether it’s one of their stars that has the matchup or a role player once they have a mismatch they attack it.

Ginsberg: If your team doesn’t have the ability to both spread out the defense with shooting and get high percentage looks at the rim, you make yourself one-dimensional on offense and therefore much easier to defend (especially in crunch time). On the flip side, you have to be willing to make potentially major rotational adjustments on the defensive side of the ball in order to put your team in the best position to succeed. Take it from Coach Popovich, who decided to stagger Splitter and Duncan’s minutes against the Thunder instead of starting them together. The Pelicans appear to have themselves well-positioned to accomplish those offensive goals, so the key could ultimately end up being their potential to grow enough defensively.

Madison: All of the above is correct. But my main takeaway is two fold. You have to be able to adapt and play different styles of ball. Dictate what you opponent does versus them doing it to you. Also, keep moving. The Spurs offense looks amazing because it is never stagnant. Some of those gorgeous looking plays? The shot that scores is often the fouth action off the play. It makes me jealous.



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