Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
Well, that was unexpected.
When the NBA Finals opened a little over a week ago, most experts were forecasting a seven-game series. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs disposed of the defending world champion Miami Heat in five games, with only one game decided by fewer than 15 points.
The series itself didn't live up to the hype but the Spurs certainly did. Their four victories came by an average margin of 17 points. Keep in mind, the Heat hadn't lost a playoff series in almost three years.
But we don't have to end the conversation there. In the ever-changing world of professional basketball, there's always more to discuss. Here are my seven takeaways from this year's Finals.
1. The Spurs are ridiculously deep
Nobody was expecting the Spurs to run Miami out of the gym. But now it's easy to see how they did exactly that.
Miami, for all its strengths, is not a deep team. The Spurs don't have that problem. According to hoopstats.com, San Antonio's bench averaged 44.6 ppg this season. We haven't seen a bench that productive since the 2000 Orlando Magic (48.2 bench ppg). Meanwhile, the Heat bench put up just 29.5 ppg, 21st out of 30 teams.
The drop-off in bench talent was especially evident during the postseason. Nine Spurs had at least one 15-point game while only five Miami players were able to accomplish that same feat.
It didn't matter that Miami had LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. San Antonio got contributions from Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili while the Heat's bench was stagnant. That proved to be the difference.
2. LeBron can't win by himself
LeBron got almost no help from his supporting cast. The four-time MVP was still terrific in the Finals, averaging 28.2 ppg on 57.1 percent shooting, but the rest of Miami's roster seemed to be in a fog.
LeBron accounted for 30.8 percent of his team's total points, a call-back to his Cleveland days when James was playing with nobodies like Delonte West and Anthony Parker. Believe it or not, the point distribution was even more lopsided this time around. LeBron was responsible for 27.3 percent of the Cavaliers' points in the '07 Finals.
Wade and Bosh combined for 31.4 ppg in last year's Finals. This year against the Spurs, that total dropped to 29.2 ppg.
3. Tim Duncan isn't finished yet
During the celebration after Game 5, I watched very closely to see if Tim Duncan would give away any clues about his future. Though he didn't come right out and say it, I got the feeling Duncan has one more run in him.
And why not? The Spurs should be just as dominant in 2015. Not that Duncan's legacy would take a big hit if he lost, but a sixth championship would tie him with Michael Jordan and solidify his place as one of the greatest players ever. Plus, he's due to make $10 million next season. I think retirement can wait a year.
4. Miami needs a point guard
San Antonio's biggest edge this series, other than its bench, came at point guard. Tony Parker and Patty Mills dominated while Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole were non-factors. For the series, San Antonio's point guards averaged 26.8 ppg on 47.5 percent shooting. Compare that to Miami's underwhelming 11.5 ppg on 41.4 percent shooting.
Miami can either fill its point guard void in free agency or address the issue on draft day. Kyle Lowry would be a major improvement but he's likely out of the Heat's price range. Devin Harris, Kirk Hinrich and Ramon Sessions are also in play. Or if the Heat wanted to wait a year, they could make a run at Kyrie Irving or Goran Dragic when they become free agents in 2015.
5. Kawhi Leonard is ready to explode
The breakout star of this year's postseason has to be Leonard, who averaged 14.3 ppg en route to his first Finals MVP. Leonard saved the best for last, putting up 17.8 ppg on 61.2 percent shooting against Miami. A 37.9-percent three-point shooter during the regular season, Leonard shot an incredible 57.9 percent from that distance in the Finals. He was also the Spurs' second-best rebounder with 6.7 boards per game during the playoffs.
Assuming Gregg Popovich scales back Duncan and Ginobili's minutes next season, Leonard could be poised for a monster fantasy campaign in 2014-15.
6. Carmelo is not the answer for the Heat
Though Melo meshed relatively well with LeBron, Wade and Bosh at the 2012 London Games, he doesn't fill a need for Miami. The Heat already have a forward who can score 25 a game. The Heat desperately need a point guard and in the likely event that Ray Allen retires, they'll also need a shooter. Plus it wouldn't hurt to have a legitimate presence in the low post. Bargain bin guys like Chris Andersen and Greg Oden clearly aren't cutting it.
7. The Spurs are the best post-Bulls dynasty
Since Chicago's last title in '98, we've seen three dynasties: the Lakers, the Spurs and Miami. It's hard to pick against a team that had Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in their prime but San Antonio's reign of dominance has lasted 15 years. Over that span, the Spurs have made the playoffs every year while winning five titles. The only time the Spurs were seeded lower than fourth during that stretch was in 2010. The Lakers, meanwhile, have missed the playoffs twice including this past season when they were 28 games under .500. Consistency matters and the Spurs have had plenty of that.
This year was fun. Now let's spend the rest of the summer talking about Kevin Love.
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