SLAM 2013 Finals Picks

by June 06, 2013

We’re no crystal ball owners, but covering the game 24 hours/day, 365 days/year does leave us with at pretty hefty amount of basketball knowledge. So let’s put that shit to the test: Below, a group of SLAM’s editors and writers do their best to predict what’ll take place over the course of the coming two weeks, during which the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs will do battle for the most coveted trophy in all of hoops. And after you read through our picks, be sure to let us know in the comments which team you’re going with—in how many games—and why, because we’re curious to see if you guys can Miss Cleo this thing any better than we can. Then check back with us tonight, when Associate Editor Adam Figman will be live-blogging Game 1 straight from AmericanAirlines Arena.

Like we always do at this time…

Ben Osborne, Editor-in-Chief
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? Honestly, my biggest debate was ‘Heat in 6’ or ‘Heat in 7.’ I say that meaning zero disrespect to San Antonio. The Spurs are worthy Conference Champions, a proud team with a Hall of Fame coach and a top-10 player of all time. They will be rested and motivated and they are deep and diverse enough to throw a lot of different looks at Miami. But they’re not the Heat. For one thing, I think the Heat have almost as big a sense of urgency as the Spurs. Dwyane’s Fade, to say nothing of Chirs Bosh’s, illustrates how quickly their big three’s window may be closing. The Heat also have a brilliant coach, the heart and tactics to match the Spurs’ effort and execution and the home-court advantage if they need it. Miami also has the guy I’ve considered the best player in the world for many years now. The ultimate difference maker. For the second year in a row, you can correctly call him King James.

Susan Price, Managing Editor
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? Because LeBron James is on the Heat. I know, I know, I can hear the haters….”It’s not that simple.” But…isn’t it? I’m not saying it’ll be a sweep, and I know Wade and Bosh have been less than stellar, but LeBron is LeBron is LeBron. I have fond memories of my first NBA Finals in San Antonio (2003 vs. the Nets), when Duncan, Parker and Ginobili were the top of the League. And I love the fact that they are there 10 years later. But like I said, LeBron is LeBron. The end.

Tzvi Twersky, Senior Editor
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? In six words: LeBron James is on a mission.

Ryne Nelson, Online Editor
Pick: Spurs in 6
Why? The Heat have the best player on the floor, but they don’t have the best team or the best coach. Miami may have survived big nights from the Pacers’ frontcourt, but they’re about to face Tim Duncan, who makes big plays on both sides of the ball. LeBron James will undoubtedly continue his dominant ways, but this will be his biggest Playoff challenge yet in chasing down Tony Parker and handling the majority of Miami’s offensive load every game. Dwyane Wade’s right knee and Chris Bosh passivity have limited the Heat’s ability to completely take over games. The Spurs have far more offensive weapons, boast a top-three defense, and unlike any of the teams the Heat have encountered in the postseason, the Spurs have plenty of depth. Gregg Popovich & Co. have been to the Finals four times and came home with the Larry O’Brien every time. It’ll be business as usual once again for the Spurs dynasty.

Adam Figman, Associate Editor
Heat in 5
Why? Did you watch Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals? If we get those Heat for the entire NBA Finals—and I realize that there are a variety of factors that go into “getting those Heat,” many of which are entirely in the hands of the opponent and not the Heat themselves, but still—then there’s no reason this series should last too long. And I think that’s the Heat team we’re going to see: A crazy-hungry LeBron, a re-energized Wade, a flying-everywhere Birdman, a sinking-open-jumpers Haslem, and maybe some cool Bosh things thrown in there for good measure. Should be fun.

Ryan Jones, Contributing Editor
Pick: Spurs in 6
Why? The Heat have shown they can mess around—maybe even NEED to mess around—and still win a playoff series or three, but each of their series wins this year has come against clearly inferior competition. Obviously there’s nothing inferior about San Antonio. The Spurs can create some of the same matchup problems the Pacers did, but they bring so much more experience. The Heat will need their best players to play great for five, six or seven games. Lately, only one of them has been able to manage.

Jake Appleman, Senior Writer
Pick: N/A
Why? The heart says Spurs. The head says Heat. Two different sides of the same successful basketball coin: the organization with the impressively developed culture and unique leaders, tried and true over time, against the best player on the planet and his unique supporting cast. Prediction: Wait—is Pop going to rest any of his stars?

