The Vanderbilt Hustler 2020 NBA Finals Roundtable

The 2020 NBA Finals kick-off on Wednesday night, with the Heat taking on the Lakers. Here’s who The Hustler staff is picking to win.

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The Heat and the Lakers face off in the 2020 NBA Finals. (Sports Illustrated)

Vanderbilt Hustler Sports Staff

At long last, 345 days after the NBA regular season began, the finals have arrived.

As many expected, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers cruised through the Western Conference en route to the franchise’s 32nd conference title. But for the first time in NBA history, the Lakers will face the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, with the winner hosting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Before the finals begin, The Hustler staff makes its picks—who exit the NBA bubble victorious?

 

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-0

I can’t even take this series seriously.

 

Immanual John Milton, Editor in Chief

Prediction: Miami Heat, 4-3

Jimmy Butler is a dog. Trust me, I know. He’s already broke apart my Timberwolves already; he’s a legend for the practice where he beat the starting T-Wolves line-up with third stringers. Check out the Game of Zones on it for a full recap.

In the mental battle that underlies the basketball, there’s not a single basketball player who currently has the mental fortitude that Jimmy Buckets has. Mix in Bam and Tyler Herro, you have a team that will fight tooth and nail. The Heat have already walked through favorites in the Bucks, Celtics, so they’ve been in this position. LeBron James has been exceptional throughout his career and this year, but he’s getting old. Anthony Davis is not yet trustworthy in the finals. Between those that and the Heat’s chemistry, I think it’ll be Jimmy showing the world and the T-Wolves what they’ve missed out on.

 

Betsy Goodfriend, Deputy Sports Editor

Prediction: Miami Heat, 4-3

The Lakers are clearly the favorite in this matchup. If the Vegas lines didn’t tell you that, surely every other writer’s paragraph on how LeBron will win his fourth ring on three different teams will inform you. But, I’m not convinced this is a cakewalk for the Lakers. Heat forward Bam Adebayo is one of the league’s best young players along with teammate and three-point machine Tyler Herro. If Adebayo can slow down Lakers center Anthony Davis, the Heat can stay competitive in this series. Additionally, Jimmy Butler gives the Heat necessary experience, and there’s no doubt the 31-year old will play hard to win his first ring. Butler is the heart of this Heat team, and he’s itching to guard LeBron one-on-one. I’ve got the Heat in seven because the bubble is ripe for another upset.

 

Alyssa Muir, Deputy Sports Editor

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-3

A lot of people are going to look at this series, see a one seed versus a five seed, and think that the Lakers will win easily. I don’t think that will be the case whatsoever. Miami has probably played the best overall basketball in these playoffs and I actually think they match up really well against the Lakers. The Heat can throw three different, terrific defenders at LeBron James in Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala and Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo is about as good of a counter as there is to Anthony Davis in the entire league. Miami also has an insane amount of three point shooting and arguably the best coach in the league in Erik Spoelstra (I personally have Nick Nurse a tiny bit above him). This is all to say why I think this will be a long, competitive series. In the end though, I can’t pick against the greatness of James who, despite numerous attempts from some fans and media to crown someone else, is still far and away the best player in the game. James’ 2020 playoff performance in the bubble so far, capped off with a 38-16-10 performance in the closeout game against the Denver Nuggets, proves to me that he is fully locked in and playing at an exceptionally high level that no one will be able to stop. Ultimately, his talent and knowledge of the game will be enough to get the Lakers their 17th championship.

 

Justin Hershey, Lead Sports Analyst

Prediction: Miami Heat, 4-3

Nearly 15 months ago, Jimmy Butler abandoned my Philadelphia 76ers in favor of the Miami Heat. When I saw he signed with the Heat, I laughed. I literally laughed. For years Butler has said all he wants to do is win so what sense did it make going to a team that finished tenth in the Eastern Conference the previous year? That was the first time I doubted Erik Spoelstra and the Heat. The second was just before their series with the Bucks. The third was just before their series with the Celtics. I am not doubting them a fourth time. Heat in 7. Bam Adebayo NBA Finals MVP.

 

Will Fritzler, Sports Copy Editor

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1

I normally pick the underdog in matchups like this. But after my Blazers lost to the Lakers in 5, I don’t see a scenario where this Lakers team falls short. LeBron has both surprisingly and unsurprisingly upgraded his game this season, and it shows this postseason. He is more of a facilitator, energetic on defense, and is still clutch. Anthony Davis picks up where he leaves off. Miami’s swing offense may make things interesting, but look for LeBron to earn his fourth ring in workmanlike fashion.

