Last years' champ versus the team that everyone outside of San Antonio picked to come out of the West. This is one that I am going to definitely have to watch. Is this the year for the Thunder?
Thunder: What's not to like about this Thunder team? They have possibly the best duo in the league in Westbrook and Durant and once you get past them, they still have the probable 6th Man of the Year in Harden, and let's not even talk about the defense (Ibaka and Perkins). They are a little thin from a bench standpoint, but Harden, if healthy, makes up for a lot of that. This team seems poised to take that next step, but they have to get past a defending champ which is always hard.
Who has to step up: James Harden. I'm picking on him because he has to show us that he's healthy and that he can take a hit. If he is free and clear from the concussion and doesn't have any lingering effect on him, then the same James Harden that's showed up all year will have to get back in the groove. This could possibly be the only thing that derails this team.
Mavericks: It's been a tough year for the Mavericks. They thought they pulled a coup in getting Lamar Odom, but that didn't work well and then they were without their floor general in Jason Kidd for a significant time this season. Add to that, Dirk's knee and people were starting to think that maybe the Mavericks were tanking to make sure that they could get Deron Williams this summer. As of late this team has gelled and they resemble the team that won it all last year, without a defensive presence (Tyson Chandler). You can never count a champ out, so I don't think there will be any brooms in this series, but look for a tough one for both teams.
Who has to step up: Delonte West and Rodrigue (Roddy) Beaubois. Delonte has quietly been the cog that has kept this team moving. He can score and play defense and has played within himself all year. He's given the Mavericks another scorer in the starting lineup that should make things easier for Dirk since you can't double off of West. Roddy Beaubois is probably going to see some time chasing Harden and or the backup point guard combo of Derek Fisher/Royal Ivey. If Beaubois can cause some problems for the Thunder bench, that's great for the Mavericks.
Outcome: I got the Thunder in 6. Looking forward to seeing the Thunder in the West Finals.