The Thunder are clear-cut favorites at -350 on the NBA odds board, despite the fact they lost 4-1 in Western Conference semi-finals to this Grizzlies team last year. Let's not get ahead of ourselves though: they were without star point guard Russell Westbrook.
Still, if you think the hard-nosed Grizzlies can pull off the upset this year, you can find them at almost +300 at the top sportsbooks.
Memphis Grizzlies (+290)
There was a time in the season when the Grizzlies were 15-19 and looking like they had no chance whatsoever of reaching the postseason. They were struggling to adjust to a new coach and injuries didn't help either.
However, they've grown tremendously and will head into the playoffs with quite a bit of confidence. They closed out the regular season winning five straight, while going 17-7 over their final 24 contests.
Overall, Memphis finished 50-32, with a 27-14 home record and a 23-18 mark on the road. They were 29-23 SU against the rest of the conference.
The Grizzlies, from a personnel and identity perspective, were built for the playoffs. They bring an incredible amount of intensity and physicality to each and every game, and their duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol embodies what the team is all about.
Randolph came up huge down the stretch to help Memphis grind out a playoff spot, dropping 32 and 9 in Phoenix and then a mammoth 27/14 double-double at home against Dallas to earn the seventh seed. If you follow the NBA, you know the Grizzlies are going to do everything in their power to get Randolph, as well as Gasol, established early and often in the post.
That being said, Memphis really needs its role players to step up. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Courtney Lee and perhaps even Mike Miller will all be counted on to contribute in this series, but will they do enough to topple Durant and company?
Oklahoma City Thunder (-350)
The Thunder finished with a 59-23 overall record, going 34-7 at home and 25-16 on the road. They were an excellent 36-16 against the rest of the Western Conference.
Oklahoma City closed out the regular season going 6-4 SU over their last 10, but we don't want to read too much into that. They were careful with Russell Westbrook and wanted to make sure he was fully healthy and raring to go heading into the playoffs.
And boy does he look ready. Westbrook averaged 26.2 PPG, 7.0 APG and 6.0 RPG in six April games, which includes an amazing 30/11/6 line in Los Angeles and the Clippers, and showcased his amazing athletic ability and competitiveness throughout.
Throw in the second-best player in the league in Kevin Durant and you can see why the Thunder are heavy favorites to advance to the next round.
In this upcoming series, Serge Ibaka (and Kendrick Perkins/Steven Adams to a lesser extent) could be the X factor though. He's going to have his hands full with Randolph and Gasol, as we know how the Grizzlies are going to approach these games. Get those two the ball inside and let them go to work. Ibaka will need to be at his best.
Nonetheless, the Thunder are favored for a reason. They have the two best players in this series, as well as home-court advantage, and should be able to take care of business for our basketball picks and get their revenge from 2012/13.
Series Pick: Thunder in 6