NBA Roundtable: Can the Heat return to the NBA Finals?
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 weigh in on Miami’s 2021 championship prospects, LeBron’s legacy, and the upcoming NBA Draft.
What will it take for the Heat to return to the NBA Finals in 2021?
Jason: Another superstar. Jimmy Butler was amazing in the NBA Finals, but it’s no secret that star power wins championships. Miami has solid complementary pieces in Robinson, Adebayo, and Herro, but it needs another standout star to help Butler and allow this team to punch with the likes of Boston and Brooklyn in the East. South Beach is always a tempting spot for free agents, but it’s not just the sun, sand, and no income tax luring those elite talents anymore. This team is one big name away from being a contender in 2020-21.
Sam: It’s going to take a lot of luck. The Heat were magnificent at points this season, but I think it’s less likely we see a Bucks implosion next year. Likewise, I think some of the other big names in the East will improve. The Celtics will be better and the 76ers are almost certain to be better. Maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I think it’s going to be very tricky for Miami to match this year’s achievement, let alone surpass it.
Ryan: More help for Jimmy Butler. The five-time All-Star looked like he needed an IV at the end of Game 5 after willing the Heat to dramatic 111-108 win over the Lakers. The good news for Miami is there are plenty of prospective free agents who could give the team a major boost. Raptors guard Fred VanVleet and Clippers forward Montrezl Harrell can both be had for the right price, and are precisely the kind of balls-to-the-wall players that Pat Riley has long sought in South Beach. OKC marksman Danilo Gallinari will also be looking for a new home and could give the Heat another outstanding outside shooter to pair with Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. Miami was tantalizing close to winning it all in 2020, and the right reinforcements could push them over the top next season.
What’s more impressive: The fact that Michael Jordan was 6-0 in the NBA Finals, or that LeBron James led three different franchises to NBA championships?
Jason: The Bulls had those six seasons of dominance with pretty much the same makeup (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson) but LeBron has cultivated winning for a decade and keeps finding his way back to the Larry O’Brien Trophy despite a mixture of teammates and coaches as well as the evolving style of play in the NBA. That 2016 title in Cleveland goes a long way with me, given how little LeBron had around him versus a Warriors team that many put on par with those Bulls squads. It’s James’ ability to lift teams to that elite level and his longevity to do so that impresses me most.
Sam: They’re both incredibly impressive, and on any given day I could argue for either one. At this stage I feel like we need to park the GOAT debate and just enjoy watching LeBron for the remainder of his career, and pick that up once he’s retired. That said, today I’d probably lean on the side of taking three different franchises to the NBA Finals.
Ryan: At the risk of not giving LeBron his "damn respect," I’m going to have to side with Jordan. James’ longevity and consistency deserve praise, but he never had to face the same murderer’s row of Hall of Famers as MJ, who dispatched Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, and Reggie Miller on his way to six titles. And by the way, he took care of business early, never once needing to play a Game 7 in the NBA Finals.
Who should the Minnesota Timberwolves take with the first pick in the 2020 NBA Draft?
Jason: No one. Trade it away. Given that the college season was cut short at a time when prospects tend to separate themselves from the pack and the difficulty scouting and working out potential picks due to COVID, I believe that without a surefire No. 1 overall selection, there are some diamonds in the rough out there further down the board. Minnesota shouldn’t pull the trigger on a pick as big as No. 1 overall with only half the information. So sell it off and secure some proven talents or stock pile selections for next year when you have a better chance of picking a winner.
Sam: There’s a lot of talent in this draft without there being one player who is "the guy," which leaves Minnesota in a tricky place. You’d have to rule out James Wiseman, just in terms of positional fit and need. With Wiseman out you surely go best player available, which is maybe Anthony Edwards? I don’t think you want the Ball circus in town, and LaMelo is still such a gamble. If I were in the Timberwolves front office I’d strongly consider trying to trade out of the top slot.
Ryan: The Timberwolves have a long history of draft fails, but they won’t regret selecting Anthony Edwards with the No. 1 pick. The Georgia combo guard is a proven scorer with excellent athleticism, size and NBA range, who averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in his lone season with the Bulldogs. Edwards wouldn’t have been the first pick last season or even the year before, but he’s the surest bet in a shaky draft class and should pair perfectly with D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns for the long haul.