Three Sports Illustrated writers, out of six, predict the Oklahoma City Thunder will win the NBA Finals this year. SI considers the Thunder major contenders this year, especially after Russell Westbrook gets back into the action.
Here’s what the three writers choosing the Thunder had to say about their predictions.
Ian Thomsen has the Thunder over Heat
The Heat must brace for second and third rounds against a group of hungry rivals that include the Pacers, Nets and Bulls, all of whom possess the size to attack Miami’s weakness up front. LeBron James will lead the Heat past those challenges, but they’ll be as vulnerable as the 2003-04 Lakers by the time they reach the NBA Finals. Waiting for them there will be the young, deep and talented Thunder. OKC may be a surprise pick to some, but no rival in the West has a better 1-2 punch than Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who are peaking, experienced, hungry and surrounded by a deep front line and an athletic second unit. OKC’s biggest threats in the West will be the Clippers and Spurs, but the latter are on the wrong side of the curve and the former need a year to develop Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as future champions.
Lee Jenkins has the Thunder over the Pacers
There’s a reason no team has made four straight Finals since the Celtics in the 1980s. Playing until the last week of June every year takes a toll. As impressive as the Heat have been in reeling off consecutive championships, they’ve also looked vulnerable at times in the playoffs against Indiana, whose size has given them trouble. The Pacers, with a fortified bench and a matured Paul George, are ready to take the next step. Meanwhile, in the West, you could make a strong case for six teams. Oklahoma City may start slowly, without the injured Russell Westbrook and the departed Kevin Martin, but Kevin Durant has appeared even more potent than usual this preseason.
Matt Dollinger also has the Thunder over Pacers
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will claim two crowns: 1) the hands-down best duo in the league, and 2) NBA champions. They’ll be tested in the conference finals by the league’s second-best duo, the Rockets’ Dwight Howard and James Harden. But the quickness of Westbrook — who will seize revenge and turn in a performance for the ages against Patrick Beverley — will lift Oklahoma City, setting up a Finals showdown with Indiana, which gets over the hump thanks to its revamped bench after taking the Heat to a Game 7 last season.