NBA Mailbag

NBA Mailbag: Nuggets or Heat? Who will win 2023 NBA Finals?

20-year NBA veteran Jamal Crawford answers 20+ questions on the 2023 NBA Finals and much more.

The NBA Mailbag is here to answer your questions throughout the 2023 playoffs. Have a question for Jamal? Submit it at the bottom of this edition of the NBA Mailbag.

Who do you think will win the 2023 NBA Finals and why?

– Isaac in Brisbane, Australia

I think the Denver Nuggets will win the 2023 NBA Finals because they’ve had a championship mindset all season. There’s been no drop-off to their play and they’ve only gotten better as the season has progressed. They’re in great position to win their first NBA championship.

Who’s going to win Finals MVP?

– from Sean in Baltimore

Nikola Jokic is my pick.

How do the Heat guard Jokic, given their size limitations? How can the Heat slow him down?

– from Mahesh in India

The Heat will obviously have limitations guarding him, so they’ll have to get creative. They may try to go smaller at times just to get underneath him and take away his airspace. But he’s so tall and so gifted. He sees everything from a different perspective. Miami’s zone will have to come into play just because it causes some confusion and forces teams to stop and survey what’s there.

Do you think Nikola Jokic can be himself against Miami’s zone defense?

– from Jackson in Utah

Yes, he can be himself against the zone since it leaves areas of the floor open and it’s up to Denver to figure out how to move people to those open areas. Nobody is better at that than the Joker.

Thinking Basketball breaks down Nikola Jokic's legendary passing skills.

What can the Heat do to counter Jokic/Murray 2-man action?

– from Roxy in Vancouver, Canada

It’s going to be tough. They’ll have to do what they do defensively – be methodical and slow the pace. Denver especially likes to run a lot, so the more Miami can slow the game down, the better. But those two haven’t been figured out yet, and that’s why they’re in the Finals.

What player out of these two finalists has surprised you the most this playoffs?

– from David in Connecticut

Caleb Martin has been on fire. He’s provided so much calmness to the Heat when they’ve struggled to score. He’s hit the big shots, but not only big shots. He’s hit the timing shots where if he misses it the other team would continue their run. I knew he was a good player. But he’s playing at an elite, special level right now.

If the Heat were to win the Finals this year, do you think it would be a top 3 or 5 most difficult championship run that we have ever seen?

– from Trent in Houston

Off the top of my head, I would say yes. But ultimately I would need more time to think about it. I think we would look at it kind of like Dirk’s championship with Dallas in 2011.

Where do you think Nikola Jokic will end all time when his career is over? Is he already a top 5 center all time?

– from Avremi in Melbourne, Australia

It’s tough for me to say where he will end up all-time since he’s in the prime of his career and has so much more time to go. But right now, his skills are as unique as any player who has ever played. So I expect him to continue to have a legendary career.

“Making everything look easy”- you use these words often as the highest form of compliment. What does it mean to make it look easy and how difficult is it to look so effortless?

– from Hwang in Seoul, South Korea

If you can make things look easy in the NBA, that’s special because you’re playing against the best basketball players in the world. You’re in control of every single thing you want to do on the court, and that’s so hard to do when you’re playing against the very best. It’s the top level of basketball and these guys are making it look like they’re playing in high school at times.

How big of an impact will the difference in the amount of rest have on the teams?

– from Dylan in Belgium

It’s tough because it’s rest vs. rust. Would you rather have more time off or be in a better rhythm? I can see either happening in Game 1 of this series. Miami could get beaten up because they’re still tired from Game 7. Or Denver could get caught off guard because they haven’t been in game rhythm for 9 days. We’ll all have to tune in to see how it turns out.

How big of a home advantage does Denver have in the high altitude?

– from Dominik in Melbourne, Australia

It’s a great advantage to have. No matter what people say, you can’t prepare for that altitude. You have to drink fluids even when you’re not tired. You have to run really hard in your shootarounds to try to get used to the altitude so you can get that second wind when the game starts. Denver knows that altitude is real, and so do the announcers. They’ll let you know you’re “5,000 feet above elevation!” and that plays off a player’s mind as well.

What has been the best NBA Finals matchup that you have witnessed and why?

– from Randy in Flemington, NJ

Great question. For me, it was the 1991 NBA Finals between the Lakers and Bulls because Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are my two favorite players ever. But also it was cool to see Jordan win his first championship.

With Derrick White’s insane buzzer-beater in the ECF, what do you think is the best buzzer-beater you have ever seen?

– from Connor in New Zealand

Let’s go with Robert Horry against the Kings in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.

Look back at Robert Horry's iconic game-winner against the Kings in 2002.

I’m a huge Celtics fan and love the construction of the team. People still seem to think we should break up Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. It’s absurd to me but what are your thoughts on the idea?

– from Jace in St. Louis, MO

I think it’s absurd as well. Instead of breaking those two up, I would get a player they both respect who is just out of their prime and can be a guiding force for the team.

Most impressive 6th man so far in these playoffs? And which playoff bench unit would you have loved to join?

– from Twinny in Hawaii

Caleb Martin, for sure. Even though he has started a couple of games. And I could see myself fitting into Miami’s bench unit because when things break down, they could use some one-on-one options to initiate the offense.

Do you have any strategic advice specifically for playing one-on-one basketball?

– from Alex in Spain

You get better at it by playing all the time. And playing against older and stronger players who are better than you, too, since they’ll naturally be physical with you and get you in better shape to play against your peers. As far as a specific strategy, work on different combinations to get to your shot. If you can create a shot, you’ll always have some sort of value to a team.

Who was the hardest cover in a 1v1 game for you and who won?

– from Mat in Miami

Another great question. Let’s go with Jimmy Butler. He beat me more than I beat him. But hey, I was 38 years old!

How do you feel about Carmelo Anthony retiring?

– from Maciej in Poland

‘Melo has meant so much to the game and every community around the world. I’m glad he’s getting his flowers now. He’s one of the greatest to ever play and he’s a better person than he is a basketball player. So kudos to ‘Melo on a legendary career.

Travel back through the biggest moments in Carmelo Anthony's carer.

Will you release a video of all your unleashed moves that you weren’t able to implement during a game?

– from Pedro in New York, NY

No, I won’t release a video. What I’ll do is pass the moves along to my sons and you’ll see the moves one day through them.

Who are the top 5 clutch players of all time?

– from Thompson in Croatia

This is just off the top of my head, but let’s go with:

  • Michael Jordan
  • Kobe Bryant
  • LeBron James
  • Larry Bird
  • Reggie Miller

Did you forget about Moses Malone in your straight-out-of-high-school list?

– from Steven in Santa Fe, NM


Someone once asked you what you did to get back on track when your shot wasn’t falling and you said you do a little meditation. What is the meditation that you do?

– from David in Highlands Ranch, CO

Meditation for me was always listening to old-school music. Whatever would get me back into the mode I was in during high school hoops.

Who’s game do you admire the most in today’s NBA?

– from Ivan in Arizona

Kevin Durant.

What are some basic footwork skills to learn as a person who’s fairly new to basketball?

– from Caleb in Sharptown, Maryland

Get an agility ladder and practice different foot agility drills. The ladder is a key way to develop your footwork.

Who is the best current/former player that a middle school player should try to model their game after?

– from Aiden in West Virginia

Grant Hill. You won’t have the same athleticism as him, but he could do everything on the floor. Try to be Grant Hill without the hops.

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