NBA Finals Props: Max Strus Long Shot Bets, Including Finals MVP

NBA Finals Props: Max Strus Long Shot Bets, Including Finals MVP article feature image

Via Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Max Strus #31 of the Miami Heat dribbles the ball during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on May 19, 2023 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

The Miami Heat are in the great game now.

The Heat did what they do best in Game 2 — bomb a ton of 3s, make a fourth-quarter push and steal another road victory against a better-on-paper foe.

The No. 8 seed Heat are three wins away from a championship now. They are winning with a classic underdog formula, slowing the game to a snail's pace and firing away from deep to increase variance.

They took 45% of their shots from behind the arc in Game 2 and made almost half of them. It's the sixth time this postseason that Miami has made at least 48.5% of its 3s.

Miami has gone from can't-win to probably-shouldn't to so-you're-telling-me-there's-a-chance.

So if the Heat did win it all, who would win Finals MVP?

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Bam Adebayo is Heat MVP Now, But Not Later

There's little question Bam Adebayo is Miami's Finals MVP for the Heat through two games.

Adebayo had 26 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in Game 1, carrying the offense and battling Nikola Jokic all night. He led the Heat in scoring, then nearly repeated the feat in Game 2 with 21/9/4.

Bam leads Miami in points, rebounds and blocks. He's giving everything defensively, holding his own against Jokic while Miami's defense falls apart almost immediately without him.

Without question, Adebayo is the Heat MVP after two games. But these two games have also shown why he can't win Finals MVP.

Our Jim Turvey did the work: Finals MVP almost always goes to the leading scorer on the winning team.

Right now, that's Bam Adebayo. But can Miami really win the series this way? I don't see it.

Adebayo is doing everything on both ends, and it's too big an ask. He's still being thoroughly outplayed by Jokic, and the Heat have a very low chance of winning three more games if they need Adebayo to be the best player.

Bettors often err betting MVP. We shouldn't bet who's most valuable now, but who will be most valuable when the votes are cast — at the end of the series.

That's why Jimmy Butler is still a slight Miami MVP favorite ahead of Adebayo, despite ranking third on the team at 17.0 points per game after a quiet start to the series.

Miami probably needs a big finish from its one superstar to get over the line. Butler isn't MVP now, but it makes sense that he would be if we imagine Miami winning three more. But I'm not sure Butler can do it either. Denver's offense is too good, and Butler isn't healthy.

Miami has shown its path to winning this series is not with star play but with strength in numbers — with Heat culture and all those undrafted shooters bombing 3s.

One week ago, undrafted Caleb Martin stepped into the starting lineup, hit shot after shot to break the Boston Celtics and came within a single vote of winning Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

Gabe Vincent could be next. He has hit 9-of-16 3s to start the series, averaging 21.0 PPG through two games, and he's third in Miami's odds to win Finals MVP at +4000 (BetRivers). I don't mind that bet.

But if Gabe Vincent can win Finals MVP — why can't Max Strus?

Strus is the Perfect MVP Representative for Miami's Run

There was an easy answer to "Why not Strus?" in Game 1: He couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat.

Strus was 0-for-10 in his Finals debut, including 0-of-9 on 3s. It was bad.

Everything changed in Game 2. Strus was the first name on the score sheet, hitting two treys in the first couple minutes, then two more before the end of the quarter. Those early Strus 3s changed the series. The Heat went on to even things up, and suddenly Miami has home-court advantage in the NBA Finals.

On our Buckets podcast, I bet Strus to lead the series in 3s at +1900 (FanDuel).

Pick: Max Strus Series 3s Leader +1900

He leads the series in 3-point attempts at 19. His four makes rank fourth, behind Gabe Vincent's nine but only one behind Kyle Lowry and Jamal Murray. Strus, Vincent, Murray and Michael Porter Jr. are the only players with double-digit attempts (all at 15 or more) with Strus averaging 9.5 per game. He's a career 37.1% shooter and better at home, where the Heat will host at least the next two games.

As Miami continues to crank up its 3-point volume, Strus should be a primary beneficiary. We saw him average 8.6 3-point attempts against the New York Knicks after Miami supercharged its 3s with Butler hurt. Strus led that series in 3s with 17. Why couldn't he do it again?

In four games against the Nuggets this regular season and playoffs, Strus has made 4-of-10, 0-of-9, 4-of-12, and 4-of-8 3s. The volume has been consistent at 9.8 attempts per game, and he's hit four in 75% of them.

If Strus takes 10 treys four more times — assuming Miami in six, their best winning scenario — and shoots 40%, that's 16 more makes. That gets Strus to 20 3s over the final five games and makes him a key factor in a shocking Heat championship.

Max Strus can lead the series in 3s with this volume. But I don't think that's far enough. Strus has an outside shot at Finals MVP too at +50000 (BetRivers).

Strus won't lead the Heat in scoring. He'd be an outlier Finals MVP. But if ever there were a team to have a strange outlier MVP, wouldn't it be the only No. 8 seed to win the Finals NBA history?

MVP is a narrative award. Here's the narrative case for Strus:

1. The big story of this entire Heat run has been red-hot 3-point shooting. Doesn't it make sense to give MVP to its hottest shooter and series leader in 3s? We came one vote from Caleb Martin doing that last round. The Heat would have knocked out the Bucks, Celtics and Nuggets — three of the four title favorites — with wild, outlier 3-point shooting. Their 3s are the real MVP.

2. The other big Miami story is Heat Culture and all those undrafted players. Isn't this the perfect team to have an MVP that's not a star, but a homegrown undrafted player? Every game we hear about Martin, Vincent, Strus, Duncan Robinson and Haywood Highsmith. The team's core is overlooked dudes that paid their dues, worked hard and got their chance in Miami. Wouldn't one of those undrafted guys be the perfect Heat MVP representative?

3. Strus has the perfect redemption arc — from zero to hero. In Game 1 he was literally 0-for-10. He played hero in Game 2. Do it again a couple times, and maybe he's MVP. Everyone loves a good redemption story. This guy got cut by his hometown Bulls, then he went nuts from deep in the final minutes of a play-in against Chicago to save Miami's season. Two months later he does it again in the Finals to clinch a title, and we're not gonna fall in love with that redemption narrative?

3s leader + Heat Culture + undrafted + redemption arc = Finals MVP

Look, it's a long shot for a reason. But does Strus have 2% chance at Finals MVP? That's 50-to-1, not 500-to-1. Skip that afternoon coffee and put a few bucks on Strus instead.

Call it my Jae Crowder memorial Finals MVP bet — I bet Crowder before the 2021 Finals and he promptly went 0-for-8 with one point in Game 1. Let's hope Strus goes better.

If you like the angle, a few other related bets you might consider:

  • Strus series 3s leader +1900 (FanDuel), as laid out above.
  • Vincent Finals MVP +4000 (BetRivers), similar case to Strus. Feel free to bet both together.
  • Strus to hit five 3s any Finals game +425 (DraftKings), did so 9x in 80 regular season games. At 9+ attempts per game for four more games, he's over 60% to hit five at least once.
  • Strus to score 20 any Finals game +750 (FanDuel), did so 11 times in season, including 23 against Denver. We'd likely need at least one 20-point outburst to win MVP.

Pick: Max Strus to Score 20 Points in Any Finals Game +750

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