1. Kawhi Leonard is no longer up and coming. He’s here. The former star at Riverside’s King High won a Finals MVP two weeks to the day before he turned 23. Happy early birthday! It figures to be a pretty rollicking summer for the small forward who became a breakthrough star in only his third NBA season, at least until his workouts begin at his La Jolla crib and then everyone must go Shhhhhh! after 8 p.m. Expect Leonard to be an all-star for the first time in 2015, after he averaged 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 61.2% during a Finals in which his coach called zero plays for him. “It just feels like a dream to me,” said Leonard, who may never want to wake up.
2. If the Spurs’ Big Three returns intact, they win another title in 2015. This team just put together the most impressive stretch of basketball in recent memory, blowing out the two-time defending champions in three consecutive games. “They exposed us, you know,” Miami’s Chris Bosh said. “They picked us apart.” There’s no reason to think the Spurs can’t repeat next season if Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all return. San Antonio’s blend of young and old players and Coach Gregg Popovich’s deft management of minutes and personalities makes this pretty much the closest thing to a perfect NBA team.
3. The Heat won’t look the same next season regardless of whether its Big Three returns. There figures to be changes galore even if LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh come back. Shane Battier is retiring, for starters. Ray Allen may do the same. It’s clear Miami needs at least one more dynamic scorer to take some of the burden off James, who had to do it all far too often for the Heat to sustain success against elite teams. If they want to return, James, Wade and Bosh would be smart to opt out of their contracts and take big discounts to allow the Heat to significantly bolster their supporting cast. Wade should consider taking the veteran’s minimum after looking like he was better suited to a rec league the last two games.
4. Mario Chalmers may need some summer sessions with a sports psychologist. The point guard was taken out of the starting lineup in Game 5 and wasn’t even the first guard off the bench, with that honor going to Norris Cole. Chalmers capped his forgettable Finals with eight points in 14 minutes, which actually qualified as an upgrade over his previous performances. There’s no way he’s back as the Heat’s starting point guard next season.
5. Boris Diaw will never get enough credit for his impact on the Spurs in the Finals. Sure, Leonard became more aggressive over the last three games of the series on the way to being crowned Finals MVP, but equally important was the Spurs’ insertion of the Flying Frenchman into the starting lineup. Diaw helped the Spurs take the zip on their ball movement to another level and played surprisingly effective defense for someone who looked like he had eaten one too many chocolate eclairs. He usually made the smart pass and perfected his positioning on both sides of the ball. His presence was every bit as important as any other San Antonio player in the Spurs’ fifth title and first since 2007.