Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Way-Too-Early Predictions for the 2014 NBA FInals

Will we see a rematch of the 2012 NBA Finals in next year's NBA Finals? (

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: The Miami Heat collected a second consecutive title last night, but which teams will appear in the 2014 NBA Finals?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in a good place right now. Kevin Durant and a rehabbed Russell Westbrook will still be the team's principle players, with Serge Ibaka keying the defensive side of things, but OKC is also in a position where it can draft for depth, not immediate need. Recent mock drafts have the Thunder selecting a point guard and a center in next week's draft, both of which are weak positions when the bench is considered. After another season spent maturing and producing at a top rate, the Thunder will make a run past other Western Conference contenders. As for the Eastern representatives? Well, LeBron James doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon...

It may seem obvious with the age of the teams, but I don't think we'll be seeing a repeat of this year's matchup. The Spurs might have been on their last ride with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili is not the player he was a few years ago. Memphis needs a bit more offense. The Clippers will depend on what they do this offseason. I like Golden State, but they are still young and inexperienced. That's why I think the Oklahoma City Thunder, with a healthy Russell Westbrook and Kevin Duncan, return to the NBA Finals. Durant will get a ring at some point, and I think he gets a shot next season.

The east would seem to be an easy choice. Do people pick against the two-time defending champs? The Big Three of Miami is no longer a thing. Reason to not pick the Heat? Chris Bosh has not played well enough to earn a "big" status, and Dwyane Wade will need to prove he is healthy.  Reasons to pick Miami? LeBron James. Plain a simple. But I don't think it will be easy. If given another chance next year, Indiana may be good and mature enough to finally knock off the Heat. If Derrick Rose plays for Chicago, the Bulls have to be in contention. Those three seem like the clear favorites, but a Thunder/Heat rematch at some point feels like it is imminent, and I definitely wouldn't hate it.

As long as LeBron James is in the league, he will be a threat for a repeat championship. However, I think his supporting cast with the aging Dwayne Wade and inconsistent Chris Bosh is not enough to provide him with the help any great player needs to get a ring. The Pacers are an intriguing pick with the emergence of Paul George as a star wing-player and the presence of Roy Hibbert in the post, but Indiana is probably still a year or two away from claiming a championship trophy. While he’s still a terrific player, I don’t think Kobe Bryant has the supporting cast to make another run.

The team that is and has been so close to breaking through is the Oklahoma City Thunder, and next year I believe it will do it. Kevin Durant is one of the best players in the NBA, and has the ability to take over a game and carry a team when the rest of its players are struggling. He creates mismatch problems for every team with the combination of his height, athleticism, and his ability to either put the ball on the floor or shoot the three. Russell Westbrook is one of the more dynamic point guards in the NBA and still hasn’t reached his full potential. The Thunder also have a tough duo in the low post with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, who provide an aggressive, nasty defensive attitude on the block. The keys for the Thunder to break through are the continued development of both Ibaka and Westbrook, and also the shot selection and decision making of Oklahoma City’s point guard. While he is a great talent, Westbrook sometimes forces the issue and takes wild and poor shots. If those two things come together, Oklahoma City will claim their first title. 

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