Nima Zarrabi, Senior Writer
Pick: Heat in 7
Why? As a proud bald man, I’m thrilled to see two of our most brilliant follicle-deficient athletes square up against each other on the biggest stage. What we have before us are two traditional erosion patterns that many baldies can relate to. Manu Ginobili has become the poster boy for the backside bald spot, a strain that posts up in a very cruel underground existence. We tell ourselves that it’s not that bad, only to see it glare loudly during film review, crushing all hope.

On the other end of the spectrum, LeBron James has grown into a serious crusader for the front line recede, the classic Green Bay and Tampa Bay retreat pattern that forms into an Alcatraz-like island when without the proper shaping. The daily upkeep of these types of fractures can become maddening, causing one to lose focus. Fortunately for King James, his partners in Beaverton, OR, have developed some of the most elastic fabrics to provide ultimate coverage under the pending storm. This headband or “battery pack” as James has lovingly called it, provides the temporary shield needed to go to battle confidently despite the judgmental hot lights. Until the Swoosh provides Ginobili with a cool reversible headband to allow him the same coverage as James, he is at a major disadvantage. In the end, that will prove to be the difference in this series. Cheers to both of these men for overcoming all of the harassment throughout the season to reach the pinnacle. Have you ever witnessed an alpha male react to hundreds of dead strands resting beneath him on the bathroom floor? I’m quite certain you wouldn’t wish that pain on any man. Cheers to both of these great competitors for hanging on to the dream as long as possible. Regardless of who raises the trophy at the end of the Finals, I know in my heart that both players will be captivated by the illustrious flows of Pat Riley’s venerable hair, still greased to the max and glistening as fortified as ever while on the brink of age 70. Clap for him.

Franklyn Calle, Assistant Editor/PUNKS Editor
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? LeBron James is far from that 22-year-old the Spurs were able to sweep in the 2007 NBA Finals. And based on what he said on Wednesday, he has revenge on his mind. That sounds like a guy you shouldn’t bet against. Also, I think that Spurs’ sweep over the Grizzlies and the 10-day break that resulted from it will end up hurting them. The momentum is on the Heat’s side after that Game 7 beating; for the Spurs, practice doesn’t compare. I see the Heat having the edge in this one.

Abe Schwadron, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Heat in 7
Why? I used to be like those LeBron doubters. I used to seethe about the crab-dribble and The Decision. But then y’all took it too far. So far, in fact, that I’ve completely reversed course, and now I want LeBron to win the next five NBA titles just to shut that section of ignorant basketball-greatness-hating dummies up. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, though. The Spurs aren’t going to lie down for King James and company. Pop, Manu, TP and Duncan are going to make this one hell of a series. I’m willing to bet, though, that Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and the rest of that roster finally wake up and smell the Finals. Get the bottles ready at LIV. (Hi Haters.)

Peter Walsh, Editorial Assistant
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? This is Miami’s third straight trip to the Finals (the last team to do so was the Lakers from ’08-’10). The world’s best player is playing going through the best stretch of his career and is incredibly focused on staying atop the game. The Heat were challenged by the Pacers, but looked like the team that won 27 games in a row in Game 7. LeBron has the attention of every single player on the team—they know he will lead them to the promise land. This Heat team is one of the greatest squads of all time and a second straight ring will only solidify their spot in NBA History. It’s LeBron’s era; everyone else is playing for second.

Yaron Weitzman, Editorial Assistant
Heat in 6
Why? Or maybe Spurs in 7. Or maybe Heat in 5. Honestly, who the hell knows with this one? The Heat should win—they were the best team, by far, all season—but then again, they almost lost to a five-man deep Pacers team. The Spurs are also better than the Pacers. But they’re also not as big and physical. But they also can actually dribble and pass—things the Pacers seemingly can’t do—and could easily pick apart the Heat’s aggressive traps of pick-and-rolls. And they have Pop. But the Heat have God on their side—he wears No. 6. So yeah, Heat in 6. Why not?

