I’d like to start off by giving a big congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks.
They surprised just about everyone all throughout the playoffs. They showed a mental and defensive toughness that no one thought was possible. If there is going to be a prolonged strike I’m glad we had such a feel-good story to close this chapter in the NBA out on. From Jason Kidd winning on his 3rd trip to the finals, to Peja and Marion getting a ring after some questionable and controversial exits in the playoffs, to Terry getting the trophy tattooed on his arm, to Dirk beating the team that beat him in ’06 and moving up a few notches in the pantheon of all-time greats.
Time to give out some grades for the finals. I’ll start with the winners, the Dallas Mavericks:
Dirk Nowitzki – Played with a torn tendon in his finger, played with a 101 fever, played through constant double-teams and never once complained. Dominated the 4th quarter in every game, even when he had a terrible 1st three quarters in game 6 he scored the Mavs last 10 points in the series clincher. I can’t think of a more deserving finals MVA. GRADE – A+
Shawn Marion – Turned back the clock and had a number of huge games and shut down LeBron in the process. This was a guy who was supposed to give Butler some rest during games and instead played a huge part in the series. GRADE – A
Jason Terry – He’s a starter. I don’t care that he comes off the bench, Stevenson plays 14 minutes a game and Terry plays 35. Had a shaky beginning to the series, but ended it with 3 straight huge games to back up all his trash talking. He was a monster in the first half of game 6 while Dirk was struggling. Defense is a little suspect but offense more than made up for it. GRADE – A
Jason Kidd – Wasn’t much of a threat on offense…unless it was huge momentum changers. I felt like 80% of his shots were 3’s at the most important time. He facilitated the offense beautifully as well. His defense was sick, had to cover Wade and LeBron and did a great job the majority of the time. 2nd oldest starter on a finals team, but you wouldn’t know it from watching him on the court. GRADE – A
Tyson Chandler – He wasn’t brought in for his offense and that’s good because he usually doesn’t provide any. What he was brought in for was defense and rebounds and he brought a ton of that. LeBron looked scared to drive whenever Chandler was stalking the middle. He was also able to stay out of foul trouble. His presence changed the dymanic of the team. In a good way. If he could improve his free throw percentage he’d be a lot more dangerous. GRADE – A
Jose Juan Barea – Had a terrible 1st three games, like really terrible, but was instrumental in the games 5 and 6 victories. He was unstoppable in game 6 especially. He also wasn’t a liability on defense which is impressive for a 5’9” guy. GRADE – B
Brian Cardinal – Set tough screens, made hard fouls, hit a few shots. Not much was expected of him, especially after not playing much the first 3 rounds, but he played better than most expected. A good glue guy off the bench. GRADE – B-
DeShawn Stevenson – Was terrible early in the series, got benched, then decided to show up. Played some good defense and hit some big shots in the final game. Almost cost them a game earlier in the series with a dumb foul and bad shot on the very next play. His up and down play earns him a mediocre grade. (His questionable moves didn’t stop in the finals, didn’t take him long to get arrested after the finals) GRADE – C
Ian Mahinmi – Looked lost most of the time he was out there. Got a few boards. Like ever single Mav in the final game he hit a big shot. Not too impressive the rest of the series though. GRADE – C-
The losers, the Miami Heat:
Dwyane Wade – Wasn’t the same after his hip injury, but was the main reason the Heat were so close to winning this series. He was the best player on the team for the first five games. Looked like Dwyane was getting pretty frustrated with LeBron and I don’t blame him, he took his game to an even higher level in the finals and sacrificed his body every game. That sacrifice may come back to haunt them as he turns the wrong side of 30 next season. GRADE – A+
Chris Bosh – The 2nd best player on the Heat in the finals. Yup, I can’t believe it either. Bosh stepped up his game and played with passion. He was on his way to a monster game 6 until the Heat inexplicably decided to not go to him for most of the 2nd half. GRADE – A
Mario Chalmers – This guy fears no one and isn’t afraid to step up when it counts. He thinks he should be taking the final shot. Gotta love the confidence but he also needs to know he’s playing with Wade. Hit some huge shots throughout the series and played some nice D. GRADE – A
LeBron James – What a frustrating player James is. The talent to be the best ever but the heart of a college kid. He reminds me of young Shaq. Plays well enough to have some great, even dominating games, but only brings it when he feels like it. He had a triple double in the finals but looked like he was debating what club to go to during the 4th quarter of that game. Why he wants to pass all 4th quarter of every game is inexplicable. He needs to get a post move too. Just one post move and the Heat are the champs. He couldn’t post Kidd or Barea and that’s just embarrassing. All that aside he played good enough to come within a few plays of winning the championship. If this grade was for the first 36 minutes he would absolutely get and A. Alas, the grade is for the entire 48 minutes. GRADE – B-
Udonis Haslem – Played some good D, hit a few shots. However, when this is your 5th best guy you’re not winning the finals. GRADE – B-
Joel Anthony – If I was grading for the 1st 3 rounds Anthony would get an A. He was completely ineffective in the finals resulting in the Heat having to resurrect Juwan Howard from the grave for the finals. GRADE – D
Juwan Howard – Was his job to dish out borderline flagrant fouls? Because he didn’t do much else. GRADE – D+
Eddie House – Doesn’t play pretty much the entire playoffs and gets 21 minutes in the deciding game? Yeah Miami was definitely in panic mode. GRADE – D-
Mike Miller – Between his two thumb splints and his shoulder guard he was starting to look like Robocop out there. You have to think next year will be better for him. He was useless in these finals. GRADE – D-
Mike Bibby – I forgot he was still playing half the time. Couldn’t guard Butler, who was in a suit and couldn’t hit a shot. How a guy hits shots the first 3 round and shoots approx. 7.5% for the finals is beyond me. GRADE – F
James Jones – Was he injured? He had a huge game in the Boston series and was never seen again. GRADE – ?