#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #2 Miami Heat
Overview: This match up is looking to be one of the greatest in the history of the game. You have the best two players in the league going toe to toe, as Durant and James will be guarding each other. The series may hinder on how they handle each other. Meanwhile, you have the enigmatic combo guard of the Thunder, Russell Westbrook, going up against Miami's Dwyane Wade, who has already won a championship. Wade will be able to slow him down, but Westbrook must play smart and not be over aggressive. James Harden will also be a key, as he can not only create for himself but is also one of the better facilitators on the Thunder. Look for Shane Battier to cover him much of the time, because Battier is an experienced defender. Many other players, including Chris Bosh, Serge Ibaka, and Thabo Sefolosha, will be very important in this series as well. Both of these teams can shoot the ball, so I think whichever team's shooters can knock down shots, that team will be victorious.
|LeBron James (left) playing defense on Kevin Durant (right).|
Which of these superstars will come out on top when it's all over?
Thunder's advantage: Defensive presence all over the floor. Both of these teams can shoot, but ultimately the Thunder have all their positions filled to cover up players on the opposite team. Kendrick Perkins is their defensive stalwart, and he has caused defensive nightmares for his adversaries. Serge Ibaka is arguably the best shot blocker in the game. With these two players in the interior, it will be tough for Miami to attack. Kevin Durant will tangle with LeBron James, so I see them neutralizing each other. Dwyane Wade will still be effective, but Thabo Sefolosha is a much better on-ball defender than Ray Allen, and he will make it his deed to diminish Wade's production. James Harden can also cover Wade nicely. Westbrook is more athletic and gifted than both Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, so I don't see him having trouble covering either of them. Derek Fisher will also be able to cover them because of his grit and veteran knowledge.
|Can Wade lead the Heat to|
the franchise's second
|If Ibaka can handle Bosh|
like this, the Thunder have
a great shot to win the
X-Factor: There are many key players in this series including James, Durant, Wade, Westbrook and Bosh. However, my X-Factor is Serge Ibaka. Why? He is the key to the Thunder's defense and can be heavily featured in the offense as well. His blocking is incredible, and he will wreak havoc in the paint whenever members of the Heat penetrate. Ibaka is more than fit to cover Chris Bosh, who still has some lingering effects of his injury, even though he played great in Game 7 against the Celtics. If Ibaka can assist Perkins down low on defense, as well as cover Bosh who will likely play more of a mid-range game, the Thunder will win this series because of Ibaka's solid, efficient defense. Ibaka has also became a nice shooter, and his post game is not too shabby either. He has a nice touch, and developed a mid-range game this year. If he can make Chris Bosh honor his shot and get him out of the paint, it will let Westbrook and Durant penetrate and create more.
Prediction: Thunder over Heat, 4-3.
The NBA Finals will conclude the 2011-2012 season, but shortly after, a new season begins with the 2012 NBA Draft. I'll be doing some division-by-division analysis, breaking down what each team needs to look for and what they should do heading into or during the draft. Stay tuned!