Just because the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals two seasons ago does not mean they will in the future. Sure, the Thunder has not beat the Heat in their last six matchups, but this statistic is irrelevant for the upcoming season.
The Thunder’s dynamic duo in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant has proven to be among the best in the league. Last season, the duo averaged nearly 55 points per game, along with 15.5 rebounds and 13.3 assists.
With that said, the Heat also has a hefty one-two punch in Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (the best player in the world). During last year’s championship run, Wade and James combined for nearly 42 points per game, 13 rebounds per game and 11.4 assists per game.
With two teams that feature superstars, the Thunder-Heat games come down to role players. We saw in the NBA finals just two years ago the dominant performances from the Heat bench players such as Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Norris Cole. Even though the games in that series were very close, the Heat bench was arguably the deciding factor in most of those games.
So how will the Thunder bench match up with the Heat this season? Well, the Thunder roster will look slightly different from their Finals run two years ago. The additions of Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Hasheem Thabeet and Steven Adams will certainly be a plus. If the Thunder can get solid performances from returning players such as Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher, then they will have a legitimate shot at keeping the Heat from making a three-peat.
The Heat and Thunder have been two premier teams in the NBA for the past few years. One similarity both teams share is that they have almost identical rosters year in and year out. Players are able to build relationships and form bonds that few teams in the league have.
The Thunder’s season will be far from a cake walk with the departure of sharpshooting guard Kevin Martin. But with his departure, young, talented players will be able to step in and prove themselves in this Thunder squad. Many eyes will be on second-year guard Jeremy Lamb as he attempts to fill the void Martin left.
With the Westbrook-Durant duo and a more balanced bench than ever before, the Thunder will have a great opportunity to get over the hump, capture that elusive NBA title and top the Heat.