Former All-Star slams Thunder with latest postseason hypothetical

Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls
Oklahoma City Thunder v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The OKC Thunder are in a three-way race with the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves for the top seed heading into the 2024 postseason and, at the moment, lay claim to the number one spot with a record of 48-20.

With this, if the playoffs were to kick off today Mark Daigneault's squad would hold home-court advantage through at least the Conference Finals and would await word on who their first-round matchup would be while the Play-In Tournament unfolds.

While such an advantage is certainly enviable and highly coveted, it alone does not guarantee the club's advancement to round two and beyond.

Though the Thunder have proven themselves to be one of the top teams in the entire association throughout the regular season, the playoffs are a completely different beast -- one that many are worried could prove too daunting for several reasons.

To some, OKC is simply too inexperienced to achieve ultimate success under such pressures. Others tend to think their roster makeup isn't sound enough for them to go deep.

And some such as NFL legend Shannon Sharpe and former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas believe that should their first opponent be the Los Angeles Lakers, they should automatically be penciled in as a one-and-done participant in the playoffs, as the two recently went on record to claim that "if they get OKC they'll beat OKC" during a March 21 episode of Nightcap.

OKC Thunder slammed with recent playoff hypothetical with Lakers

For context, these comments come from a conversation between Sharpe and Arenas where they discuss whether the Lakers could embark on a second consecutive Western Conference Finals run, to which the two agreed there is a possibility of such a happening though it would be contingent on two specific factors: LeBron James' play and their postseason opponents.

In the event that Los Angeles winds up claiming the eighth seed in the standings, the two retired studs seem to believe that they would have the upper hand against a team like the higher-ranked Thunder and, unfortunately, they're not alone in this mentality.

A few weeks back, former nine-year NBA veteran Chandler Parsons discussed on FanDuel's Run it Back how LA is somewhat of a matchup nightmare for Oklahoma City and that, though he gives the Thunder the edge in such a hypothetical matchup, it's not by a large margin.

"This is why it's hard to trust this young team because [the Lakers are] a team they're going to have to play in the playoffs. This could possibly be their one [versus] eight-seed and I don't know who I'd go with. I'd probably give the edge obviously to Oklahoma City but it's not gonna be an easy series no matter who they play. You look at that Western Conference and how deep it is, it's not going to be an easy matchup for any of these teams [but] especially the Oklahoma City Thunder. I think the physicality, Chet [Holmgren] at the five, that's a real issue."

Chandler Parsons

Though the Thunder have proven themselves to be the superior team from a record standpoint when compared to the Lakers, it has been the latter who pulled out the commanding regular season series win, as they finished with a record of 3-1 from their four outings and, in such contests, the Thunder were held to just 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 33.3 percent shooting from distance.

These numbers are drastically altered from their respective 50.0 percent and 39.2 percent clips on the season as a whole, both of which rank second and first in the entire league, respectively.

The Lakers, on the other hand, were seen improving upon their own offensive conversion rates in such bouts, shooting 50.1 percent from the floor and 41.5 percent from deep which, considering the Thunder generally hold opponents to 45.4 percent shooting from the floor and 36.4 percent shooting from deep, is certainly a cause for concern.

Of course, at this moment in time, there's truly no telling how the playoffs will wind up unfolding for either team and there's still a rather realistic scenario where they don't even end up playing one another.

That said, in the even that they do, Sharpe, Arenas, and many others seem to be hesitant to put their money on the high-seeded Thunder.

Based on their matchup track record, at the very least the fear seems to be somewhat warranted.