Oklahoma City Thunder
Season series: 1-1 split, 1 to play
I’m not buying into the “OKC is built for the playoffs” notion as much as everyone else. At their best they can blow out the Warriors, but they’ve stumbled a time or two too many along the way.
This will be Harden vs. Russell Westbrook. It happened last year, it’ll happen again this year. Last year, the Houston Rockets took care of business in five. But under the microscope, the Thunder actually led for the majority of that series, but collapsed whenever Westbrook went to the bench for a breather. They put up a much closer fight than people realize in last year’s first-round series.
Obviously, these teams are much different from last year. Both have added superstars to significantly upgrade to their supporting cast. The additions of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George should not be taken lightly. Neither should the Rockets’ addition of Paul.
The Thunder have crawled up this list because they provides the least certainty. Especially when it comes to the “what if” variables. What if Westbrook goes unconscious from the floor a couple of times? Or Anthony turns back the clock in a pivotal game? What if Paul turns an ankle? Just to name a few.
What does it boil down to?
The Rockets could withstand a hot streak from Aldridge or Mitchell. By sheer star power alone, the Thunder are a scarier matchup than most if their stars align. Imagine catching this Thunder team while all three are streaking. Westbrook is putting up 40-point triple doubles. George putting the clamps on Harden. 2018 Melo playing like 2009 Melo. Instantly, things become a lot less certain and a lot more scary.
Ultimately, the Rockets should still come away with it due to their overall depth and versatility. But, the chance for variation is a bit higher when it comes to OKC. After all, they do have Corey Brewer, which means no lead is safe.