Collegian Sports 2020 NBA Finals Predictions

LeBron James and Jimmy Butler face off in a basketball game earlier this year. James is competing for his fourth NBA championship against the upstart Heat. Photo courtesy of heatnation.com

COLLEGIAN SPORTS STAFF 

The NBA Bubble experiment has proven to be one of the most successful stories from the sports world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA has enjoyed an intense playoffs while keeping all of its players and staff safe from the global pandemic. While the Finals are nearly four months after they were originally planned, they are here nonetheless. The Butler Collegian sports reporters give their take on who will win the championship between the Lakers and the Heat.

Drew Sandifer

Series result: Lakers in 7

Finals MVP: Anthony Davis

We’re in for a dandy of a series in this one. These two teams didn’t even make the playoffs in 2019, but have fully reloaded and are fighting for a chance to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in a way no other team in NBA history likely will. The Lakers undoubtedly have the two best players in this series in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but one could argue Miami has the next best four or five players. I think the Lakers will jump out to an early 2-0 series lead just for gritty performances from Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to tie the series back up. After trading blows in Game 5 and Game 6, it only seems right that this series goes the distance. I believe Anthony Davis shines in this series and proves to his doubters that he is a winning basketball player. He scores 30+ points in all four Lakers’ wins in the series and neutralizes Adebayo to help LeBron to his fourth ring. It’s a season and a championship dedicated to a basketball legend and icon who was taken to soon: Kobe Bryant. The Lakers win for Mamba.

Henry Bredemeier

Series result: Lakers in 7

Finals MVP: LeBron James

If you think LeBron and AD are about to cruise into a championship, think again. This Miami team is legit, and they match up well with the Lakers. Bam Adebayo is a much better interior defender than the Lakers have seen all playoffs, and that means fewer easy buckets. Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler can do work on LeBron, but let’s not forget Andre Iguodala, who won a Finals MVP in 2015 because of his great defense on the King. Offensively, Miami is incredibly balanced, with shooting from Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, as well as two great playmakers in Goran Dragic and Butler. Bam also just dropped 32 in the series-clinching win over the Celtics, which means Miami can get buckets from anywhere. This series will be back and forth, with close game after close game. After falling down 1-0, Jimmy Butler and Miami will close out Game 2 and Game 3 and take the series lead. Unfortunately for the Heat, these losses will prompt the Lakers to call the league office (again) and complain that LeBron and AD aren’t being fouled enough. The Lakers proceed to win Game 4 and Game 5 on a flurry of free throws from their stars, but the Heat overcome the refs in Game 6 and force the almighty and all-profitable Game 7. This game will be an instant classic, especially for the King. LeBron will be all over the court, throwing and catching lobs, scoring and playing defense with effort that he saves just for these moments. LeBron will close it out with a dagger three, and win his fourth NBA title with his third team. With this championship win, LeBron all but ensures that he will surpass Michael Jordan as the NBA’s GOAT by the end of his illustrious career. 

Jack Gutzler 

Series result: Heat in 7

Finals MVP: Jimmy Butler

This NBA Finals will no doubt have us all on the edge. Emerging from the Western Conference are the LeBron-led Lakers, who are back in the finals for the first time since 2010. As a 1-seed in the West, the Lakers handily beat all of their playoff opponents, winning all three of their series in five games. In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat have completed a bizarre —  and frankly shocking — Finals run few could have predicted. As a 5-seed in the East, some predicted the Heat to lose in the first round to the Indiana Pacers. Instead, the Heat easily swept Indiana. Then it was the Bucks — led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo — who in many people’s eyes, were the favorite to win it all. Instead, the Heat beat them in five games. Then it was the Celtics, led by young star Jayson Tatum, and a team who appeared to be ready for the next step. Instead, the Heat won in six games. Jimmy Butler has been phenomenal all playoffs, and has put the team on his back on this run. However, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic have all stepped up for the Heat in big moments as well. On paper, the Lakers have an edge. In reality? They’re neck-and-neck. But for any team, defeating a team led by LeBron James and Anthony Davis is a monumental task. Jimmy Butler maintaining the level of play he’s had throughout the playoffs will likely determine whether the Heat can put up a fight against the Lakers. He will do just that and lead the Heat to a narrow Game 7 victory to claim the Heat’s fourth NBA title, one that few could have predicted just weeks ago.

