NBA Roundtable: Can Jimmy Butler win NBA Finals MVP even if the Heat lose?
BetAmerica has teamed up with Covers and OddsChecker to break down the latest news and trends from around the Association. This week NBA columnists Jason Logan, Sam Farley and Ryan Murphy share their NBA Final MVP predictions and discuss LeBron James’ best teammates.
The Heat made things interesting with a stunning Game 3 victory. Who gets your vote as NBA Finals MVP?
Jason: LeBron. Make what you want of his escape from Game 3 with 10 seconds left on the clock, but to me that’s just him immediately putting that loss – and his eight turnovers - behind him. James has been everything in the opening three games and with Jimmy Butler poking the bear with his postgame comments, expect LeBron to have a much cleaner effort in Game 4 and in the rest of the series.
Sam: Just when you think it’s over, and we’re set to see a sweep, Jimmy Butler goes into Hulk-mode and singlehandedly wins Game 3. So far, the Finals MVP has to be LeBron. Through the first two games he was immense and although he didn’t play near his best on Sunday he’s been the best player across the three games. If, and it’s a big if, the Heat get back into this and somehow win the series, then it’s Butler purely because of that performance in Game 3. Sadly, I can’t see that happening though.
Ryan: LeBron James and Anthony Davis have both had their moments, but Jimmy Butler has easily been the best player on the court through the first three games of the NBA Finals. The five-time All-Star is averaging 29.3 points, 10.3 assists and 7.0 rebounds and single-handedly turned the tide of the series in Game 3 with his 40-point triple-double. The Heat are still a longshot to win it all, but I can see Butler following in Jerry West’s footsteps by becoming just the second player on a losing team to earn NBA Finals MVP honors. No one else has been more deserving or more impactful.
Where does Anthony Davis rank among LeBron’s best teammates?
Jason: No. 1. You could argue that while James checks off so many boxes for the Lakers, he may be the second best player on the team. You can go down the list of guys he’s played with (Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, Chris Bosh, Kevin Love) and none of them were either better than James or at their peak when they played with him. Davis could be both right now. Don’t let his Game 3 performance cloud the overall picture: AD is a Hall of Famer.
Sam: This is a tough one. He’s certainly ahead of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving for me, but that’s where it gets tricky. He’s probably ahead of Chris Bosh too, despite everything they won together, but I can’t quite put AD above D-Wade. AD and LeBron just got "it" from day one, and everything has flowed between them without needing to take time to figure it out. Despite that it has to be Wade, but I could see that view changing over the next two-to-three years.
Ryan: I have Davis behind Dwyane Wade, and frankly it’s not even close. Prior to joining forces with LeBron, AD had only been to the playoffs twice and had never advanced beyond the semifinals. Wade, meanwhile, powered the Heat to their first championship in franchise history in 2006 and was already a six-time All-Star and scoring champ by the time James arrived in South Beach. In many ways, Davis is a far better stylistic match with LeBron, but Wade was the superior player and running mate, as evidenced by the four conference championships and two titles the pair won during their four years in Miami. Davis may leapfrog him eventually, but he still has much to prove in the postseason.
Which two teams do you expect to see in the 2021 NBA Finals?
Jason: You’ve got to look to depth when sizing up the 2021 NBA Finals futures. With such a quick turnaround for those contending teams after the 2020 restart, surviving the regular season and still having tread left on the tires come the playoffs is going to be a challenge. With that in mind, I’ll take the Boston Celtics out of the East and the Los Angeles Clippers out of the West. The Lakers could be in the mix but if they win this year’s title, I think there is a lot of pressure off them and a “Mission Accomplished” feel for LeBron and L.A.
Sam: I doubted the Lakers all year and now they’re here, so I should probably choose them. I still think the Milwaukee Bucks are the best in the East too, despite what happened in the bubble. That’s a boring prediction though, so I’ll give you a hotter take: Boston Celtics vs. Dallas Mavericks.
The Celtics are the best coached team in the East, and they have a great array of young talent. They'll win their conference and will face the Dallas Mavericks, who will find themselves in the Finals for the first time since 2011 thanks to a few shrewd additions, and the ever-improving play of Luka Doncic.
Ryan: I’m taking the Golden State Warriors against the Boston Celtics. The Warriors haven’t played a game since March 10, and will be one of the freshest teams in the league when play resumes in January. That’s a big deal for a squad that dealt with major injuries to Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as nagging ailments and bouts of disinterest from Draymond Green. Add in a hungry Andrew Wiggins, a developing Eric Paschall, and the No. 2 pick in the draft and you have the look of a champion. The Celtics, meanwhile, have a genuine "Big Three" in Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Kemba Walker, all of whom benefitted enormously from their deep playoff run this year. Gordon Hayward remains a wild card, but Boston has more than enough talent to step it up, with or without the oft-injured forward.