NBA Finals 2014: Predicting If Thunder or Spurs Pose Greater Threat to Heat

David DanielsSenior Writer IMay 31, 2014

May 29, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (left) and San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) react during the second half in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat already beat the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals before, but one West team is more likely to get revenge than the other in 2014.

Miami advanced to its fourth straight finals, eliminating the Indiana Pacers Friday. It'll know its opponent by Saturday night at the earliest and Monday night at the latest. But the Heat should be hoping to know Monday night, because the Thunder are the easier matchup.

Oklahoma City is built similarly to Miami. Both live and die by the play of their stars. But the Heat's stars have far more finals experience than the Thunder's stars.

Chris Bosh is making his fourth finals appearance, while LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are making their fifth. This would be just the second for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.

The role players surrounding these stars have also performed better for Miami this postseason than for Oklahoma City. Only two Thunder outside of the team's Big Three, Reggie Jackson and Caron Butler, are scoring more than 5.0 points a game, compared to four Heat: Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Chris Anderson and Norris Cole. And that doesn't even include Rashard Lewis, who's averaging 15.5 points over the last two games.

Oklahoma City is simply more reliant on its stars. Its Big Three score 66.2 percent of the team's points, compared to Miami's scoring 61.6 percent of its points. This makes an off night for Durant or Westbrook more detrimental to the Thunder than one by James or Wade to the Heat.

San Antonio, though, doesn't lack depth or experience. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili would make their fifth finals appearances and Tim Duncan his sixth. And they only account for 45.7 percent of the Spurs' scoring.

Their depth makes it easier to match up with Miami.

If the Heat start Udonis Haslem alongside Bosh, the Spurs can keep Duncan and Tiago Splitter together. If Miami uses Lewis to spread the floor, San Antonio can counter with Boris Diaw. And if the Heat play small with a frontcourt of Bosh, James and Shane Battier, the Spurs have enough talent on the wings to do the same.

Whichever West team advances to the finals will challenge the Heat. Miami played both the Spurs and the Thunder twice in the regular season and split each series 1-1. However, San Antonio's experience and depth makes it the more challenging matchup for the defending champs.


David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report and editor at Wade-O Radio.