3 teams that could give the Thunder trouble in first round of playoffs

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
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Dallas Mavericks

Although the Mavericks have been nosediving lately, going 2-5 since All-Star Weekend, they still could pose a serious threat to the Thunder in the playoffs. I’d be lying if I said the beatdown Dallas laid on OKC back on February 10th wasn’t part of the reason that the Mavs made this list.

That 146-111 drubbing laid bare what Dallas is capable of when everything is clicking.

The Mavs have two bonafide stars in Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. Their center rotation of Lively and Gafford allows them 48 minutes worth of lob threats and rim protection. Oklahoma City is more skilled, but Dallas has size and athleticism over the Thunder.

Dallas does have a unique issue, which is to say that their greatest asset may also be their greatest liability. Luka Doncic is the engine that makes Dallas run, as he has led the NBA in usage for the past five seasons. His ball dominance is just shy of the Russell Westbrook MVP season. 

In their recent skid, Doncic has been putting up wild statistical performances, highlighted by consecutive 30-point triple-doubles.

However, interestingly enough, the team as a whole isn’t succeeding. Dallas suffers from an offensive approach that lacks balance and is predictable as a result and, though Doncic has improved as a defender, one should hesitate to say he ranks highly on that end of the floor.

The Thunder have a couple more opportunities this season to play the Mavericks and determine what sort of approach they’ll take in a potential playoff matchup. In their last meeting, Dort was Doncic’s primary defender. If OKC tries to adjust, would they also consider putting Jalen Williams on Doncic?

Showing more length on Luka could keep him from getting as many good looks from deep, and Dort can still be effective guarding the smaller Kyrie Irving. 

I would still take the Thunder over the Mavericks in a playoff series. There is always a chance, though, that Doncic goes supernova for two weeks and OKC is sent home earlier than expected.

Because of their high-end star power, there are certainly other teams the Thunder might rather face than the Dallas Mavericks.