Thursday night, we witnessed the Miami Heat win their second straight NBA championship, winning 95-88 over the San Antonio Spurs in an exciting game 7. It was a big moment for LeBron, who seemed to turn on the jets starting in the fourth quarter of game 6 to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for himself and his team.
Now that the team accomplishment is finished, I’d like to presently reflect on the individual performances that make up the whole. The format of this analysis will be like this: a grade will be given for that player (the starting five for each team and two bench players.) Then, an outlier will be identified (since most players seemed to have an exceptionally good or exceptionally poor game, see Danny Green in games 3 [great] and 7 [poor]) and the grade will be adjusted for the outlier. Grades will be based on statistics as well as the “eye test,” what I saw from each player. This is mostly subjective, and there is no fixed formula to determine a grade.
San Antonio Spurs
Grade: B-. In game 1, I was convinced that Tony Parker was the best player on the court. Through the whole series, he was attacking the rim and playing hard, and I thought he played decent defense throughout. The reality was that, for the most part, the Spurs went as far as Tony Parker took them. He scored 14.25 points per game in their losses while he scored 17 per game in their wins (including game 3 in which he only scored six points, mostly because they didn’t need him to stay on.)
Outlier Game: Game 2. Parker scored 13 points on 5-14 shooting, had five turnovers, no steals, only five assists. Not the most Tony Parker-esque of games.
Adjusted Grade: B+
Grade: C-. Ginobili’s standout game was game 5, in which he posted a double-double with 24 points and 10 assists. Aside from that, he played as you might expect a 35-year-old who has been hampered by injury would play. He was fairly average, didn’t shoot particularly well and didn’t do a whole lot to contribute on defense. The Spurs needed more from Ginobili, but one may question if he had all that much more to give. For all the praise Ginobili receives, keep in mind he is a career 15 ppg player.
Outlier: Game 5. He was simply lights out, as was previously stated.
Adjusted Grade: D.
Grade: A. The only reason it’s only an A is because I need room to give him an A+ after taking out game 2. The man is phenomenal, and watching him play, you question if he’s aged a day in his 15-year career. He played an exceptional series, posting double-doubles in five out of the seven games. He’s a presence in the defensive and offensive low post, and Duncan provides the intangibles that you rarely see from other players (remember when he was yelling at Gary Neal to shoot the ball because the clock was running out, and Neal banked the three in? He should have gotten an assist for that play.) He approaches the game in such a quiet, professional manner, knows the game inside and out, encourages his teammates, corrects them, and expects a lot from himself while still delivering a lot. I don’t know if I’ll remember seeing a greater all-around player in my generation of the NBA, and I don’t know if a player on the losing team has ever put in such a phenomenal performance. I will be singing the praises of Tim Duncan for a very long time.
Outlier game: Game 2. Duncan scored only 9 points on 3-14 shooting but still grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss. Fortunately for the Spurs, Popovich recognized a lost cause and sat Duncan for a big portion of the game. He played only thirty minutes in the loss.
Adjusted grade: A+. I think I’ve said all I need to say.
Grade: B+. Quick aside on Leonard: I am a huge fan of his (so this may be a bit of a homer grade.) I think that his development playing with Tim Duncan is blantantly noticeable in his equally professional approach to the game and his ability to handle himself and the game in a smooth manner. I think that it’s easy to forget he’s only 21, and I think he’s contributed more to his team than any one-and-done. That said, he was a solid contributor on both sides of the floor, averaging a double-double and posting them in four of seven games. My main criticism of Leonard would be his defense on the wing—I noticed him getting burned a few times by quick players like LeBron and Dwyane Wade, but in the post, he played very well, and played efficiently on the offensive end. I also thought he did well to eat a lot of minutes in the final two games, and I don’t think that he was the reason for them losing those two games. He seems to be in great shape.
Outlier Game: Game 2. Should we just throw this game out the window for all of the Spurs? He wasn’t especially good offensively, and shot under .500 for the second of only three games all series.
Adjusted grade: A.
Grade: C+. He has to be the hardest man to grade. What do you do for a guy who posted very good, efficient games in the first five, but then all but disappeared in the last two? Who shot 65% from three in the first five, and then 18% in the last two? But since this is about individual performances, I think C+ is the most fair thing I can give. It’s like when you pass your first five tests in a class with flying colors and bomb the last two. A C+ reflects exactly what you did: nailed it the first few times, and killed it the last couple. He played well, but really didn’t do much other than score, but even that he didn’t do all that much.
