No one gets to cradle the Larry O'Brien Trophy until the end of the NBA Finals, but we may as well consider the winners of the Western Conference finals the true champions of the NBA. After all, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs are basically playing in the real version of the finals.
With all due respect to the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, the teams out East just aren't as good.
The Heat have two of the absolute best players in the world in the forms of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, while Rajon Rondo is playing like an MVP for the Celtics, but neither team stands a chance against the winners out West.
Miami and Boston are embroiled in a tense 2-2 battle for the Eastern Conference finals, while the Thunder have stolen home court from the Spurs and could close the series out on Wednesday. There are four possible matchups remaining for the NBA Finals, so let's take a look at all of them.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Boston Celtics
Assuming that the Thunder manage to close out the Spurs at home and the Celtics shock the world by dethroning King James and the Heat from their perch atop the Eastern Conference, we'd be in for a battle of young against old in the NBA Finals.
As well as Rajon Rondo has been playing during the postseason, he simply isn't enough to take down a much deeper team than the Miami squad he's currently tearing apart. Russell Westbrook's defense is good enough to at least slow him, and Thabo Sefolosha is proving during the current conference finals that he can slide over and guard point guards as well as shooting guards.
Plus, the deeper the Celtics advance into the playoffs, the more their advanced age will start to work against them and counteract the added experience. Kevin Garnett has been lighting it up and putting Father Time in his place, but he has to slow down at some point.
The Celtics have had enough trouble holding both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in check. It's hard to imagine them stopping a team with three elite offensive options like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Additionally, Oklahoma City actually understands how the offense is supposed to be run during crunch-time situations.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat
As much as I love watching the San Antonio Spurs run basketball to perfection (note: I do mean basketball and not just offense or defense here) as Gregg Popovich continues to take any and all opposing coaches to school, this is my dream version of the NBA Finals.
However, as entertaining as it would be to watch Durant and LeBron square off for not only the NBA championship, but also the title of best player in the league, this series might not actually be close.
The Heat are struggling enough to put away the Boston Celtics, a team with decidedly less talent than the Thunder.
Wade and James might be able to match Westbrook and Durant blow for blow, but does anyone think Chris Bosh can match Harden at this point? Plus, who on Miami's roster has the talent that Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and the rest of OKC's team possesses?
Stars can't do it alone, even in a potential series full of them.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics
Now, let's switch gears and make the assumption that Tony Parker and Tim Duncan can lead the Spurs to an away victory in Game 6 to level the series and then win Game 7 to advance and face the upstart Celtics.
As weird as it is to think about because everyone is so used to San Antonio excelling at defense, this matchup would come down to whether the unstoppable force that is the Spurs offense or the immovable object that is the Celtics defense would prevail.
Boston's road through the playoffs has been way easier than expected thus far. The Celtics had the luxury of playing an Atlanta Hawks squad without Al Horford in the first round and took advantage of the Hawks' ongoing inability to win playoff games on the road.
Then they played the starless Philadelphia 76ers, fresh off an upset victory over the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls. In a series that was almost unbearably ugly to watch, the Celtics barely advanced in seven games.
Now, they're in the middle of playing a Miami squad without Chris Bosh. If you removed Wade and James from the Heat lineup and sat them down next to Bosh on the bench, the Heat might be able to beat the Charlotte Bobcats.
San Antonio is just a test on a different level, and it's one that the Celtics would almost certainly fail.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Our final option for the NBA Finals is a battle of team-building blueprints.
The Heat have built a stars-and-scrubs lineup that many fantasy sports owners would be all too familiar with, while the Spurs opted for the dynastic approach of surrounding terrific players with depth while ensuring that their bench players understood their roles perfectly.
Wade and LeBron would be the two best players in this series, more than capable of winning a game or two by themselves. However, the same can be said about the Spurs starters and their bench as well.
I have no confidence in Erik Spoelstra's ability to out-coach Popovich, which is something he'd have to do over an extended series that favors the depth of San Antonio.
Final Score: Western Conference 4, Eastern Conference 0
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