OKC Thunder in the news: Western Conference showdown begins

The OKC Thunder will join the rest of the NBA loving world tonight as the long predicted showdown begins.

And, yet the day has arrived for the Western Conference Finals to begin and it’s the two teams most pundits predicted would square off.

Original OK3:

Factor in central pieces for the Rockets and Warriors feature previous members of the Thunder. Push from your mind what arguably could have been the greatest Big 3 of all time had the Thunder trio been given an opportunity to mature together.

The crazy part of this equation is that iteration of the Thunder feels like it was much longer than six seasons ago.  Rather, it feels like the 2012 Thunder squad which went to the NBA Finals occurred decades ago. Perhaps this is because it was easier to bury the memory.

Salary Cap Quandary:

In fairness, it’s hard to know if James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant could have found perfect harmony as a  unit. Or, for that matter each been happy sharing the spotlight. Still, it would’ve been nice to test the parameters of their promise.

The irony is, the main reason for trading Harden was tied to salary cap issues. Yet, entering this next season OKC are older and less talented than the team who traded Harden. Although Paul George is a talent the former OK3 are all top 5 players who could’ve been on one team.

Worse, the current 2018 team is on the precipice of becoming the NBA’s first $300 million dollar team. This of course will depend on whether the Thunder re-sign Paul George, Carmelo Anthony opts in combined with luxury taxes.

Ultimately, barring an original OK3 reunion the answers to what could’ve been remain pure speculation.

Celtics pound Cavaliers:

Sunday, the Celtics did what I warned they might (be the more competitive series) and took intial game. Pundits expected an easy series for the Cavaliers. However, Cleveland discovered quickly, this Celtics team is for real.

Here’s why I felt the east series would be the more competitive via doing this simple exercise:

  • Take any team’s roster list.
  • Remove the top two offensive talents (the equivalent of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, or closest parallel).
  • Return to the 13 names remaining on the roster and pull the next top three players.
  • Are these three players the equivalent of :
    • Al Horford (All-Star,  2-way player)
    • Jayson Tatum (future All-Star, possible superstar)
    • Jaylen Brown (potential to become top 5, NBA  two way player, if he isn’t already).

In the case of the OKC Thunder this exercise would remove Westbrook and George. Steven Adams, Carmelo Anthony and Jerami Grant would be (debatably) the Thunder’s next top three healthy players. Adams is definitely a top tier talent, but given Melo’s regression most would say Tatum and Brown are the better overall talents.

  • Take the next three players which are the equivalent of x-factor Terry Rozier plus defensive minded Marcus Smart and gritty two-way player Marcus Morris?

Again, you’ll be hard pressed to find those six players  The point is this Celtics team is deep, well coached and play to their system. Despite this fact the best player is on the Cleveland Cavaliers and a generational talent at that, I still expect Cleveland to win the series starting with Game 2.

https://twitter.com/NBA/status/995838641502085123

Warriors vs. Rockets:

Tip off for the Western Conference Finals is at 9:00 p.m. ET in Houston.

As noted up top this matchup was long projected and highly coveted. Some feel it might be more competitive than the final.  I’m not sold on that fact. I know the Rockets are deeper, have copious perimeter threats and very likely this seasons MVP. Most importantly, the addition of P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute massively improved the Rockets defense.

Heading into the match the Rockets via Clint Capela served up chalkboard fodder by stating they were the better team. Others noted “this” was the matchup they retooled for. Ever the imp, Draymond Green who quipped the Dubs weren’t salivating to play anyone as their sole purpose was to win a third title in four seasons. Green went on to say, now we’ve drawn each other, so let’s get it on.

Warriors Primed to make statement:

It would be great for the Rockets to prove me wrong, but a key stat is blinking like a neon light. Through the last four Rockets games Harden is 6 of 32 from the perimeter or 18.7 percent. Conversely, Stephen Curry is seemingly back in top form. Curry played 37:00 in the last game and since returning is 15 of 34 from the perimeter or 44.1 percent.

Additionally, Green looks to be in peak form and motivated to send a message. Just like the Celtics pounced on the Cavaliers I could envision a similar game 1 result, but produced by the visiting squad.

Recently, TI noted why a rout of the Rockets (and Cavs) leading a third title could be something OKC Thunder fans might benefit from. Specifically, it could reopen the Melo – Morey conversations.

Season Reviews:

The TI writing team have been busy analyzing the players campaigns. In case you missed the first group published you can catch them here:

That’s it for in the news. Hope you enjoyed your weekend and got to spend some time with your Mother and the special women in your life.