LeBron James was the unanimous MVP of the just-completed NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat have won the 2011-2012 NBA Championship and in a scary thought, could be even better next year as the co-favorite.
Miami beat the Oklahoma City Thunder the final four games (4-0 ATS) after dropping the Finals opener. The final nail in the coffin was a 121-106 victory in Game 5 on Thursday night. The game was over at the end of the third quarter with a 24-point lead as the Thunder ran out of gas after losing close games in the previous three.
LeBron James’ legacy was the biggest winner in getting the first of seven rings he promised after joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh before last season. There would have been a shakeup of the ‘Big 3’ if the Heat fell short, but this core group will likely be kept intact next season.
James was named the unanimous Finals MVP after averages of 28.2 PPG, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists. More importantly, he shed his label as someone who couldn’t perform in the clutch. James was also the regular season MVP and it’s frightening to think how good he could be next year with the monkey off his back and playing with far less pressure.
Future odds for the 2012-2013 season are already out and Miami and Oklahoma City (+250) are the co-favorites, followed by Chicago (+500), San Antonio (+700), the Lakers (+1200) and Dallas (+1500). The geriatric Celtics (+2000) made the Eastern Conference Finals and almost shocked the Heat, but that looks like their last hurrah.
The Thunder have nothing to be ashamed about in losing in the Finals. Their three best players of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are all 23-years-old or younger. There are questions about whether Westbrook is a true point guard and another scorer needs to be added, but this squad will improve simply by doing nothing and being a year older.
All of the other teams after the Heat and Thunder have major question marks heading into next season. Chicago’s Derrick Rose tore his ACL in the playoffs and there’s no guarantee he even makes it back for next season. He will likely be less than 100 percent even if he does.
San Antonio was up 2-0 against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, but was ultimately undone by the youth and athleticism of the Thunder. That disparity is only going to increase next year with the core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all in their 30s.
The Lakers are always dangerous as long as Kobe Bryant is breathing, but he turns 34 in August. There is also a lot of dysfunction with head coach Mike Brown and the uncertain status of big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Gasol is likely to be traded and it’s hard to determine their future odds value before then.
The Mavericks are a good speculative pick as the most likely landing spot for free agent point guard Deron Williams. He is a native of Dallas and anyone who watches the show Shark Tank knows owner Mark Cuban usually gets what he wants. Adding Williams to the mix along with Dirk Nowitzki and company could move them ahead of the Spurs in the odds.
Stay tuned to Don Best for all the NBA offseason action, starting with the draft coming up on Thursday, June 28.