The NFL has staged the Superbowl on a neutral site for over 50 years. The Miami Heat versus the Los Angeles Lakers match-up is the initial, and perhaps only, NBA Finals series without homecourt advantage. Another first for the games is the fact that no two NBA teams ever faced each other who were both in the lottery the previous season.
The Heat’s fortunes changed once Jimmy Butler arrived in town to put his imprint on the team. The Lakers traded for Anthony Davis and reconfigured their team with a different identity from last season.
On the surface Davis added an All-NBA talent to the team, but on another level the transaction allowed LeBron James to switch from the forward position to that of a guard, per basketball-reference. In the 2018-19 season he was listed as a forward 98% of the time, while in 2019-20 they had him as a guard 100% of the time.
Last season Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock and Josh Hart shared point guard duties for the lottery Lakers. In November of 2019 the Lakers disposed of Ball and Hart, plus Brandon Ingram and draft picks, to get Davis. Note the article has a side note with Lakers as 7-2 title favorites by Caesars Sportsbook, along with the Golden State Warriors at 11-1 and New York Knicks at 22-1. The Heat weren’t even included.
The Lakers traded ball handlers for a dominant paint presence. This season the Lakers’ point guards are Rondo (100%), Caruso (56%), James (48%). During clutch time in seven playoff games, of the 8 total assists, James had 6 and Rondo 2. In close games James only trusts himself to run the show. Frank Vogel said this version of James is different than the Heat’s, which had James up front and Mario Chalmers as the nominal point guard.
The Lakers featuring James went from 37-45 to 52-19 via the Davis trade by doing more than just changing players. Against the Boston Celtics Miami faced multiple ball handlers and dangerous pull-up jump-shooters. The Lakers present a different threat commanded by one of the greatest minds in NBA history: a Tom Brady versus Bill Belichick scenario is coming up.