After a season that wasn’t supposed to be, the NBA Finals are here. The Oklahoma City Thunder are set to face off against the Miami Heat; it’s Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James; it’s small market vs. big market; it’s a basketball fans ultimate showdown. It’s not often that the people are treated to the reigning scoring champion going up against the league MVP. The storylines are aplenty when it comes to this match up. The Thunder are a young team four years removed from being known as the Supersonics. The Heat are the superstar trio that have been oft criticized for joining forces to win a championship. This will be a Finals unlike any seen in a long time.
The Thunder have rapidly developed into a powerhouse in the NBA. Just four short years ago they arrived in Oklahoma and were owners of the worst record in the league that year. The following year they doubled their winning percentage and coach Scott Brooks won Coach of the Year. The next year they even made it to the Western Conference Finals, but fell short of their goal. This year, they showed maturity beyond their collective ages. Their main star, Kevin Durant, is only 23 years old but is showing maturity and poise beyond anyone his age; and the best part is that he’s one of the more humble players in the league. The people can tell he’s doing it for the city of Oklahoma and his family. It also helps that the rest of the team bought into his attitude. In the previous years it would show that they were inexperienced and that they lacked veteran leadership. Sam Presti, the general manager, realized this and started acquiring the right pieces to steady the ship. He started with Kendrick Perkins to shore up their defensive holes and their biggest piece Derek Fisher. Fisher wasn’t brought in for his stats, but for his leadership capabilities. These were the main things that the Thunder lacked in previous years. Looking back at them now, we see how fast they’ve grown up.
On the other hand, the Miami Heat are what’s wrong with basketball today; or rather, what’s wrong with the players’ mentality. Ever since LeBron, Wade, and Bosh joined up to win multiple championships, it appeared that the players were looking for the easy way to win. Gone were the days where Jordan, Magic, and Bird inspired the players to play at their level. Today it’s more of a business to them; at least to me. I’m not saying that those three aren’t good players, which they are, it’s just a different attitude amongst them. But this is beside the point. In terms of actual basketball James, Wade, and Bosh are playing excellent ball right now. Bosh doesn’t receive enough credit for his play, which was made evident in his absence during the Eastern Conference Finals. When he came back for those last few games, it made all the difference for their interior defense. With James and Wade, you get what people have come to know about them. Together they are an unstoppable force who can seemingly score at will. This was seen through every series in these playoffs. It also helps that the rest of the team is actually playing decent ball right now. For the most part, they have been consistent on both offense and defense.
Matchup wise, they are fairly even when it comes to the starting five for each team. Outside of Durant and Westbrook, Sefolosha can guard James pretty well. The real difference for me comes in the bench and coaching differences. For the Thunder, their leader from the bench has been Harden, the Heat have no real leader off the bench. The Thunder bench has also been more consistent throughout the season when compared to the Heat. As for coaching, Brooks is a much better coach than Spoelstra. Brooks really knows how to use his players and what to do in certain situations. From what I’ve seen of Spoelstra in really close games, his plays mostly consist of giving the ball to either James or Wade and letting them handle it. He hasn’t even tried having James set the screen for Wade and vice versa. I still think he isn’t using the three to their full potential. With everything in mind, I think the Thunder will win the series in 6 games. However, anything could happen during the Finals; one turn of the ankle or one second could change everything. Here’s to hoping it’s one exciting series.