 

Emery Little, Social Media Director

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 4-2

The LA Lakers will win the championship because in Anthony Davis and LeBron James they have the two most dominant players in the series. While the Heat have meshed really well in the bubble as evidenced by reaching the NBA Finals, I think the star power of James and Davis is going to be too much to overcome.

 

Bryce Smith, Staff Writer

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1

I’ve got the Lakers. Because Lebron! Seriously though, the star power for LA is going to carry them over the upstart Miami squad.

 

Sam Curtis, Staff Writer

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2

It’s the return of the Lakeshow and L.A.Bron! Don’t get me wrong, I’m amazed with what Jimmy Butler and Eric Spoelstra have been able to do with the Heat (though the emergence of Bam Adebayo and surprise value of Tyler Herro have also been large contributors to the team’s success), but I can’t bet against LeBron James. He says he’s “as locked in as I’ve ever been in my career,” and who can argue with that?

Though they seemed destined to meet up with a Clippers team that was designed to rival and beat the Lakers on the way to a championship, the Nuggets spoiled their California meetup. As a result, James is well rested, having only played 15 games on the way to the championship (4-1 vs. Portland, 4-1 vs. Houston, 4-1 vs. Denver). I don’t think this is a particularly deep or well-rounded team by any means (James and Anthony Davis routinely combine for more than half of the Lakers’s points), but if James can beat the 2016 Warriors while carrying the 2016 Cavs… what else do you need to see? I think the Heat steal game one or game two, then get a win late (game 5 maybe), but ultimately fall to LA, 4-2.

 

Nitin Prabakaran, Staff Writer

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2

Heat have the deeper team that works so well together once they get going but Lebron and AD will be too much to handle.

 

Jaime Perez, Staff Writer

Prediction: Miami Heat, 4-2

The Los Angeles Lakers have been the best team in the NBA all year long. Within the first two weeks of the season, I was convinced that they were well on their way to yet another title, led by two of the league’s five best players in Lebron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers’ dominant run has continued inside the NBA’s Orlando Bubble, as they have lost just three games in the playoffs. Despite all this, I’m picking the Miami Heat to win the title in six games. The Heat have also been on fire in the Bubble and they pose matchup issues for the Lakers. Bam Adebayo is one of a handful of players that can size up Davis, while Jimmy Butler, Andre Iguodala, and Jae Crowder all have experience defending James. On offense, Goran Dragić and Tyler Herro can exploit the Lakers’ biggest weakness: their inability to guard perimeter scorers. LA may have the two best players in the series, but Miami has a deeper bench and I would expect to see Heat coach Erik Spoelstra exploit the Lakers’ weak 3-point shooting.

The King and the Brow will probably cancel out all of Miami’s advantages and make me look like a fool for picking against them, but this Heat team matches up well and they have been playing like the team of destiny during this weird, entertaining, and historic Bubble restart.

 

Jake Schwartz, Staff Writer

Prediction: Miami Heat, 4-2

Lebron lovers will hate me for this one…I’ve had the Heat winning the championship (on record) since November of last year when the season actually started and there’s no turning back now. This miraculous run can be attributed to the Heat’s depth and game planning abilities for matchups nobody felt were favorable. Now in a series with Lebron, AD and the rest of the Lakers, I think that the Heat will outlast them in six by running with the hot hand and forcing the Lakers to take difficult shots on the offensive end. The Lakers do have some size advantage, but at the end of the day who can go on more runs throughout the course of the game is who will win this series; for me, that is the Heat.

 

Bobby Kent, Staff Writer

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2

The Los Angeles Lakers will win the 2020 NBA Finals for two reasons: LeBron James and Anthony Davis. They are the best players in the series and it is not close. LeBron James, now 35, will be looking to become the first player in NBA history to win a title with three separate franchises. He has played phenomenal basketball for his age, averaging a near triple-double with 26.7 PPG and close to 10 APG in these playoffs. Anthony Davis has been dominant as well averaging over 28 PPG and has served as the perfect counterpart to Lebron’s aggressive style. While it remains to be seen who the “Third Star” will be this series, there is no doubt the Lakers have what it takes to win the Finals.

