Trans. Jun 1 4:57 ET (Jun 1 4:57 ET ) It's taken us all year to get back here, to the place where the two best teams in the NBA — the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs — can once again take center stage and begin a heavily anticipated rematch to vie for the right to call themselves NBA champions. As we set about our previews, analysis and predictions, the question facing us is this: Which participants in Round 2 of this heavyweight battle will matter most over the games and weeks ahead?
In the interest of providing guidance to BDL's readership in a trying time, I submit to a trusting public a new installment of Dan Devine's Inarguable Power Rankings , identifying which items in a group of things are most powerful. In this episode: Dan Devine's Inarguable Who Matters Most in the 2014 NBA Finals Power Rankings.
Let's dig in and weigh in. And please remember, as always, that the list is the list.
32. Justin Hamilton, Austin Daye and Damion James (three-way tie). Hamilton, a mid-March signee who spent most of this year in the D-League, is the fourth-string center on a Heat team that works best when playing one big guy. He and James, whom the Spurs added on a 10-day contract in April to soak up some late-season small-forward minutes, have been inactive throughout the playoffs. Daye, who joined San Antonio at the trade deadline and had one memorable performance against the Philadelphia 76ers, played six minutes against the Dallas Mavericks and has been inactive for the past five weeks. If any of them appear in anything other than a suit in this series, then something has gone wrong.
29. Toney Douglas. Douglas comes out ahead of that trio for three reasons:
• He spent most of the last month of the Heat's regular season as a starter as Miami managed Dwyane Wade's minutes, so it wouldn't be quite as stunning for him to get run;
• He's a defense-first point guard, and you don't have to strain your brain too hard to envision Erik Spoelstra dusting him off as a last-gasp option to check Tony Parker before putting LeBron James on him;
• OK, there isn't actually a third reason, but there is some third person:
28. Jeff Ayres and Aron Baynes (tie). Gregg Popovich might send in his depth-chart bruisers — who combined for 13 points, 10 rebounds and four assists off the bench when the Heat beat the Spurs by 12 back in January — if he needs some frontcourt heft, help on the glass or hard fouls given. With Miami's tendency toward playing small and the presence of several other, more talented and versatile bigs in San Antonio's rotation, though, it's unlikely we'll see them in non-foul trouble/garbage time scenarios.
26. Michael Beasley and Greg Oden (tie). It is probably asking too much of the Basketball Gods to draw up a situation in which Miami's so desperate for offense that Spo calls Super Cool Beas' number, or so bereft of answers for Tim Duncan on the block that he summons Oden. But a boy can dream, and despite the former top-two draft picks logging less than 11 combined minutes this postseason, they still "matter," both musically:
Michael Beasley was singing "Easy Like Sunday Morning" by The Commodores in the pregame locker room. — Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) May 31, 2014
... and rhythmically:
... if nothing else.
24. Marco Belinelli. The Italian shooter has struggled mightily this postseason and seen his role in Pop's rotation dwindle down to just six minutes of playing time in Game 6 against the Thunder. That probably won't change in the finals, because in his last 10 games against Miami — two this past regular season, three last regular season with the Chicago Bulls, and five during the Bulls' playoff loss to the Heat — Belinelli has shot just 25.6 percent from long distance and is a combined -115 in 285 minutes. Arrivederci , Marco.
23. Matt Bonner. "The Red Rocket," a.k.a. "The Red Mamba," a.k.a. "The Sandwich Hunter" came off the end of the Spurs' bench to play a surprisingly large role late in the Thunder series, after Pop inserted him into the starting lineup for Games 5 and 6 to improve San Antonio's spacing by drawing defensive menace Serge Ibaka out to the arc. Bonner scored just six points on 2-for-10 shooting in 31-plus minutes over the two games, but the strategy of separating Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter paid off, as the Spurs roasted the Thunder defense in Games 5 and 6, whether the shot-altering Ibaka was on the court (San Antonio scored at a scorching rate of 114.5 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's stat tool) or not (118.9 points-per-100).
Given the Heat's non-shot-blocking-dependent defense and preference to play smaller more frequently, Bonner might get some chances in this series. But the more multi-faceted Boris Diaw presents a higher-class option than Bonner, who averaged just over six minutes per game in last year's finals, for prospective San Antonio hybrid big/small lineups.
22. James Jones. The 11-year veteran went from out of the mix to in the rotation during Miami's first-round sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats, shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point land. Spoelstra put him back on the shelf to start Round 2 against the Brooklyn Nets, only to reinsert him midway through the series, largely at the behest of LeBron, who lauded "the space James provides and his ability to shoot the ball." Jones made just three brief cameos in the Eastern Conference finals, as several other members of Miami's rotation found their long-range strokes to provide space and punch against the Indiana Pacers' defense; should that knockdown shooting continue, Jones' services probably won't be required. If the Heat's other shooters come back to Earth, though, Jones is just the sort of "in case of emergency, break glass" space-creator that could wind up tilting a game.
21. Udonis Haslem. He's been a rock for the Heat for more than a decade, but while Haslem — who will turn 34 between Games 2 and 3 — remains a tough (and, frankly, threatening ) customer and important locker-room presence, he's just no longer a consistently positive on-court contributor. Miami's been nearly 35 points per 100 possessions better with Haslem off the floor this postseason, scoring more effectively when a long-range shooter replaces his midrange game and locking down defensively with a quicker defender to track opposing stretch fours around the perimeter.
This continues the trend we saw late last postseason, when Haslem had some success in guarding Duncan early in the finals , but Miami's offense seemed stuck in the mud in his minutes, prompting Spoelstra to insert Mike Miller into the starting lineup for Game 4. Haslem played just 21 total minutes after Game 4, and finished the series a -33 in 64 minutes of burn. If San Antonio stays big with the Duncan-Splitter frontline, Haslem's still got a role, albeit as an inferior option to Chris Andersen and Rashard Lewis at this point; whenever either team goes small, Haslem's got no real place in the series.
The Scoop:Yep, it was that kind of party for the Spurs with several players getting plenty of rest tonight. Coach Gregg Popovich joked about James earlier this season when he joined them and was asked about how the forward will help. "If we're ahead by 20 or down by 20, we might find out," Popovich said. James made his 17th start of his career tonight.
The Scoop:With the Spurs playing the second half of a back-to-back set tonight, then another one on Apr. 10 and 11, it makes sense to add James to their roster. They may have lost Austin Daye for a bit with a lat strain and James should see some time on the court as soon as tonight. He might actually guard college teammate Kevin Durant for some point during tonight's game.
The Scoop:The first thing to come to mind here is that Austin Daye's lat strain could cost him time. The Spurs are going to rest some players over the next two weeks, so added healthy depth is high on the priority list. For all we know, James could get a couple starts, but he's not worth owning in almost any league yet.
Damion James broke his foot his rookie year with the Nets and sadly that has pretty much defined his career to this point. He never really got healthy with the NEts, he had to have a second surgery to replace a screw in his foot, and with this his game never really developed as it…
The Scoop: None.
Sep 13 9:53 ET
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