Kayla’s MVPs: NBA Finals edition

Welcome to Kayla’s MVPs, my column where I talk about some of my favorite athletes. This is a special NBA Finals edition of this column, where I will discuss my top three athletes from the 2020 NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals concluded on Sunday, October 11 with an overpowering win by the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 6. The series began on September 30, with the Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat taking on the Western Conference Champion Lakers.

The LeBron James led Lakers entered the postseason as the number one seed, bypassing the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets to face the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers easily won this series 4-1 to move on to the NBA Finals.

The Los Angeles Lakers pose for a picture after winning the NBA Finals. [Source: LeBron James]

However, the Miami Heat were one of the least expected teams to make it to the Finals. The Heat, led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, were the number five seed entering the postseason. The team upset both the Indiana Pacers and the number one ranked Milwaukee Bucks to face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat won this series in six games to reach the Finals.

3. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

In Anthony Davis’ first year with the Lakers, he was a sure talent. The former New Orleans star was an important part of the team’s defensive presence, averaging 1.4 blocks, 1.2 steals, and 9.7 rebounds in the postseason. He also had 15 rebounds in LA’s 106-93 win in Game 6.

Davis also became a “lights out” shooter in the NBA bubble. The new Laker star went from a 37-percent mid-range shooter in the regular season to a 49-percent mid-range shooter in the bubble. According to CBS Sports, “Davis also took 25 percent more shots from the long mid-range than he did in the regular season, and 20 percent more from the overall mid-range in general.”

Anthony Davis celebrates after winning his first NBA Championship. [Source: Anthony Davis]

Furthermore, Davis had a special bond with former Laker Kobe Bryant. Then 19-year-old AD met Bryant at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and the pair developed a close relationship. Bryant’s death in January shook the entire Laker’s franchise, but Davis was devastated, writing on Instagram that Kobe was, “the first guy to put me under your wing and show me the ins and outs of the league.” 

Before the tragedy, he would come to the game and just tell us, ‘This is y’all year. This is y’all year. Go out and take it.’ He had a lot of confidence in our team. He had a lot of confidence in our organization to go out there and win it this year.

Anthony Davis on Kobe’s confidence in the Lakers

Here are Davis’ total stats from the Finals series:

Game 1383459
Game 24032114
Game 3331535
Game 4422249
Game 54228312
Game 63519315
[Source: ESPN]

2. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat

Jimmy Butler, frontman of the Miami Heat, had an amazing NBA Finals series. He helped lead the number five seed Heat to the Finals for the first time since 2012.

In Butler’s first season with the Heat, he averaged 19.9 points, 6.0 assists, and 6.7 rebounds a game. Butler had an even better playoff run, where he averaged 22.2 points per game. During Game 3 of the series, Butler led his team to a win with a 40-point triple-double.

At the end of the Miami Heat’s unexpected run in the NBA bubble, Butler said that they would get better and they would learn from this loss.

Jimmy Butler during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. [Source: Miami Heat]

We’ll be back. That’s what we’re all saying in that locker room. We got guys that want to do it. We got guys that already want to get back in the gym and get to working at this thing. That’s what we do here.

Jimmy Butler on the Heat’s outlook for the 2021 season

While Butler had an amazing Finals run, going toe-to-toe with LeBron James, the star currently faces major disrespect in the form of the 2021 NBA MVP odds. According to Sports Illustrated, Butler has a 25-1 odds at winning the coveted title next season, just behind Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic, and Joel Embiid.

Here are Butler’s total stats from the Finals series:

Game 1332352
Game 24525138
Game 345401311
Game 44322910
Game 547351112
Game 6451287
[Source: ESPN]

1. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James is a household name, so it would only make sense that he would be number one on my NBA Finals rankings. James took home his fourth NBA title and his fourth NBA Finals MVP award, making him the first player in NBA history to be named the Finals MVP with three different teams.

It means a lot. It means a lot to represent this franchise. I came here to put this franchise back where it belongs … for me to be a part of this is an unbelievable feeling.