On the other side is the Miami Heat who’s playoff run been nothing short of remarkable. Jimmy Butler has been the vocal leader and star the young Heat were searching for to carry them over the hump in the Eastern Conference. The supporting cast of Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo has been excellent. While Butler and the crew might steal the Heat a couple games, in the end, the Lakers star power will be too much to handle and the Lakers will capture the franchise’s 17th title.

 

Nathan Coad, Writer-in-training

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2

Lakers. LeBron James. Anthony Davis. That’s all.

 

Jeremy Roseman, Writer-in-training

Prediction: Miami Heat, 4-3

The Miami Heat are the Cinderella story that everyone should have seen coming. They are the perfect mix of veterans and young talent. Jimmy Butler has proven to be a true number one option, and will bring his stellar defense to oppose LeBron James. Bam Adebayo, in his third year in the league, has fully broken out and is a threat on both sides of the ball. He should match up as well as anyone can against Anthony Davis. Goran Dragic was a key contributor all season but has picked it up in playoffs averaging over 20 points per game. And then there’s maybe the best shooting duo we’ve seen since Steph and Klay, with Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. The Laker’s lack of depth and a consistent option outside of James and Davis is what worries me. I see the Heat being strong in that regard. With the best coach in basketball Erik Spoelstra and a great will to win, I got the Heat ripping the title away from their former Finals MVP.

 

Jonah Crist, Writer-in-training

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 4-2

The Lakers and Heat both come into the 2020 NBA Finals with records of 12-3. The relatively quick methods by which each team dispatched their opponents was quite different though. Los Angeles has relied heavily on the consistent, otherworldly performances from their two stars, Anthony Davis and LeBron James. The Heat, on the other hand, have taken on the challenge of being the underdog in every one of their series as the incoming five seed in the Eastern Conference. But they are no Cinderella story. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra schemed and strategized his way through the East using Swiss Army knife center Bam Adebayo and the relentless tenacity of star forward Jimmy Butler.

The key to this series will be the contributions of the Lakers three point shooters. So far in these playoffs, the terrific tandem of the Lakers is undefeated when their floor-spacing teammates shoot above 30% from 3-point range. This effect will be doubly important given Coach Spoelstra’s penchant for screwy zone defenses and crowding the paint at times. Although these defensive schemes have tripped up lesser basketball minds in the East, I expect LeBron James to tear apart zone defenses with his passing ability and make the right pass if the paint is too crowded for one of his signature tornado drives to the rim. The question is: will the Lakers’ three-point shooters uphold their end of the bargain?

I think they will, at least enough for LeBron and AD to take the Lakers home in 6.

 

Jordyn Perry, Writer-in-training

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers, 4-2

The Lakers are going to win the NBA finals because they have the greatest player of all time, who is also paired with his best teammate of his career. No one on the Heat roster can stop LeBron from averaging 25 and 9, in addition to the fact that Bam Adebayo will probably only be able to hold Anthony Davis for 2 games at most. The two games that I believe the heat will win. I think it is generous to give the Heat two wins, and I am only doing so mostly because of the coaching of Eric Spoelstra. Basically, this series, to me, boils down to the fact that no one in the world can stop LeBron James, especially LeBron in a finals series.

 

Brett Needelman, Writer-in-training

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 4-2

The Lakers will win the NBA finals in a tough 4-2 series. The Heat match up well against the Lakers star power as Jimmy Butler or Jae Crowder can guard LeBron James and Bam Adebayo can guard Anthony Davis, but it will be the other positions on the floor that will provide matchup problems for Miami. The Lakers will likely go big against the Heat, and the presence of Dwight Howard in the paint will be problematic since the Heat do not have a second post player. I would expect the Heat to at least try playing a zone, but that will be unsuccessful because LeBron will still be able to draw attention and find open shooters. Not only do the Heat lack size, but they also lack depth which does not bode well against a Lakers team that loves to score in transition.

The Heat on the offensive end are unpredictable as they can center their offense around multiple players, but I still do not see that posing an issue for the Lakers. The Lakers have great perimeter defenders that will be able to neutralize Duncan Robinson and slow down Tyler Herro and Goran Dragić while still protecting the paint with their bigs. Jimmy does not have the same athletic advantage he had over the Celtics’ defenders and will not be as effective on the offensive end either. The Heat will be able to score enough to remain competitive, just not enough to beat LeBron, AD, and the Lakers.

 

Anita Mukherjee, Writer-in-Training

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 4-2

James and Davis. Enough said.