Given their playoff success in 2012 and their No. 1 seeding in the Western Conference, many experts are predicting that OKC will make a deep playoff run, yet again. In fact, the Thunder have been so dominant this season, not one of ESPN's 105 analysts for their playoff forecast picked the Houston Rockets to win the series.
That vote shouldn't really surprise anyone. Oklahoma City's a great team that really excels when it's playing fast against high-scoring teams like the Rockets. In addition, this isn't a series the Thunder or their fans are going to struggle to get up for, something that's plagued the No. 1 seeds in the past.
After all, OKC gets to face off against James Harden, the man who spurned the team that drafted him in favor of making a bigger paycheck down in Houston. Most people don't actively hate Harden in Oklahoma City, but you can rest assured that they'd love to see The Bearded One destroyed by his former running mates.
As many Yahoo! Sports pundits point out in this article, don't expect this series to go any more than five games. The Thunder are simply too good for the over-matched Rockets. Look for James Harden to steal a game, but no more than that.
Once you get past the opening round, things begin to get a little more interesting for OKC.
It's tough to make any specific predictions until we know who the Thunder be playing, but it's fairly safe to assume that they'll be favored (sometimes heavily so) against any team they come up against in the Western Conference.
In fact, everyone from ESPN's "Five-on-Five" article is picking the Thunder to represent the West in the NBA Finals for the second straight year.
As Matt Cianfrone says in that article, "Oklahoma City has the two best players in the conference and is the healthiest of any the contenders. It finished tied for first in offensive efficiency and tied for third in defensive efficiency, proving the Thunder can get it done on both ends of the floor."
When you factor in OKC's home-court advantage, it just doesn't get much better than that for championship contenders.
It may seem boring to some, but at this point, a rematch of 2012's NBA Finals seems almost inevitable.
True, the San Antonio Spurs, the New York Knicks or any of the other 12 teams could pull an upset (it is the playoffs), but Ethan Sherwood Strauss probably said it best when he wrote, "The Thunder are much better than any other Western Conference team. The Heat are much better than any other Eastern Conference team. I'm anticipating a sequel."
The Finals are the first time the Thunder won't be the majority favorite; the defending champion Miami Heat have that distinction.
Frankie Garcia of SportsWorldReport.com calls Kevin Durant and LeBron James the "Magic and Bird of our time." A comparison that isn't that far off considering the two's off-court friendship and on-court rivalry.
However, unlike the back-and-forth nature of the Bird-Magic rivalry, don't expect the Durant to overtake LeBron's Heat this season as NBA champs.
It's not that Durant and the Thunder haven't grown as a team this season—they have—and they will undoubtedly give Miami a tougher series this year. That said, Miami has LeBron James, the best player in the league by far, and one of the better supporting casts a superstar could ask for.
OKC will push the champs to six or seven games this year, but Miami's too talented and focused to not stand on top of the mountain at season's end once again.