OKC Thunder: 3 potential playoff X-factors the team needs

Jerami Grant OKC Thunder (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jerami Grant OKC Thunder (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder coach Billy Donovan asks which reserve players will step up (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder have a favorable, though difficult, first round playoff match-up against the Portland Trail Blazers. Head coach Billy Donovan is tasked with making the most of the players he has at his disposal, but the reserves need to step up of their own accord.

The regular season has come and gone, leaving 16 teams to battle it out one series at a time in the hopes of reaching the NBA Finals. Though having fallen to a less than desirable sixth seed in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder were lucky enough to draw a favorable match-up against a familiar division foe, the Portland Trail Blazers. OKC swept Portland during their four-game regular season series with an average margin of victory of seven points.

Having duked it out with Portland several times already, including an overtime win during their fourth contest of the year, both teams are already well-educated on the best strategies to contend with one another. As a result, Oklahoma City will need a new wrinkle in its game to give the Thunder an advantage. That’s right, I’m talking about an X-factor – someone who can step from the shadows of his normal role and present a new challenge the Trail Blazers cannot answer.

No one in OKC’s traditional starting lineup – Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Steven Adams, Jerami Grant, and Terrance Ferguson – will be an X-factor. Sure, we hope they all step up their game to another level, but none of them can be the true mystery box revelation the team needs as all five of them are known commodities. Not even sixth man Dennis Schröder could be considered an X-factor as he too is typically a strong performer of known quality and capability.

Instead, the X-factor wrinkle the Thunder need will be a reserve player who comes off the bench and becomes more than his usual self. I believe that player is likely to be Nerlens Noel, Markieff Morris, or Abdel Nader, all three of which are in their first season with the Thunder. Follow along to see what they need to do to become OKC’s playoff X-factor.