No. 1 seed showdown: Could the Heat and Suns meet again … in June?

  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
  • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
  • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

How likely is Wednesday’s matchup between the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) to be repeated in the NBA Finals?

The Heat and Suns, the last two Finals losers (Miami in the 2020 bubble to the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix last season to the Milwaukee Bucks), are on track to claim the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences. Although other teams have bigger stars, the Heat and Suns have used balance (they’re two of the four teams in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating this season) and depth to put themselves in favorable positions heading into the playoffs.

Despite different recent track records — Miami has had three separate runs of title contention in the past 20 years, while Phoenix spent a decade in the lottery between the last deep playoff run with Steve Nash and the first with Chris Paul — the teams are built in similar fashions around heady point guards aging gracefully, wing playmakers, tough but undersized power forwards and athletic centers.

Let’s answer some key questions about the Heat and Suns, concluding with their chances of getting back to the Finals and possibly facing each other in June.

Who’s got the best player?

When it comes to playoff series, having the best player on the court is typically an advantage. Miami and Phoenix stand out not just for their lack of a definitional star but also the challenge of determining the best player on each team.

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