EE-SPN Ep. 3: NBA Finals 2023

Analyzing the 2023 NBA Finals

Arjun Dhruv and Manas Kottakota

AD: What’s up everybody? Welcome back to the third episode of our podcast EE-SPN. Today we’ll be wrapping up the 2023 NBA Playoffs with the NBA Finals, where we got the Miami Heat matched up against the Denver Nuggets.

MK: So for this series, I’m gonna have to choose the Nuggets in five or six games. I think, so far they’ve just proved that they’re a better team than everyone else in the playoffs and even when the Heat were up 3-0, they seemed to struggle in finishing off the series as the Celtics won three in a row, which was really a scare for them. So yeah, I don’t think the Heat—

AD: I don’t think it matters that the Celtics won three in a row. The Heat still got the job done, and in the end, that’s what’s most important; they’re the ones going to the NBA Finals, not the Celtics. So still, I don’t think you can use that as an argument.

MK: But, adding on to what I was saying about the Nuggets, they’re just the best overall team like they are 12-3 in the playoffs so far. With the first three series, they have the number one net rating, showing that they’re beating teams by a greater margin than the other teams and also—

 AD: In the past few rounds though, the Heat had been underdogs in every series like against the Bucks, against the Knicks, and against the Celtics. They were underdogs and projected to lose because of their lower net rating or lower offense or lower defensive rating. And they’re in a similar situation here and they still managed to get the job done the previous three times. So I think they’ll do the same here. That’s why I got the Heat in seven.

MK: Yeah, I do think that Jimmy Butler and specifically Jimmy Butler and the Heat, in general, have more will to win than the Nuggets. But I don’t think that can overpower the dominance and a better roster that the Nuggets have in general than the Heat. Also unlike the Celtics, [the Nuggets] haven’t shown as much inconsistency, as the Celtics took it to 6 games versus the Hawks which was a big surprise, but the Nuggets have been beating every team in five or six games and six games were the Phoenix Suns, which was a really tight series, but against other teams, it was really easy.

AD: Another reason that the Heat will have the edge in this series is because of their experience. This is the sixth time that this coach, Erik Spoelstra, has been to the finals, and this is the first time that the Nuggets have been to the finals in NBA history. So I think that the experience on the Heat side of the ball is something that’s going to help them in the long run.

MK: I think experience does play a key role but Jokic and Jamal Murray don’t seem to be fazed by the pressure that they experienced in the playoffs—

AD: Yeah, but also the finals are a completely different environment than the rest of the playoffs.

MK: But if anything, Murray only gets better and Jokic continues his dominance from the regular season so the Nuggets aren’t really affected by it. People say that they were a regular-season team, but in the bubble when they didn’t have a bunch of the roster they still played well and Jokic has been playing well without most of the roster, and now they’re just continuing it with everyone else, and they’re just playing on a level that we don’t see from other teams.

AD: Talking more specifics, who do you think is going to win the Finals MVP this year?

MK: Well, I’ve got the Denver Nuggets so I think I have to choose Nikola Jokic. He is going to fill up the stat sheet. He is going to be super impactful. 

AD: If the Heat win, which I think they will, I have Jimmy Butler winning. I don’t think there’s much of a controversy here. Despite not showing up in the later ends of the Celtics series, he still won the Eastern Conference Finals MVP, and so I think he’ll replicate that and do the same thing in the NBA Finals. 

MK: Who do you think is going to be the most impactful player on each team?

AD: Since I have the Heat winning, I’ll go with the Heat side of the ball. So I think that [the] most impactful player is defined by someone who has the potential to swing the series or swing each game, but not necessarily the best player, but someone who has the potential to drop 20, 30 points and affect the outcome of a game. So I have two players on the Heat. First, I have Caleb Martin, and I also have Bam Adebayo. So at the end of the Celtics game seven, Caleb Martin lit on fire and he went crazy to give the Heat an edge as they went on a run towards the end, which eventually led them to win and Bam Adebayo has been stepping up more and more throughout the playoffs. He got off to a cold start, but after that, he’s really been stepping up. And I think that the Heat has really solidified themselves as a true NBA Finals team.

MK: Switching over to the Nugget’s side, I think the most impactful player is — I mean, you already know, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic are going to perform. So just going down the roster people like Aaron Gordon [and] Michael Porter Jr.; they are gonna be really important, Michael Porter Jr. is the third best scorer so he is going to have to continue [in] making sure he’s getting around 20 points per game and Aaron Gordon is going to have some higher defensive responsibilities in the NBA Finals than he has previously experienced, so he’s definitely gonna be important on the defensive end.

AD: Also, we have to think about injuries like Tyler Herro has been out for [the] majority of the playoffs, and he is going to be coming back in game three, at least that is what’s projected. So I think that the Heat has shown how good they are without their second-best player. And once he comes back, I think they will be even better, and so I think that the Nuggets will be kind of caught on their toes.

MK: Well, I don’t think you can just insert a player into a roster and think they will make an immediate difference because [the Heat] have kind of molded to be a little bit of a different team without Tyler Herro throughout the playoffs, and they have been — you could say a lot better than you thought they would because I don’t think many people predicted them to come this far. So maybe Tyler Herro coming back might make things worse or there might not be much of a drastic difference because him with the ball might take away opportunities from other players who could be a lot more impactful.

AD: OK, that’s all for today thanks for tuning in to EE-SPN. We’ll see you guys next time when we will be previewing the 2023-2024 NBA season!