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Lakers vs. Heat: Ranking 20 most impactful players in NBA Finals, from LeBron James to Dion Waiters

Written by on 30/09/2020

For the first time in NBA history, the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat will square off for an opportunity to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. There will be no shortage of talent on display during the series between the two teams. L.A. and Miami both had two players named to the All-Star team this season, and they also both have a plethora of other key contributors. Below you’ll find a ranking of the top 20 players in the series between the Lakers and Heat, based on their potential impact in the Finals. 

1. LeBron James

LeBron has appeared in nine of the last ten NBA Finals. The only time in the past decade that he failed to lead a team to the finals was last season when he suffered a groin injury and was forced to miss the entire second half of the season. Over that decade span, James has clearly been the most impactful player in the league, and he will be the most impactful player in the series between the Lakers and Heat. James does it all for the Lakers on the offensive end, and he is responsible for generating a huge chunk of their offensive output, between scoring and assisting. He will consistently put pressure on Miami’s defense by pushing the action and creating looks for himself and his teammates. Plus, in the final moments of a close game, there’s no one that you’d rather have with the ball in his hands. It may be the end of his 17th season, but James is still near the peak of his powers. 

2. Anthony Davis 

Davis has been the Lakers leading scorer throughout the postseason, as the team runs a large portion of their offense through the multi-faceted forward. His impact is far from limited to the offensive end though. He finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting thanks to his versatility and ability to guard multiple positions. That versatility will come in handy in this series, as Davis will likely be tasked with spending at least some time guarding Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo while also switching out onto Miami’s dangerous perimeter players when necessary. When it comes to potential two-way impact, there’s no player that has a higher ceiling than Davis in this series. 

3. Jimmy Butler 

Jimmy Butler is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, and now he will get an opportunity to showcase his skill set on the league’s biggest stage. During Miami’s current postseason run, Butler is second on the team in scoring and rebounds per game, third in assists, and first in steals. In short, he does a lot of different things for the Heat. Plus, as Miami’s top go-to option in crunch time, there could be ample opportunity for Butler to make huge, series-altering plays. 

4. Bam Adebayo

Adebayo is just beginning to blossom into one of the league’s best young big men, but even at this early stage in his career, he will be one of the most impactful players in this series thanks to his ability to make plays on both ends of the floor. His block on Jayson Tatum in the conference finals was one of the best individual defensive plays in postseason history, and his two-handed slam in the fourth quarter of Game 6 helped propel Miami to victory. Also, as Miami’s leading rebounder this postseason, Adebayo will be tasked with limiting Los Angeles’ second chance opportunities. The young center projects to have his fingerprints all over this series. 

5. Goran Dragic

Dragic has been Miami’s top scorer this postseason, and he has consistently come up with big shot after big shot for Miami. He’s also second on the team in assists per game beyond Adebayo. His scoring and playmaking ability will provide him ample opportunity to make a big imprint on the series. 

6. Kyle Kuzma

LeBron James and Anthony Davis can carry a large load for the Lakers, but they can’t do it all by themselves. That’s where Kuzma comes in. Heading into the season, Kuzma was penciled in as the Lakers’ third offensive option, and though it hasn’t always worked that way, L.A. will need him to produce like a third option in the Finals. He’s the only Lakers player other than James and Davis that has averaged over 10 points per game this postseason, and he has the potential to go for 20, or even 30 on a given night. One big game from Kuzma could potentially swing the series in the Lakers’ favor. 

7. Tyler Herro

Much like one good game from Kuzma could swing the series in L.A.’s favor, the same could be said with Herro and the Heat. With his 37-point performance against the Celtics in Game 4, Herro showed that he could produce at a very high level on a big stage — something that isn’t always a given for a rookie. The Heat have a lot of options on the offensive end, but when he’s in a zone like he was in that game against Boston, Herro can be one of the most impactful. 

