There was so much at stake in this series and it definitely did not disappoint.
The NBA champion seems to define the league more than in any other sport. Teams usually enter the offseason trying to figure out a way to become specifically better than the champion.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of a small handful of teams with a chance to win a title next year. It’s very early of course but next year’s title does seem more wide open than ever. The Heat don’t exactly look like a team that is guaranteed to roll to a fourth straight Finals appearance and the Spurs seemed to be making their last title run as well.
Given what took place in these Finals, what does it mean for the Thunder? Do they need to commit more to small ball? Does Kevin Durant need to try more than ever to imitate LeBron James? Are any drastic changes necessary?
What we’ve seen from the last three champions is that superior ball movement, execution and perimeter shooting leads to championships. The Mavs, both Heat teams and the Spurs (who came as close as possible to winning this year) all exemplified this.
The Thunder, for how great they are, are pretty far from becoming one of these teams. Known for their stagnant, predictable offensive sets as much as anything, if you’re gauging the ability to win a title by mocking the last three champs, the Thunder have quite a ways to go.
It’s only natural for the Thunder to continue toward becoming a team like the Heat. They don’t necessarily have to get to that level to win a title, but it will only help.
It’s hard to tell if the Thunder have it in them. Their greatness comes in a more dominant, overwhelming fashion than what we see from the Heat and Spurs. If you don’t have a clear advantage in terms of talent, relying on dominant isolation scoring from Durant and Westbrook and superior athletic plays on defense might not be enough to become a champion.
Ultimately, the way these Finals played out has to be good for the Thunder. It only reinforces what the Thunder should be doing. They need to try and cut ties with Kendrick Perkins, either by benching him or somehow trading him. Serge Ibaka needs to become the future five with Durant getting the most minutes at the four, and continuing to develop into a reliable post scorer.
LeBron getting his second ring continues the path that seems to define the league as much as anything. The best player in the league will always find a way to win multiple titles. Kevin Durant is next in line to be that player.
It might not be as much about trying to imitate the Heat and Spurs as it will be to just be patient, and wait until it is Durant’s time. Watching these Finals and even with how great LeBron was in the last two games, you have to feel it won’t be long until Durant is in the conversation for best player in the world.
Winning titles can simply be a waiting game in the NBA, especially when you have one of the all-time greats. Durant will go down as one and one day it will be his time. Just not quite yet.