Jake Fischer, Editorial Intern
Spurs in 6
Why? San Antonio is the better team. It’s all about depth. Throughout the years of the Spurs’ dominance and dynasty, Pop & Co. have consistently rolled with nine-10 players that can bring it on a nightly basis. The main characters have been the same—Timmy, Tony and Manu—but the Spurs have been able to proceed and succeed with a true next-man-up philosophy. When the Spurs sub out blue-collar role player for blue-coller role player to surround their stars, the Heat will be surround LeBron and his hobbled Big 3-mates with aging shooter after aging shooter. Both the Spurs and Heat play gritty defense and efficient offense while being led by their stars. Whichever team’s role players come out on top will leave enter the offseason champions of the basketball world. Advantage: the boys rocking the silver alternates.

Daniel Friedman, Editorial Intern
Pick: Spurs in 7
Why? Everyone wins in this series, except for the Miami Heat. The fans and the networks will have an epic battle of the titans that will go the distance, pumping out the highest ratings for a series involving San Antonio in history. And people will actually be rooting for the Spurs! LeBron James will continue his historic run, but the rest of his sputtering squad won’t be able to outlast the Spurs. If Roy Hibbert and David West could exploit Miami down low with strength, what can Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter do with finesse? To me, the Spurs have just looked solid in the postseason this year, and the Heat have looked vulnerable at times. Advantage Spurs.

Leo Sepkowitz, Editorial Intern
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? There are eight ideas I keep trying to use to talk myself into taking the Spurs. 1. That San Antonio wants this more. 2. That Miami only beat the sub-.500 Bucks and the Sans-Nearly-Every-Player-You’ve-Heard-Of-On-Their-Team Bulls before getting pushed to seven by a Pacers team that, like San Antonio, isn’t afraid of anybody. 3. Popovich. 4. Wade’s knee. 5. Bosh has essentially sucked all Playoffs, and really sucked against Indiana. 6. Miami doesn’t get past Indiana without Birdman’s ridiculous play, and he can’t keep it up. 7. The Spurs match up sort of well defensively with big wings like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, plus Tim Duncan owning the paint. 8. Midseason, I wrote Spurs over Heat and I should stick with it. But… LeBron.

Maurice Bobb, Contributor
Pick: Spurs in 7
Why? So many people are picking the Miami Heat to repeat as NBA Champs, I feel like I’m being a contrarian just to be a contrarian. Maybe there’s some truth to that, I don’t know. I’m no fan of the Heatles, to be sure, but I’m not exactly in love with the San Antonio Spurs, either. When people go on tangents about the Spurs being boring and unwatchable, I don’t balk or make any suggestions to the contrary. When analysts pick apart Tim Duncan for being too closed off or Coach Pop for his legendary curt sideline interviews (poor Doris Burke), I don’t condone it or defend it. I just do the Kanye shrug. But no matter what anyone says about the team near the Alamo, they have to give the Spurs one thing: RESPECT. This small market team is virtually a dynasty. We don’t appreciate it now, but we will down the road, and something tells me that this is the last we’ll all see of it. I could be as wrong as the Beta testers who chose Zune over iPods, but I’m willing to bet that Timmy D & Co. have one run in ‘em and that Pop has the Xs and Os to fell the favorites for one last chip. And while I won’t begrudge anyone for picking the Heat to bag another Larry O’Brien, don’t begrudge me for considering more than the basketball freak of nature that is LeBron James in my prediction calculations.

Sam Rubenstein, Contributor
Pick: Heat in 6
Why? The first time I went to the NBA Finals for SLAM, it was in Cleveland for LeBron vs. the Spurs. A highlight of that trip was our off day, when Lang Whitaker and I went to see Knocked Up. After the movie, Lang claimed he hated the ending because Seth Rogen’s character had to change his ways and abandon his goofball friends to become a mature, responsible father. LeBron cut ties to his dead weight, became a man, and now he forces fading superstar teammates to follow him. Also, Lang and I both recently became dads. Where is the Knocked Up sequel for the off days where Jason Segel and Jonah Hill beg him to come back?

Dave Zirin, Contributor
Pick: Heat in 7
Why? The Heat will win this series because they will win where it counts most: in the paint. That might seem insane based on what we just saw against Indiana. By every metric, Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan are far more formidable than Roy Hibbert and David West. But in terms of match-ups and in terms of pure beef the Pacers were a nightmare and the Spurs will feel like a vacation down low by comparison. I like Chris Bosh to have a breakout series. I like Chris Bosh to win his match-up against Splitter or Duncan. I like Chris Bosh to be the third best player on the court over the next seven games after LeBron and Tony Parker. This will be a grind of a series and the Heat will shock the world: not by winning, but by showing more true grit.