8. Rajon Rondo 

Rondo doesn’t start for the Lakers but he still plays an integral role for the team as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker. When Rondo is in this role it takes some of the pressure to create offensively off of LeBron and allows him to play off the ball a bit, where he can be very dangerous. Rondo has been a big factor in L.A.’s success so far this postseason, and that likely won’t change in the finals. 

9. Jae Crowder 

When the Heat made a trade with the Grizzlies ahead of the deadline in February, the addition of veteran forward Andre Iguodala garnered most of the headlines in Miami, and understandably so. But, due to the hype around the addition of Iguodala, the Heat landing another very versatile forward in the deal in Jae Crowder somewhat flew under the radar. His addition, however, has proved to be an equally important move for Miami. Crowder provides the Heat with floor-spacing and solid defense, and Miami will need both of those in the Finals. Over the course of the series, Crowder will likely spend at least some time defending LeBron James, and potentially Anthony Davis too, and how he does in those matchups could go a long way toward determining the outcome.

10. Duncan Robinson 

Robinson is one of the most lethal long-range shooters in the entire NBA, and a huge part of Miami’s offensive attack. Even when he’s not getting a lot of shooting opportunities, defenders know that they can’t cheat off of him, which opens things up in a major way for his teammates. His presence on the court is key for Miami’s spacing, and if he happens to catch fire he could swing an entire game. 

11. Dwight Howard

Howard doesn’t necessarily play big minutes for the Lakers — he’s averaged fewer than 20 per game over the course of the postseason — but he can have a big impact in the minutes that he does play thanks to his energy and athleticism. The Lakers will look to Howard to protect the rim and generate second-chance opportunities. He will also likely be tasked with guarding Adebayo for stretches. How he does could well play a part in determining the ultimate outcome. 

12. Andre Iguodala 

LeBron has played in nine out of the last ten Finals, but he no longer holds the longest active streak for Finals appearances after failing to make the postseason last season. That honor now belongs to Iguodala, who has been to six straight Finals. At the peak of his powers, Iguodala is one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA — a lock-down perimeter defender with extreme athleticism and the ability to get buckets in transition and in the halfcourt. He has also shot a respectable 33 percent from long distance over the course of his career. While he’s a bit past his prime athletically, if he can manage to look like his old self for stretches of the series, that could be a huge boost for Miami. 

13. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s role isn’t enormous, but it is important. Quite simply, the Lakers will need him to play some solid defense on Miami’s perimeter players, and knock down open 3-pointers when the opportunity presents itself. If he can do both of those things well, it will boost the Lakers’ chances of leaving Orlando with a title. 

14. Danny Green 

Everything that was just said about KCP can be said about Green too. His play has been a bit inconsistent throughout the postseason, but he has Finals experience and knows what it takes to win at the highest level. That knowledge and experience could prove to be very valuable for the Lakers. 

15. Alex Caruso

Caruso is a solid glue guy for the Lakers. He provides them with some decent defense and reliable decision-making off of the bench. Plus, his occasional explosions to the rim work to energize his teammates. 

16. Kelly Olynyk

If nothing else, Olynyk can serve as a big body that the Heat can throw at Anthony Davis if needed. If he is able to come in and knock down some 3-pointers for Miami, that would be a big bonus. 

17. Markieff Morris 

Morris is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 43 percent from long range over the course of the postseason. If he can continue to knock down shots at a solid clip against the Heat he could prove to be a solid x-factor for the Lakers. 

18. JaVale McGee

McGee is another Lakers player with championship experience, and that could come in handy. His role in the postseason has been extremely limited, however, as he has played less than 10 minutes per game. That likely won’t change. 

19. Kendrick Nunn 

Nunn was one of the best rookies in the NBA during the regular season, and he was even named to the All-Rookie First Team as a result. However, his role and production have been scaled way back in the postseason to the point that he has virtually been a non-factor. Look for that trend to continue against the Lakers. 

20. Dion Waiters 

Maybe Waiters will get an opportunity to knock down a 3-pointer, or two, against his former franchise. 

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