And now it’s down to four.
Well, one thing’s for sure. These playoffs have highlighted the difference between the East and the West. While every series in the West has been fun and exciting, the East has been like the final s...
And now it’s down to four.
Well, one thing’s for sure. These playoffs have highlighted the difference between the East and the West. While every series in the West has been fun and exciting, the East has been like the final season of The Office. Entertaining once in a while, frequently painful to watch, and really only watched by the die hard fans¹.
I find every round gives you something a little different. The stakes are a little higher, the competition a little tougher, and there’s always more storylines to follow.
And like the first round, there were a few lessons I learned (or had confirmed).
THE WARRIORS ARE BETTER CONSTRUCTED THAN THE THUNDER
The Thunder won 13 games more than the Warriors, and have been the team-building model many have wanted to follow throughout the league. In three years, they were able to draft Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden, three of whom will undoubtably appear on this year’s All NBA team, and go from the lottery to the Finals in just four years.
Sam Presti has been touted as one of the best GMs in the NBA and the Thunder have been on the forefront of the analytics revolution. Plus, teams are looking to pick their front office clean, in their search for GMs, just as they’ve previously done with the Spurs (Rich Cho, the current GM of the Bobcats was the Thunder assistant GM), which has be one of the greatest compliments a franchise can have.
So what exactly is the problem?
Well, both the Thunder and Warriors lost All Stars (and the team’s second best player) to injury early in the first round, and while neither team made it out of the second round, the Warriors barely missed David Lee’s presence while Oklahoma went from having the league’s most efficient and high scoring offense, to a team that averaged less than 90 points a game against Memphis.
Obviously Russell Westbrook is a better player than David Lee, and more instrumental to the Thunder offense than Lee is, but it goes deeper than that. Golden State was able to overcome the loss of Lee better because they had more weapons.
While Kevin Durant and Kevin Martin were really the only Thunder players, outside of Westbrook, who had the ability to create their own shot and score consistently, Golden State had Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and even Harrison Barnes.
Serge Ibaka was Oklahoma’s third leading scorer, but all he proved was that he can’t create for himself and desperately needs to work on his post up game.
Of course, Scott Brooks’ rather pedestrian offensive sets didn’t help, but that brings up the question of whether or not he’s even the right coach to take the team to a title.
But while Sam Presti has surrounded Durant and Westbrook with role players who fill specific roles, but don’t have the ability to expand on that, Golden State features a roster full of players who can step up, if needed, making it more likely they’ll be able to withstand droughts or injuries to their key players better than the Thunder.
And Golden State features more two-way players who can score AND defend consistently (I’m looking at you Kevin Martin).
If you take away Golden State’s two best players and Oklahoma’s two best players, which team would you rather have?
BIG MEN BEATS SMALL BALL
This season we supposedly saw the evolution of the NBA towards small ball, highlighted by Miami’s domination despite not having a legit center on the team for the majority of the season. There were other examples, though. The Knicks won 54 games with Carmelo Anthony as their starting power forward, and Denver won 57 games with Danilo Gallinari often times the tallest players on the court.
And then came the playoffs. Denver was bounced in the first round and the Knicks struggled against and aged and injury depleted Celtics team and their vaunted offence (3rd most efficient offence in the league during the