Power ranking stars for Nuggets, Heat in the 2023 NBA Finals
Its the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat in the 2023 NBA Finals.
While Denvers dominance as the No. 1 seed out West isnt exactly surprising, the No. 8 Heat assembled a run for the ages to topple the shouldve-been contenders in Milwaukee and Boston.
Though the 2022-23 MVP in Joel Embiid is still away from the leagues biggest stage, the top two consistent performers this postseason will battle it out: Nikola Jokic and Jimmy Butler.
But Jokic and Butler wont be the only ones responsible for guiding their respective teams to the promised land. Lets rank the top 10 players competing in this series:
*Note: Tyler Herros hand injury situation rules him ineligible for this ranking
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
This is Jokics best chance at slamming the monkey off his back. The 28-year-old has often been criticized for not taking the Nuggets to a title, rather getting eliminated much earlier than they should. This year has seen Jokic dominate the court in extraordinary ways, with better health around him providing vital support. A well-oiled triple-double machine, Jokic will be the main man needed to deliver Denver its first ever NBA title.
2. Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
If theres one man currently capable of preventing Jokic and the Nuggets from glory, its Jimmy Butler otherwise known as Himmy Buckets. The 33-year-old has been the catalyst for a Heat team playing out of their skin, with Erik Spoelstras coaching rising to the occasion time and time again. Butlers two-way play, to put in simple terms, has been remarkably consistent. Hes locking up the oppositions stars and leading the charge offensively, making tough shots that winners do and thriving in the clutch. Hes Miamis best chance.
3. Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets
Bubble Murray was not just a one-off it was for real. Since recovering from a torn ACL that hindered him both mentally and physically last year, the 26-year-old guard has developed into the perfect Robin to JokicsBatman. His high-volume shooting is falling at an efficient rate, and his rebounding, assist and defensive levels have quietly flown under the radar. Even if Jokic has a rough night, Murray has stepped up to the task to perform like a championship-caliber duo does. Hell be just as imperative for Denver against Miamis guards than Jokic down low.
4. Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
Maybe Herro appears here given his secondary-scoring presence alongside Butler, but those duties have been collected by Adebayo, who has taken another leap in this postseason. The 25-year-old center doesnt spread the floor like Jokic can, but he can make plays off the dribble both with shots and passes, possesses a reliable mid-range jumper and is a switchable force defensively. Hell need to be at best moreso defensively against Jokic in an attempt to slow the stars near-unstoppable production.
5. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets
His individual numbers arent better than what he produced in 2020-21, but Porter has bestowed Jokic and Murray a third option who can put the ball on the floor and create a shot while knocking down open looks at an efficient clip, too. The 24-year-old has been mired with constant injuries that saw his stock fall in the 2018 draft, but the Nuggets patience in his recovery and development has paid off in this years run. Defensively he can be exploited, but hes the one who can swing this series for the Nuggets.
6. Aaron Gordon, Denver Nuggets
Speaking of swinging series, Gordon is another one wholl be shouldering significant responsibility in the starting lineup. The 27-year-old forward will need to be at his best with his two-way game, and it wouldnt be surprising if hes the defensive matchup head coach Michael Malone deploys to slow down Butler. The key thing for Gordon will need to be consistency with his shotmaking. His volume is reasonable, but hes been known for hot and cold streaks that will need to be ironed.
7. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Denver Nuggets
If the Nuggets have been dominating the upper echelon of this list, well its because they are a No. 1 seed for a reason. They possess the best group of players who play for each other and fill in the gaps where needed, which is the consummate description of Caldwell-Pope. Hes upped the level of his play in the postseason, hitting near-20-point games or more on several instances and shutting down opposing guards. Hell be important against some of the upcoming Heat members.
8. Kyle Lowry, Miami Heat
The 37-year-old Lowry is not the consistent scoring threat he once was, but thats reasonable given his age and decline in athleticism. He still has the odd big game in him now and then and theyll be needed in this series but his importance lies more on the defensive side against Murray and Co. and bringing experience in key situations.
9. Gabe Vincent, Miami Heat
Vincent has become one of the breakout stars of the playoffs, which is why his value has skyrocketed as he heads to unrestricted free agency this summer. The 26-year-old combo guard can play on and off the ball and isnt shy of the big moment, especially when it comes to shooting. Miami hasnt come this far because Butler has carried the load; the others have needed to chip in, too, and Vincent must keep his momentum going to beefen their odds.
10. Caleb Martin, Miami Heat
Martins journey saw him get cut from an underperforming Charlotte Hornets squad to becoming a crucial rotational piece with Miami. The 27-year-old wing has supplied reliable two-way play and has also assembled vigorous scoring performances to make the Heat tougher to guard which Boston has witnessed firsthand. Size might be a mismatch for him in this series, but he can certainly help Miami swing this one.
Players worth mentioning: Bruce Brown Jr. (Denver Nuggets), Christian Braun (Denver Nuggets), Max Strus (Miami Heat), Duncan Robinson (Miami Heat), Kevin Love (Miami Heat)