• Brendan Smart

2019 Playoff Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder


USA Today

Season Recap

The Oklahoma City Thunder entered this season placing all of their bets on Paul George and Russell Westbrook to lead this roster to another playoff run. The duo did, as George and Westbrook led the Thunder to the sixth seed in a brutal Western Conference.

Biggest Strength

Heading into the NBA Playoffs, teams struggle with lack of star talent on their roster. For the Thunder, they have George and Westbrook who are having tremendous seasons. George’s MVP season was overshadowed by two incredible seasons by Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden. Westbrook ended the 2018-19 season averaging a triple-double for his third straight season. OKC’s strength is in George and Westbrook.

Biggest Weakness

The Thunder come into a problem when talking about their depth, and their wing shooting. The Thunder’s bench unit shot 32% from the three-point line this season and the team as a whole shot 34% from beyond the arch. Westbrook’s energy goes a long way, but can he and George push the Thunder to bring that number closer to 40 percent in the playoffs? Inconsistency was an issue all season, not only from beyond the arch, but just game-and-out winning winnable games.

X-Factor

The Thunder need several things to go their way in the first round, and in the playoffs overall, but Steven Adams has to be their motor. A lot of times he gets overlooked, and arguably not used enough throughout a game. Adams is a hard working big man, that will do all the dirty stuff, but also capable of doing the pretty things. Adams needs to be utilized to his full potential for the Thunder to have any chance of escaping the first round.

Players to Watch

While Paul George is the biggest plus/minus guy for the Thunder, a guy that could shift a game outside of Adams, Westbrook and George is Jerami Grant. Grant is a career 33% three point shooter, but raised his percentage this season to 39%. That is huge for a Thunder team struggling to shoot the deep ball. Grant will need to knock down the three ball consistently to space the floor for the offense to work.

Estimated Playoff Run

Don’t get it twisted, the Thunder can beat Portland in a seven game series. For OKC though, it comes down to their consistency. If the team is moving smoothly throughout a game, and capitalizing on their opponents mistakes, expect the Thunder to upset the Portland Trail Blazers. If the Thunder were to get past the first round, I don’t expect them to get out of the second round.

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