The Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder will soon face-off in one of the most highly anticipated Western Conference Finals of all-time. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are all names that the casual NBA fan will know heading into this series. However, there are a few guys that are under the radar for both squads that can make an impact on this series. In what is expected to be a tremendously competitive course of games, here are a few x-factors that could help give their team an extra boost.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Along with Kevin Durant, Roberson did some work on Kawhi Leonard during the Western Conference Semifinals. The lengthy two-guard is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league and doesn’t get enough credit on that side of the ball. He’s especially good at guarding players from beyond the arc where he’s held them 11.3 percent under their regular shooting percentage. Expect Billy Donavan to throw the 6’7 guard on both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson throughout the series. He has a limited offensive game and might receive the Tony Allen treatment from the Warriors defense by leaving him open while helping out on either Westbrook or Durant.
The Oklahoma City big man has had somewhat of a let-down season. His primary numbers are down across the board and he settled for more jumpers than ever this season. He only took 11 more free-throws this season despite playing 14 more games. Unfortunately for him, his percentage went down 8 percent. He struggled against the San Antonio bigs, and scored only 7, 5, and 8 points in the last three games of the series respectively. Oddly enough, the Thunder won all three. Ibaka hopes to use his athleticism against a quick-paced Warriors team.
The combo of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter has played out well for the Thunder in the second half of the season. The Warriors are not familiar with the duo as they have only played five minutes together against them in the regular season. Adams was an issue for the Spurs. In 6 games, he averaged 11 points and 11.8 rebounds while shooting 70 percent from the field and blocking a shot per game. Andrew Bogut likely won’t be 100 percent by Game 1. Look for the Thunder to take advantage with even more physical play.
Golden State Warriors
Anyone writing an article like this would include Harrison Barnes on the list. There’s no doubt the Warriors miss his contributions as they have been non-existent this postseason (outside of a big three-pointer in Game 4 against Portland). Barnes is averaging 9 points per game on 9.2 shot attempts, dismissing the Playoff Barnes nickname given to him by the Warriors faithful. Barnes has made 7 three-pointers in 10 playoff games despite playing over 30 minutes a contest. The good news is he’s averaging 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc in three games against the Thunder this season. The bad news? He’ll likely be matched up with Kevin Durant and that can cause him more issues on the offensive end.
Speaking of defending Kevin Durant, the Finals MVP draws a difficult task. Outside of Curry, Durant might be the hardest player in the league to guard and at times, he can cause even more issues than the two-time MVP. When Durant is on, he’s almost impossible to stop due to his size, speed, and pure scoring ability. Iguodala isn’t as big as Durant, but he can match up with him better than any other Warrior due to his length. He forced LeBron James to some of the worst Finals shooting anyone has ever witnessed in 2015 and he lives for these types of games. Iguodala averaged 13.8 points per game against the Thunder during the regular season and shot 14-22 from the field, including 3-3 from beyond the arc.
From Mo Buckets to No Buckets, Speights had a great series against the Houston Rockets but struggled against the Trail Blazers. He averaged 10.8 points and 50 percent shooting the first round and only 4.4 points and 33 percent shooting in the second round. Speights lost minutes in the Semifinals and wasn’t effective with his shot. In what will be an extremely high scoring series, the Warriors need Speights to be on his A game and nail as many mid-range jumpers (and threes cause he can). The big-man needs to make the OKC bigs work on the defensive end, much like LaMarcus Aldridge did in the first few games of the previous series.