The NBA Finals are over and it’s been an entertaining month for all of us watching. But now I’m left asking one question – what’s next? I don’t mean ‘next’ literally, as in, what will I watch now that the Finals are over, but rather, what comes next for these two teams.
As much as many people hated them and cheered against them, the Heat proved that they are undoubtedly the NBA’s best team. All the pieces finally came together. LeBron got a look on his face in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and began playing better than we’ve ever seen him. Chris Bosh returned from injury and proved to everyone that although awkward and at times, downright weird, he is a great player that adds a dimension to Miami’s team that they just can’t find elsewhere on their roster. Shane Battier and Mike Miller showed everyone that they can be valuable role players. And Dwyane Wade….well, I guess he proved that, as he’s been saying for two years, indeed, this isn’t his team anymore.
With LeBron playing at this level, Bosh complementing him nicely and Wade playing the role of Scottie Pippen, we have no reason to believe this team won’t be in contention for years to come (likely winning several more titles). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd also mentioned this morning that they shouldn’t have trouble bringing in solid, veteran role players. Those guys want to win a championship AND LeBron is such a good distributor that they know they’ll get their looks at the basket too.
The Thunder, it would seem, will also be in contention for years to come with a solid, young nucleus in place. But I have to ask, is their young nucleus, the right one? They have a lot of good, young players, but do these players mesh together? I think Sam Presti has to ask himself this question after watching the finals.
In game 4, Russell Westbrook played a great game. Everyone talked about how well he played. What those people failed to notice though, is what that game did to them in the greater scheme of things. Westbrook came out in game 5 looking to play the same way. The problem was he wasn’t playing the same way. He wasn’t on like he was in game 4. Yet he kept shooting and shooting and shooting. Ignoring open teammates, making dumb mental mistakes.
If anything, I think these Finals proved that while Westbrook is very good, he’s in it for himself. He wants to score points. He wants to be the guy. He doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Kevin Durant. Westbrook isn’t the guy though. He doesn’t have that in him. He’s too selfish.
If I’m Sam Presti, I have to ask myself, is this guy the point guard that can win us a title? Think long and hard about it, Sam. Would you be better off with a distributor and creator at point guard? A team player? I can’t help but think the Thunder would’ve been better off if they had Rajon Rondo at point guard against the Heat. Rondo keeps teams on their toes (yet often leaves them on their heels) with his unpredictable style. He finds extremely narrow passing lanes, makes his teammates better, yet can still score if teams start to overplay the passing lanes. Westbrook didn’t force the Heat to change their approach. They wanted to prevent Durant from getting the ball (which they did a good job of) and make others beat them. Once they saw Westbrook wasn’t going to pass the ball, they had him where they wanted him. He was getting double teamed and still wouldn’t pass.
Thinking back about the comment Colin Cowherd made about the Heat not having trouble bringing in veteran players, I can’t help but consider how it applies to the Thunder. People see that Westbrook is greedy. They know they won’t get their touches from him. Will they be able to bring in some of the free agents that they need?
Some people hate the Westbrook bashing (see: Jeff Van Gundy), but the player showed it was warranted. Prove me wrong, Russell. Show everyone that you can be a real point guard, a guy that distributes the ball and finds the open man. So far, you haven’t shown that.