Outlier game: Game 7. I debated between this one and game 3, and I think it’s a toss-up, except that he was almost as good in game 5 as he was in game 3. But when I was watching game 7, there were times when I really forgot he was on the court. He couldn’t find any space, couldn’t buy a bucket, and didn’t do much defensively. I’ll give him some grace for that (although I’m tempted not to because of his almost-equally-poor game 6. Whatever.)
Adjusted grade: B-.
Grade: B. He did what he was supposed to do. He’s no world-beater, but off the bench he is a solid 10 PPG contributor. My main concern with Neal is that statistically, he appears to be neither distributor nor attacker. For a point guard, he seems to play a role more like a spot-up shooter, which is not what you’d expect for a 1-guard, but maybe what you’d expect from a guy whose skill set fits a 2 guard, but size favors the former.
Outlier game: Game 3. I hate to be negative here, but 24 points is definitely an outlier from Gary Neal (he also recorded personal series-highs in rebounds and assists, with three and four, respectively.) It simply defies the averages more than any other game.
Adjusted grade: C.
Grade: B+. Wade was a silent killer in these finals, surprisingly. His statistics defy the eye test, because watching the series, I remember (with the exception of game 4) him not appearing to be much of a factor. But he kept scoring, kept stealing, and kept blocking (those tend to be Wade’s abnormally normal ways of contributing defensively, and always have been.) He’s faded from the spotlight with the emergence of LeBron James, but he has continued to play very well.
Outlier game: Sorry, can’t find one. He was good.
Grade: A+. What can you say for a man who continues to play the best basketball of his career, shoots a lot and shoots well (44.5% in the series,) distributes the ball, plays on all parts of the offensive half, driving and shooting threes, posts two triple-doubles and three more double-doubles, locks down three or four different players on the defensive side, blocks shots and rebounds the ball better than almost any other 3? The man is a machine. He plays endless minutes and plays them exceptionally well.
Outlier Game: Game 3. Just wasn’t LeBron at his best. Didn’t score much (but still rebounded a lot) nor did he distribute all that well (only five assists.) still, he was good.
Adjusted Grade: A++, if that’s really a thing.
Grade: C. I wanted to rip Chris Bosh a new one here, and there is a reasonable argument for doing that (namely, what he contributes compared to LeBron, while they make the same amount of money.) But when I look at the statistics, they—like with D Wade—defy the eye test. I think Bosh was more of a factor than I’d care to admit, while from my twitter I was trying to trend #tradeBosh. I didn’t think he was very good, but four double-doubles do merit some sort of credit. I didn’t think he was very good defensively, as Duncan’s scoring bears out, and he continues to struggle offensively as he prefers to play by the elbow and a little further out than Spoelstra plays him, and in addition, you could see his teammates tearing into him for setting screens at the wrong times.
Adjusted Grade: I want to do this less on an outlier and more on a principle—the man is making as much as LeBron James. When you score 20 in your best game and LeBron scores 15 in his worst, what does that tell us? It tells us you’re not what you should be. If you subscribe to this, I’m willing to call Bosh a D+ type.
Grade: C-. I struggle with Chalmers, too. But for me, he’s a starting version of Gary Neal, scoring about the same amount (except less) in a lot more minutes. He neither distributes much nor does he score that much. I didn’t think he was particularly good in this series.
Outlier: Game 3. Spoelstra got him the heck out of there after 4 fouls, four turnovers, and no points in 20 minutes.
Adjusted grade: Ehhhhh, C.
Grade: C-. I know that’s mean, and I should probably give him more credit given how few minutes he played. Also, in trying to separate individual performance from team performance, I find this at work: Miller’s best game was game 3, when he was a perfect 5-5 from the field, but he was in as a consequence of his team being so horribly behind. It’s hard to separate that. The reality is, over 65 minutes in games 4, 6, and 7, he didn’t score a lick.
No adjustment necessary.
Grade: B-. I especially appreciated Allen’s occasional aggressiveness—at age 37—to drive to the hoop and score some good layups. Defensively I thought him poor, but he contributed well and efficiently on the offensive end.
Outlier: Game 7(I guess.) he didn’t shoot much, didn’t contribute much.
Adjusted grade: B.
Grade: B. I thought Battier was vastly underused, as evidenced by his scoring prowess in game 7. He played well in limited minutes, scoring 5.6 ppg in about 12 minutes per game. He, unlike Miami’s other spot-up shooters like Allen and Miller, provides a defensive spark as well, rarely being burned and always keeping a hand in the shooter’s face. He did well.
Didn’t play enough to be adjusted.