Well we did it. We've finally reached the NBA playoffs after what was an...interesting season. The season started with a lockout and has seen a bevy of surprises and stories since.
Now, finally, the NBA players are stumbling into the postseason after a short year with a lot of high-profile injuries.
So with a few games out of the way, why am I so positive that we're going to see the Thunder against the Heat come June? Why will it be King James vs. The Durantula? Here's why...
Reason No. 1. Did you see these teams in the regular season? The Heat had the fourth-best record in the NBA and Oklahoma City had the third-best.
The Heat, while they had a few rough stretches, were able to produce another great overall season while dealing with injuries to each of the big three at some point throughout the season.
The Thunder, led by Durant and Westbrook, were able to show that they aren't just young guns, but that they actually had the firepower to back it up. The Thunder put on shows against some of the West's best teams and are currently leading the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, 2-0, in the first round of the playoffs.
Both teams had very solid regular seasons and will take that momentum into the post season.
While the records of the Thunder and Heat show their superior skill, it also shows that they might be at the right place at the right time.
While there are obviously a lot of great players in the NBA, some of the best are getting a little up in age. While Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant are just 34 and 33, respectively, LeBron is just 27. Six or seven years can make a huge difference in performance, especially during the postseason, when players have already been going at it for months.
Now don't get me wrong, Kobe and Paul Pierce are still part of the NBA elite, but they're the grizzled veterans. They're the old guard in the league, while players like Durant and Westbrook, who are only 23, are bringing up a new era of players.
The big three of the Heat have the average age of 28.3 years, while the Celtics big three averages 35 years old. The same thing can be seen with Durant and the Thunder. In the west, the young Thunder, led by Durant and Westbrook, are the second seed to the much older San Antonio Spurs. While the Celtics, Spurs and other older players are still good, they're on their way down. LeBron, Kevin Durant and company are on their way up.
A big part of getting to the NBA Finals can be attributed to the teams you play. Right now, the Thunder and the Heat are getting a little help from lady luck. The Heat came into the playoffs as the second seed. The only team ahead of them was the Bulls. The Bulls, who dealt with an injury to Derrick Rose for a majority of the season, finally got him back, but not for long.
With Rose injured, the Bulls will have a harder time navigating the NBA playoffs, while the Heat finally have the big three on the court together.
The Heat also don't have to worry about Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin and now Amar'e Stoudemire in the rest of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Thunder aren't as fortunate in the West, while the Spurs and Lakers are relatively healthy, but are full of players who fought injury all year.
Exhibit A for the Thunder getting to the finals: Kevin Wayne Durant. Kevin Durant is one of the best players in the NBA today. He was heavily criticized out of college for not being strong enough, but he's proved that his shoulders are strong enough to bear the weight of a brand-new organization with young, inexperienced players.
Durant has found himself at or near the top in the scoring race since he's been in the NBA and can score from any where. He can shoot the long ball, has a great mid-range game and can get to the rim from anywhere using his go-go gadget arms. He averaged 28 points per game this season and hit a game-winner in the second playoff game against the Mavericks to go up 2-0 on the defending NBA Champs.
As the Mavs will tell you, Durant is a tough cover. How do you guard a guy with the height of a 4, the handles of a 1 and the skill set of a 3? Good question. Durant causes a huge matchup problem for almost every team, and if he stays healthy, his 25-30 a game will definitely help the Thunder roll into the finals.
Exhibit B: Russell Westbrook. With Derrick Rose out for the remainder of the playoffs and Rajon Rondo having a hard time staying in games in Boston, Westbrook is the best point guard left.
Westbrook has picked up his play so far in the playoffs, scoring 28 points in the first game and 29 in the second, which is almost five points over his season average. Westbrook is a great facilitator and court general for a young team, and if teams do actually figure out how to deal with Durant, Westbrook can come out and drop 35.
With Durant and Westbrook firing on all cylinders, the Thunder become an extremely hard team to stop, and with both as healthy as can be at the moment, they're ready to make some noise in the West.
LeBron plays for the Heat; isn't that a good enough reason for them to get to the finals? Love him or hate him, this dude can play. Averaging over 27 points per game in his career, LeBron has been on top since he came into the league.
James has had solid games in the playoffs so far against a banged-up Knicks team. LeBron is one of the best players in the league and always finds a way to help his team whether it's through scoring, rebounding or passing.
In just one season with the big three, LeBron led the Heat to the NBA Finals, where they lost, but still, getting to the finals in just one season with a team made up of three superstars and what were essentially spare parts? Not too shabby. Imagine what they can do with another year under their belt.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "But Daine, LeBron can't do anything except dunk!"
...Dwyane Wade can! Wade and James are a great combo because what James lacks in shooting, Wade makes up for. What Wade lacks in being tight-end sized, James makes up for.
Wade, like James, has put up good numbers in the first two games of the playoffs so far. Wade and James are two of the best in the league, and both have NBA finals experience, Wade with a ring to show for it.
The Heat, led by these two superstars, are finally healthy at a time when a lot of other East teams are just now having issues, like Rose and the Bulls, and even now, Amar'e Stoudemire.
Due to these reasons, among others, the Thunder and the Heat are on a collision course to the NBA finals. Both teams have some of the best players in the league today who are at the peak of their career and are ready to make a big statement in the league to the veteran teams like the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs.
What do you think? Will the Thunder and Heat be able to traverse the NBA Playoffs and meet in the finals, and if they do, who will win? If they don't, who do you have getting to the finals?
Thanks for reading!