The Denver Nuggets have clinched their first ever NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, behind the play of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter. The Miami Heat haven’t technically won the Eastern Conference Finals yet, but they had/have a 3-0 lead on the Boston Celtics, so it’s safe to assume that they’ll make it to the Finals. While executives at the NBA’s headquarters are likely disappointed in this matchup, certainly rather having Celtics-Lakers for the ratings, the Nuggets pitted against the Heat is much better basketball to watch. Let’s take a look at each position, and see where each team has an advantage or disadvantage.
The Nuggets have a balanced attack, facilitated by their two-time MVP, Nikola Jokic. The Nuggets’ offense runs through him, and he makes reads that quite frankly, should be impossible. The open man never escapes the eye of Jokic, and when he needs to generate some offense himself, he turns to his deadly hook shots or underrated three, where’s he shooting a ridiculous 47.4% this postseason. While Bam Adebayo is an All-Star center and by far more athletic, the Nuggets easily have the advantage at the center position.
The four is a relatively even position for both teams. On one hand, you have the athletic Aaron Gordon, who’s proven he’s so much more than a dunk while in Denver. At 27 years old, he’s doing everything the Nuggets need, and is a perfect fit for their system. On the other hand, you have an aging Kevin Love, who’s still an effective shooter but has lost a step at age 34. I’m giving the Nuggets the matchup advantage here.
At small forward, we have Michael Porter and Jimmy Butler. Porter is the Nuggets third option, and at 6’10” is a very long and lengthy three. On the other hand, Butler has turned into “Playoff Jimmy” and throttled every team that’s come his way. He’s the only reason the eighth seeded Heat have had this magical a run, and are the last eighth seed to make the Finals since the New York Knicks in 1999. It’s clear who has the advantage here.
At shooting guard, the Nuggets have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, while the Heat have Max Strus. This is a relatively even matchup, as Caldwell-Pope is 29, a former champion, and has plenty of experience in the league and the playoffs. Strus is much newer to the seen, another hidden Miami gem, and has taken over Duncan Robinson‘s spot. He’s a good shooter and a good defender, so these two should effectively cancel one another out.
Gabe Vincent, Miami’s starting point guard as of late, sprained his ankle playing against the Celtics. There’s a good chance that he’ll be back when it’s time for the NBA Finals, but if he’s not, then Kyle Lowry will likely be starting. At 36, Lowry is in the twilight years of his career, and doesn’t stand much of a chance against Jamal Murray. The Nuggets have the advantage here as well.
Taking a larger look, it’s clear that the Nuggets have positional advantage at nearly every spot, save for small forward. We can never fully count out Butler, and I’d expect him to have a marquee performance or two that lifts the Heat, but they just can’t compete with the balanced attack of the Nuggets. I would expect to see the Nuggets winning the 2023 NBA Finals in five or six games.
Who do you think is winning the NBA Finals? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!
Picture Credit to:
Mark J. Terrill