LeBron James on winning Finals MVP
LeBron James dunks over the Miami Heat. [Source: NBA]

Even in his 17th NBA season, James still had a phenomenal playoff run and overall regular season. He finished his second season with Los Angeles averaging 25.3 points, 10.2 assists, and 7.8 rebounds a game.

However, James probably faced one of the biggest challenges of his Finals career in Game 5. Miami’s Jimmy Butler and James went head to head the entire game. While the game ended in a Heat win and a 35 point triple double for Butler, James still showed out, finishing the game with 40 points.

Overall, this championship win solidifies James’ nickname as “The King.”

Here are James’ total stats from the Finals series:

Game 13625913
Game 2393399
Game 33925810
Game 43928812
Game 54240713
Game 641281014
[Source: ESPN]

Honorable mentions

Rajon Rondo, Los Angeles Lakers: Rajon Rondo, aka “Playoff Rondo”, is a known legend. With the Lakers’ title win, he has now won a championship with both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, the league’s two most accredited teams.

Rajon Rondo faces off against James Harden of the Houston Rockets. [Source: Rajon Rondo]

In the 2020 Finals, Rondo averaged 8.7 points and 5.5 assists per game, while only averaging 26.0 minutes per game. He also scored 19 points off the bench to help the Lakers clinch the title.

Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo was selected by the Miami Heat with the 14th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. The former Kentucky Wildcat was named to his first NBA All-Star Game during the 2019-20 season.

Bam Adebayo and teammate Jimmy Butler during Game 4 of the NBA Finals. [Source: Miami Heat]

During the Heat’s playoff run, Adebayo averaged 17.8 points, 4.4 assists, and 10.3 rebounds per game. However, he missed both Game 2 and Game 3 of the Finals series with a neck injury. Adebayo came back from his injury in Game 4, and he contributed 25 points and 10 rebounds in Miami’s Game 6 loss.

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat: Tyler Herro’s rookie season with the Miami Heat was one to remember. The 20-year-old averaged 13.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 27.4 minutes per game during the regular season. Herro also shot 38.9% from the three-point line.

Tyler Herro and his teammates celebrate after he dropped 37 points in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. [Source: Miami Heat]

However, Herro’s biggest impact came in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. In the game against the notable Boston Celtics, he erupted for 37 points off the bench to help the Heat take a 3-1 lead in the series. Herro also became the youngest player to start in a NBA Finals game during his playoff run. After Goran Dragić was injured in Game 1, Herro became a member of the Heat’s starting five for the rest of the series.

Danny Green, Los Angeles Lakers: With the Lakers’ championship win, Danny Green became the fourth player to win three NBA titles, all with different teams.

While he is a notable player for his championship wins, Green’s most recognizable moment from the Finals series came in Game 5. With the Lakers trailing by one, Green missed an open three point shot with 7.1 seconds remaining in the game. Green later stated that both him and his fiancé received death threats following the missed shot.

Danny Green poses with the championship trophy. [Source: Danny Green]

Nevertheless, Green helped the Lakers clinch the title win with 11 points, five rebounds, and one block in Game 6. He was also a prominent member of Los Angeles’ starting five throughout the regular season.

Overall takeaways

Overall, the ending of the 2019-20 NBA season is somewhat bittersweet. Game 6 of the Finals was played exactly seven months after the COVID-19 pandemic led the NBA to postpone their season.

During this time, the NBA went from the first league to stop all operations to successfully completing a season in a bubble environment. This time apart also allowed the league and its players to grow in the movement for social justice.

Players were given the option to support social justice movements on the back of their jerseys when the season resumed in the NBA bubble. [Source: Tyler Herro]

The Black Lives Matter movement became a huge focus for players during the playoffs. After the police involved shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks chose to boycott Game 5 against the Orlando Magic. The NBA also allowed players to wear personalized sayings reflecting social justice issues on their jerseys when the season resumed.

All in all, the 2019-20 NBA season was revolutionary. The NBA bubble was a complete success, with zero positive COVID cases reported. The Finals series was also one to remember, and honestly, the I believe that the best team was crowned champion.

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