The 2023 NBA Finals features a matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat. Both have played some extremely impressive basketball to make it this far, and now they'll look to end the season as the last squad standing. The two teams are meeting in the Finals for the first time, and while the series might not be the one fans expected to see when the playoffs started in April, it still features plenty of intrigue.
Here's a look at five key storylines to keep in mind heading into the series.
1. Tyler Herro's health
The health of Tyler Herro is a major storyline heading into the NBA Finals. Herro hasn't played for Miami since fracturing his hand during the first game of the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks. Herro has been ramping up his rehab ahead of a potential return to action, and now the question is if -- and when -- that return will come. Herro has already been ruled out of the first game of the series, but he potentially return later in the series and provide Miami with an offensive boost.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves right now. He's still just starting this process," Eric Spoelstra said of Herro ahead of Game 1. "We do have a few days here just to continue his work. I can't even make any kind of proclamation until he takes these next important steps, and that's with contact and doing things more on the court live."
It remains to be seen how much Herro would play even if he is fully cleared, as it's tough to jump directly into playing at the highest level after an extended absence, but his point production is something that the Heat could use in order to keep pace with an offense as potent as Denver's.
2. Nikola Jokic, Jimmy Butler battling it out for legacy points
As the stars of their respective squads, Nikola Jokic and Jimmy Butler will both be battling to bolster their legacies in this series, as leading a team to a title does wonders for the way one is perceived in the present and remembered in the long run.
Jokic will solidify himself as one of the best centers of all time if he's able to add a ring to his trophy case that already contains two MVP awards. Jokic is already in the conversation when it comes to best centers ever, but all the guys at the top of that list -- Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal -- have titles to their name. Jokic will forever be mentioned in the same breath as those legends if he can get the job done.
Simiarily, Butler will have a chance to cement himself as an all-time great and one of the biggest winners of his generation if he's able to finish off the epic playoff run he's been on with a championship banner.
Obviously just making it to the Finals is an impressive accomplishment, but the impact that winning a ring has on the legacy of star-level players can't be downplayed. Jokic and Butler both have about a 73% chance of making the Hall-of-Fame at this point, per Basketball Reference. It's safe to assume that number will jump, potentially significantly, for whoever comes out on top in this series.
3. Heat have a chance to make 8 seed history
The Heat have an opportunity to make some major NBA history if they're able to best Denver in the Finals. The Heat have already made history by becoming just the second No. 8 in league history to reach the Finals, joining the 1998-99 New York Knicks, who lost to the San Antonio Spurs in five games. But, with a victory over the Nuggets, the Heat would become the first No. 8 seed ever to win the title.
As it stands, the lowest-seeded team ever to win an NBA title was the 1994-95 Houston Rockets. The Rockets entered the postseason as a No. 6 seed and they were able to power through the West to make it to the Finals, where they swept Shaquille O'Neal and the Orlando Magic.
As Nuggets coach Mike Malone said ahead of the matchup with Miami, seeding doesn't matter once you reach the Finals, as it's just two teams squared up against each other at that point, and if a team is good enough to win three separate series to reach the Finals, they're obviously a solid squad. Plus, the Heat probably don't feel like an average No. 8 seed after being the top seed in the East and making it to the conference finals last season. Nonetheless, becoming the lowest seed -- and first ever No. 8 seed -- to win a title would be an impressive accomplishment.
4. Nuggets seeking first title in franchise history
The Nuggets have a chance to make some history of their own with a series win over Miami, as the victory would represent the first championship in franchise history. Unlike the Heat who are competing in the Finals for a seventh time, the Nuggets have never made the Finals before the current campaign. So this season is already objectively the best that Denver has ever had, but there's no reason for Nuggets fans not to get greedy at this point, as winning the title would obviously make the season that much more special.
The good news for fans in Denver is that the Nuggets certainly don't sound satisfied with just making it to the Finals.
"It's a surreal moment. First Western Conference championship in Nuggets history, and I could not be more proud to represent the Nuggets," Mike Malone said after the Nuggets bested the Lakers in the Western Conference finals. "Great players on our team, high character, and this is for all of our fans back in Denver. We're not satisfied. I think that's one message that's coming out of our locker room right now... We understand that we're heading to the NBA Finals, and we have four more games to try to win."
5. The experience factor
When it comes to Finals experience, one team has an obvious advantage heading into the series. Only two players on the Nuggets -- Jeff Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope -- have previous Finals experience with two combined appearances between them. The Heat, on the other hand, have eight different players with Finals experience and a combined 16 previous appearances between those players. Veteran forward Udonis Haslem is making his seventh trip to the Finals, while Kevin Love is making his fifth. Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Gabe Vincent are all making their second appearance.
Their ample collective experience certainly doesn't guarantee victory for Miami, but it could provide them with an advantage in the nerve department, especially early on in the series. Where other teams might be overcome by the magnitude of the moment, that's probably not something you have to worry about with the Heat. It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, the experience factor ultimately has on the series.