OKC Thunder – Utah Jazz Series: Round Table Part 1

Jerami Grant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jerami Grant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, OKC Thunder (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder - Utah Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – DECEMBER 23: Donovan Mitchell /

Question 3:

Although the OKC Thunder is a young franchise there is a rich history of postseason appearances. To wit, this is their eighth playoffs in ten seasons. Utah’s core features Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors, Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert. Naturally as a rookie this is Mitchell’s playoff debut, and despite his seventh season this is also Rubio’s first taste of the postseason. Favors (15), Gobert (9) and Ingles (11) offer a cumulative 35 games of postseason play. In fact, (leaving out the injured Thabo Sefalosha) the entire Jazz roster has played a mere 120 playoff games. Jonas Jerebko (22) and Jae Crowder (35) represent 57 games or 47 percent of the total.

To put this in perspective the trio of Westbrook (87), George (65) and Anthony (66) bring 218 playoff games to the court, almost double the entire Jazz roster total.

From your perspective is this an asset the Thunder can utilize to gain an early advantage in the series?

Alex Mcewen:

Playoff experience is nice to have but is not required for playoff success. Looking back at the Thunder’s 2015-16 team that reached the Western Conference finals, five of their nine rotational players played in a total of 17 playoff games.

In contrast, the Thunder did have Westbrook, Durant, and Ibaka who at the time had played in 208 playoff games. Although their experience was helpful the way a player will fare in the postseason is a case-by-case scenario.

Noah Schulte:

Yes. The Thunder should be able to capitalize on a relatively inexperienced Jazz team early on, but that advantage is fleeting. Sure, they’ll probably be able to fluster the Jazz offense momentarily. but as soon as they get a few games under their belt and start to find their comfort zone, the advantage the Thunder had will almost be completely erased.

Stephen Dolan:

Will this wealth of experience give the Thunder an advantage early in the series? No, probably not. ‘But will it give them an advantage late in the series? Absolutely. Do you remember the Thunder’s first Playoff series against the Lakers in 2010? The Thunder lost the decisive Game 6 when they got caught up in the moment of a Kobe Bryant fade-away at (actually, near) the buzzer and forgot to box out. That’s the kind of thing that happens to young teams. It may not happen in the first few games, but it will happen.

Jeremy Lambert:

Every OKC starter has made it to at least the Conference Finals. Everyone says that counts for something. Game One will be telling. Playing at home against a team lacking in experience, the Thunder should come out on fire. They need to make a statement and play with that sense of urgency that seemed to be lacking all season. Put immediate doubt in Utah’s mind, but never get comfortable.

Sinjin Snope:

Playoff experience should never be overlooked as an asset for a given team in the NBA Playoffs. The Thunder have a massive advantage in terms of experience and I think that will play a huge role in determining who wins this series between two tough teams. If players like Rubio and Mitchell aren’t ready for the moment, the Jazz may lack the firepower to keep up with the Thunder in a 7 game series.

Tamberlyn Richardson:

I’ve had this question asked a lot regarding both the Jazz and Sixers which is why I posed the question. I’m a firm believer experience does make a difference and won’t be surprised if the Heat steal game one in Philly for that very reason. Winning a first round isn’t out of the question for young teams, but rarely do young squads win in first tries.

Case in point:

  • Curry/Thompson got to semis first time then lost in round 1 the next season.
  • Russ, KD & Harden lost round 1
  • Lowry/DeRozan lost round 1
  • LeBron got to semis (but faced Wizards team with hobbled Arenas, Jamison & Butler)
  • Antetokounmpo lost round 1
  • Anthony DAvis lost round 1
  • Kawhi Leonard made it to WCF (but he had Ginobili, Parker and Duncan)

You get the point, the playoffs are a different beast and experience matters. Epecially in the early rounds and particularly when there isn’t grizzled vets with rings or lots of experience to help guide the youngsters.

Jordan Buckamneer:

Experience is always a factor come playoff time. Having more postseason experience shouldn’t be much of an advantage for OKC. For a team led by a rookie, Mitchell and Jazz have some quick growing up to do. However, Mitchell has proven himself to be arguably rookie of the year and one of the top talents in the league. This should allow him to bypass many of the pitfalls awaiting playoff virgins.

Mitchell is also helped by the fact Rudy Gobert is back, Rubio is playing one of the best seasons of his career and Quin Snyder never has his team unprepared. Perhaps more than anything in this series, having home court is the biggest advantage for OKC. The Thunder is a team with more collective experience, but has struggled to get their act together all season. While the veteran experience may be somewhat of a factor initially, these two teams know each other very well which will make for a familiar match up for both players and fans.

Austin Sternlicht:

Playoff experience is vital, and it’s a clear advantage the Thunder has. Every possession means more, and having a starting lineup of players who have all been in a conference final will be of great benefit to the Thunder.

Wil Harrington:

Absolutely. The playoffs are a whole new brand of basketball. The game slows a bit and halfcourt sets become more prevalent. Pressure is jacked way up. Experience is very important and the Utah backcourt does not have much of it. I expect Jae Crowder to be a big factor in this series based on his playoff experience.

Many people probably forgot Joe Johnson was in the league last year, but Utah wound up leaning heavily on him once the playoffs hit. Unfortunately for the Jazz, Iso Joe is in Houston this year.