Donald Crocker

Series result: Heat in 7

Finals MVP: Bam Adebayo

With the passing of the great Kobe Bryant, it seems that the perfect ending to this hectic season would be LeBron and the Lakers taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy. But with five-time All Star Jimmy Butler and rising superstar Bam Adebayo, the Miami Heat are poised to upset LA in seven games. The key to this series will be Miami’s role players. We all know Butler is one of the best two-way players in the league and that Adebayo will play at an All Star level for the next decade. If they don’t perform, chalk this one up as a loss. All of this is given they don’t fall apart the way Kawhi and PG did in the semifinals against the Nuggets. Players like Andre Igoudala, Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic will win this series. They will have to win their matchups when the Lakers sub out Lebron and AD. LA still hasn’t found their third scorer and unless Kyle Kuzma comes out of nowhere and drops 17-20 a game, it will be more of the same. Another key will be containing Lebron and Anthony Davis. If Spoelstra can slow down Lebron and AD by throwing different defenders and gameplans their way, then the Heat should be able to edge out the Lakers. Derrick Jones Jr. will be huge for Miami defensively. Don’t be surprised if Spoelstra puts him up against Lebron and AD at various times throughout the series. He’s one of the few players in the league that can guard all five positions and do so at a high level. With this win, Butler will finally get the respect he deserves as one of the top 10 players in the league.

Ethan Polak

Series Result: Heat in 5

Finals MVP: Jimmy Butler 

After the NBA decided to abruptly end their season back in March, all seemed lost for the 2020 NBA season. Now six months later, we have finally made it to the NBA championship where for the first time in NBA history, two teams that missed the playoffs the previous season will be squaring off in the NBA Finals. For this series, we have LeBron James and the West’s top seed in the Los Angeles Lakers taking on the young but talented 5-seed from the East in the Miami Heat. After LeBron’s rough first season with the Lakers, they were able to turn it around once they acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. Instantly, the Lakers went from a disappointment to championship contenders. The Lakers have rolled through the playoffs winning every one of their series leading up to the championship in just five games. However, I believe the Heat are a whole different team than when these two teams last squared off. The Heat have shut down the Pacers, top-seeded Bucks and then the Celtics before reaching this point. They have shown that they do not rely on one player as they are arguably the most well-rounded team in the NBA. To name a few, they have young shooters like Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro lighting it up from beyond the arc, an outstanding big in Bam Adebayo and an amazing leader in Jimmy Butler. Once again, the Heat are the major underdogs against the Lakers and are the only team standing in the way of the King’s fourth championship ring. This will be an intense high-scoring series, but in the end, I believe that the Heat have the better shooters and will return the favor to the Lakers by winning the championship in five games.

Ryan Grill

Series Result: Lakers in 5

Finals MVP: LeBron James 

The 2020 Finals matchup couldn’t have been written any better. Both the Lakers and Heat came off a disappointing season last year without playoff basketball and now they’ll play for the NBA title. Jimmy Butler proved all his doubters wrong, while LeBron seems to be on a mission to add to his legacy. The series will not be a cake walk for the Lakers. Miami’s ability to guard at all positions and lock down defensively will help them be competitive. The combination of Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro presents a defensive challenge for the Lakers and coach Frank Vogel. As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me if the series goes the distance but Miami simply doesn’t have the star power to compete with LeBron and Anthony Davis. In addition to Davis and James, Rondo, Howard, and Caldwell-Pope are playing their best basketball of the season. LeBron will do a bit of everything in the series and will average numbers that’ll make him the overwhelming choice for finals MVP.  Miami’s depth and shooting might win them a game but the Lakers will close it out for Kobe.

Drew Favakeh

Series Result: Heat in 7

Finals MVP: Bam Adebayo

For years, Jimmy Butler was widely viewed as a poor teammate. He was the guy who ruffled the feathers of experienced veterans Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. He was the guy who was traded to Minnesota and one practice, he famously teamed up with third-stringers during a scrimmage to outduel young star Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins — then gloated about it in an exclusive interview with ESPN. After an outstanding half-season in Philadelphia — in which the Sixers were one unlucky roll away from a finals appearance — Butler and the Sixers parted ways. Butler and the Sixers organization gave vague reasons as to why the two parted ways, but at one point in the season, Butler pressed Ben Simmons to fire more triple’s and when he left for Miami, he said some Sixers players were playing for cars, not wins. His move to Miami was a move many detractors saw as a preference to warmer weather and lowered expectations rather than one based on winning. Butler, however, has changed the narrative. He has compared rookie Kendrick Nunn to himself, he showed up sporting Tyler Herro’s high school jersey one practice, and asserted 23-year-old all-star center Bam Adebayo is going to be the reason the Heat win the championship. Why disagree with Butler now?

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