The Oklahoma City Thunder are feeling the pressure in their pursuit of an elusive NBA title. What suggests that they finally overcome the NBA odds and win it all? Here are three reasons:
1. Anthony Morrow & Three-Point Shooting
In the offseason, the major non-draft pickup from the Thunder was the 29-year-old shooting guard from Georgia Tech, who will essentially be taking Caron Butler’s place in the lineup. Morrow is a younger version of Butler, someone who is more likely to be able to play well at the defensive end of the court. The Thunder are younger but still mature enough with Morrow on their roster. He’s also going to help out with their floor spacing as he was the fourth-best three-point shooter in the NBA last season (.451 3P%). As good as the Thunder were last season from an offensive perspective, they were just 14th in three-point field goal percentage. It’s scary to think how much more they can score than the 106.2 they averaged last season if Morrow fits in well. He should be just the right fit for them; a vital cog in a championship ball club this season.
2. Steven Adams Will Be Better|
This is a player the Thunder are really counting on to make them better in terms of both their bench and their amount of defensive depth in the paint. Adams did a lot for the Thunder in the playoffs last season against the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers. He was very effective as an agitator and irritant against Memphis forward Zach Randolph. It was Randolph who punched Adams in Game 6 of that series, causing him to be suspended for Game 7 and giving the Thunder a huge advantage in that deciding contest. Adams continued to make important contributions against the Clippers, helping the Thunder to reach the Western Conference Finals. It was against the San Antonio Spurs in the West Finals when Adams hit a wall. He was not good at defending the Spurs’ screens and cuts. He was exposed by a veteran opponent that knew how to move the ball and also move without the ball.
At the same time, the Thunder’s biggest on-court weakness has been center with Kendrick Perkins. Adams averaged 5.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 1.2 BLK in the last two rounds of the playoffs. The seven-footer is just 21-years-old but if he matures in his second season, the Thunder will be much stronger at their weakest position.
3. Serge Ibaka
This might be the only thing the Thunder really needs to get the job done next season. Ibaka was injured in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Without him, Oklahoma City got pounded and fell behind 2-0 in the series. When Ibaka returned for Game 3 of the series, the Thunder instantly rebounded and found the spark they had been missing. They were better able to stop the San Antonio Spurs near the basket, and their rebounding also improved. When making your NBA picks keep in mind, it really could be this simple for Oklahoma City, a team that lost Russell Westbrook to injury in the 2013 playoffs, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games: if the Thunder can keep everyone healthy and not experience any major injuries for any prolonged length of time during the playoffs, they might have what they need to cash in on the 6/1 NBA odds and win it all.