Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant
That future, is not going to start this season though.
The Thunder are running into a San Antonio Spurs team that has yet to lose in the playoffs this season and rode a 10-game winning streak into the postseason. For those wondering, yes, that is a 20-game win streak they are now on.
During the regular season, the Thunder had three players who averaged above 10 points per game (Durant, Westbrook, James Harden), and in the playoffs they have had a very similar approach with those same three players still averaging above 10 points per game.
The problem with that, however, is that those three players have actually combined for fewer points per game during the postseason. During the regular season they averaged 68.4 and now during the postseason they are averaging 67.3 points per game. The difference is negligible, but it does point out that the best three players on the roster are actually contributing less offensively at a time when they should be stepping up.
Consider this, during the regular season the three top scorers for the Spurs were averaging 46.6 points per game and now during the postseason they are averaging 49.3.
Before the argument about playoff basketball being lower scoring gets brought up, yes, that is true. But consider this, the Thunder averaged 103.1 points per game during the regular season and are averaging 99.8 points per game in the postseason, a difference of minus-3.3 points per game.
The Spurs, on the other hand, are sporting a difference of minus-1.4 points per game, or the best points per game differential among Western Conference playoff teams.
Looking at points differential for the NBA playoffs shows an even more glaring advantage for the Spurs. They are plus-12.5 points per game against their opponents in playoff games.
The way they have done that, though, is remarkable. They are averaging 3.7 more field goals made than their opponents while taking 3.1 field goals less per game. For comparison, the Thunder are also making 3.7 more field goals per game, but they are taking .6 more field goals per game than their opponent.
Those numbers show that the Spurs are playing much better defensive basketball, as well as taking higher quality shots.
To overcome the Spurs and reach the NBA Finals would be an incredible task for the Thunder, but really they would just run into more problems.
Reaching the NBA Finals would most likely mean a series against the Miami Heat. This would be an incredibly exciting series for NBA fans to watch, but would be a very difficult series for the Thunder to win.
The battle between LeBron James and Kevin Durant if the Thunder and Heat made the NBA Finals would easily be the most compelling part of the series. Two great scorers, both extremely gifted athletes who can play any position, guard anyone on the court, but most of all, they can do everything their team needs for the win.
The Thunder might be able to sneak past the Spurs because of age, but there is no hope for that if they make it to the Finals.
The Heat have the second-best point per game differential in the NBA playoffs and they are doing it in a very similar fashion to the Spurs. Good defense and smart shots are winning them games.
The difference between the Heat and the Spurs is that the Spurs need a slow-paced game to be in control, whereas the Heat can take control of any type of game there is.
This postseason should serve as a great lesson to the young players on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster on how to compete in the future.