Our official predictions will come a bit later, but we're all in agreement that the Golden State Warriors will defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals.
Nevertheless, we're not lacking for appropriate fear despite the Warriors sweeping the Thunder in the regular season.
In Part I of our GSOM Western Conference Finals roundtable, we share those fears and you to do the same. In sharing them, we hope we can begin the process of overcoming them.
1. Are the Thunder the opponent you preferred to face in the WCF?
Apricot: No, I thought the Spurs were more beatable. SAS just couldn't score on the W's.
Nate P: I'm torn — I think this will be an exciting series that the Warriors end up winning, which is great as a basketball fan. But when I'm sitting around in a bar 20 years from now and some clown is trying to tell me that the Warriors were pretty good but never faced the Spurs or Clippers in the playoffs, I know I'll be pretty irate...so I sort of wanted the Spurs in the WCF just to put that nonsense to rest.
Hugo: Nope. One thing I noticed against the Spurs is that they could never score on us through four games at a good level. Against OKC, Durant could go off and we might not be able to do anything about it. Westbrook I'm not worried about, though. However, I'm optimistic about Draymond Green feasting on offense and a breakneck pace the Warriors have perfected better than any other team in history.
Bram: From a purely basketball-fandom standpoint, I am more excited to watch the Thunder. When they are firing on all cylinders, and when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are playing at peak form, they are terrifying. Watching them turn it on these past three games was a thrilling, spine-tingling experience. That being said, from a Warriors-fan perspective, I would have rather faced the Spurs. As Apricot said, I think the Warriors would have feasted on their aging stars in a seven game series. The Thunder, especially with their front line of Enes Kanter and Steven Adams, will provide a much stiffer challenge.
Derek: Yes, but I'm experiencing a little bit of buyer's remorse. In a way, I wouldn't have been happy with either team: if the Spurs won, we'd have to face one of the greatest defenses ever. If the Thunder won, it meant that the Spurs looked beatable.
Ahem, but at the end of the day *puts dime into Jacksonism jar on shelf*, the Warriors can only play the team in front of them.
Basketball Jonez: Yes and no. Yes, in that now fans will see one of the most exciting, high-paced series' in history. I can't think of two teams facing off with this much firepower before. The GSW/OKC matchups have been can't-miss games for several years, going back to the Mark Jackson era. In that respect, I'd rather play the Thunder.
However, the Spurs matchup was something we had been anticipating for months, and after some of the Spurs fans made a point of visiting GSoM, belittling the Warriors' accomplishments, players, and even fans, I really wanted to see our guys knock off theirs.
I also feel that Durant's offseason decision will hinge largely on how the Thunder perform in the postseason, and I think that upsetting the Spurs only increases the likelihood that he stays put, meaning OKC will continue to be an obstacle for the Warriors throughout the foreseeable future.
So, as a Warriors fan, I'd rather play the Spurs, but as a pure basketball fan, I can't think of a better, more exciting series than the one starting Monday night.
Dean Campbell: No. We were anticipating a showdown between the two teams that dominated the league throughout the season. Everyone jumped to name the Spurs the favorite to win it all when they signed LaMarcus Aldridge (and David West, I guess?) last summer and it would have been great to see the Dubs take them down while keeping their roster largely the same.
Andy Liu: I don't think it matters in the grand scheme of matchups. The Golden State Warriors are a bad matchup for an Oklahoma City Thunder team that can't stop their PNR or off-ball offense. The Spurs had the defense to give GSW some fits but couldn't score on the other side. That being said, this is likely more about how the Warriors recover from injuries and get better on defense, an aspect of the game they struggled against Portland. If they play up to their levels, they'll be fine regardless of opponent.
Andrew Flohr: No. The Spurs relied on old legs and as others said before me, San Antonio had problems putting the ball in the basket against the Warriors. OKC also presents a different set of problems for Golden State than San Antonio. However, as a fan of the game you have to excited for this matchup.
2. Based on the regular season meetings with the Thunder, what might scare you the most about facing them in a seven game series?
Apricot: Beside the obvious wild card unstoppability of Durant, in the Spurs series, OKC tried out some big ball lineups like Adams-Kanter. I'm concerned W's can get overwhelmed with size, with Bogut possibly out, Ezeli spacy, McAdoo raw, Varejao decaying. Also, OKC I believe has top to bottom more athleticism but less unity and BBIQ. I worry that if they suddenly buy into a good gameplan, things might start to click and they might turn into a strong defensive team.
Nate P: The way the Thunder rebounded in that overtime thriller in OKC (and beat the Warriors on the glass in all three regular season games) can't be overlooked, especially with the way they're integrating the big lineups now. If Bogut is hampered by injury and Ezeli is ineffective, second chance opportunities could play a key role in this series.
Hugo: I'm going to go #FireKerr here and rant about rotations and bench. If Kerr is too faithful to a cold Mo, underwhelming Harrison Barnes, or a turnstile Barbosa, I will be angry. Play lots of Festus!
Bram: I think if you solely look at the regular season matchups, you might be lulled into thinking this series will be over in four or five games, with the Warriors advancing to the Finals. But -- a BIG BUT -- this Thunder team is finally, finally putting it all together. Billy Donovan found himself during that Spurs series, KD and Westbrook are getting their flow on. Kanter and Adams are beasting dudes on the block and on the boards. We always said the Thunder would be unstoppable if they ever "figured it out." Unfortunately for the Warriors, they seem to be doing just that.
Derek: Adams and Kanter's mustaches may intimidate Bogut.
Aside from that, there's a lot to be afraid of with OKC. They're sort of the last team (other than the Warriors) you'd want to face in the postseason. It's like handling a partially diffused landmine -- they could fizzle out harmlessly or blow up in your face. Durant is liable to get into a zone where he burns every defender thrown at him and the rim becomes five feet wide; Westbrook might just jump out of his own basketball shorts and cause a national spectacle on live television; Dion Waiters might accidentally do something good.
The most likely source of frustration from OKC will be that bruising frontcourt rotation. If OKC starts corralling 33% of all their misses, as they did against SAS, that will really stymie the Warriors' transition game and impede their flow.
Basketball Jonez: The biggest fear I have when facing OKC is that Russell Westbrook will finally learn how to harness himself. I expect KD to put up about 35 ppg on ridiculous efficiency, I expect Ibaka and Kanter to have big production games about half the time. I expect Dion Waiters to have at least one good game.
Russ is just such an enigma. If he's wearing his blinders, the Warriors can focus on playing keep away from KD and let Russ chuck away. But if Russ can keep his focus without getting out of control, he's one of the scariest players in the league and a guy that no one can match up against one-on-one. Klay will get the first crack at it, and hopefully his length can help keep Russ from penetrating too much and putting our bigs in foul trouble. I fully expect this to be the underlying narrative for the entire series.
Dean Campbell: My biggest concern is foul trouble for the Dubs. Klay is an outstanding defender, but even the best of defenders is bound to pick up fouls when Westbrook is on the floor. If Klay gets an early couple of fouls in one of these games, that will put a lot of pressure on others to score. Also, unless the Warriors go with small ball from the start, Bogut and Ezeli are also going to have to watch the fouls. Golden State's chances of winning are inversely proportional to the number of non-garbage time minutes that Anderson Varejao plays.
Andy Liu: Kevin. Durant. still won.
Andrew Flohr: Nobody in the league can stop KD, including the Dubs. Also, the way the Warriors got outrebounded in the last meeting is alarming. But what is even more ridiculous than the disparity in rebounds in that game is the fact that the Warriors still won. If OKC’s role players can knock down shots, there is reason to worry.