The Oklahoma City Thunder face off with the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Thunder had a fantastic overall regular season led by superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant proved to be healthy after an injury filled season last year. Westbrook is one of the few players in the league that could potentially challenge for league MVP honors he was his same aggressive self on offense while leading the NBA in assists. The Mavericks dealt with injuries all season long and will be without Chandler Parsons who was a big part of the team’s success. Dirk Nowitzki had another stellar season and led his team in scoring despite being banged up with minor injuries and being one of the oldest players in the league.
Point Guard- Russell Westbrook vs. Deron Williams
This matchup would be a matchup of elite point guards a few years ago, however Williams has suffered a multitude of injuries and declining ability over the last few seasons. Westbrook is a top 5 player overall in the league. He is a one-man fast break who competes with unmatched intensity on both ends of the floor.
Shooting Guard- Andre Roberson vs. Raymond Felton
Roberson is not an ideal fit next to Westbrook and Durant because he is an inconsistent outside shooter, however he is an active defender who provides energy. Felton has had a bounce back season after riding the bench for the better part of the last two years.
Small Forward – Kevin Durant vs. Wesley Matthews.
Durant is an elite scorer and showed an improved offensive repertoire this season. He exposes smaller defenders in the post and shoots over them while using his superior quickness and basketball IQ while on the perimeter. Matthews spent the earlier part of the season recovering from off season surgery and has showed signs of his old self over the last month. He is a strong defender and three point shooter
Power Forward- Serge Ibaka vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Ibaka is the backbone of the team’s defense and provides them with a strong pick and pop option on offense. He is a strong and versatile defender and elite shot blocker. Nowitzki rose to the occasion as the team suffered through injuries all season long and provided the team with clutch scoring and leadership down the stretch.
CENTER- Steven Adams vs. Salah Mejri
This is a matchup of two defensive minded centers with similar skill sets. They are both the starters but usually play as many or even less than their backups. Neither will do much on offense but will provide a strong interior defensive presence.
The Mavericks are ravaged by injuries and don’t have much depth behind their starters. The Thunder have Enes Kanter who is by far the most skilled post player in the series and backup guard Dion Waiters who provides depth at all 3 wing positions.
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