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Will OKC’s Lack of Playoff Experience Hurt Them?

Will OKC’s Lack of Playoff Experience Hurt Them?

The Oklahoma City Thunder are having an unbelievable year making their way back to NBA relevancy. They have climbed to the top of the West despite their lack of experience.

The emergence of MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Williams, and rookie Chet Holmgren has been a fascinating development for OKC. As excited as we may be about their resurgence it’s hard to ignore the fact that they will face a challenging time making it out of the 2024 Western Conference playoffs. Here are a few reasons why:

Playoff Experience

The general feeling is that the lack of experience will be tough to overcome in the West. For the Memphis Grizzlies in 2022 and the Sacramento Kings in 2023, playoff experience was too big of a factor.  

The Western Conference is notoriously tough, and several teams have experienced top talent in their roster, making them even stronger. The Phoenix Suns, for example, have 3 top superstars and will be tough to beat in a 7-game series. The Kings and New Orleans Pelicans are teams that made significant strides in recent years, making them tough competition for the Thunder.

The Champs

As of right now, the Thunder have a high probability of facing the Denver Nuggets after the first round. There is no question that Jokic’s squad is the team to beat in the West.

The fact that the Thunder could end up facing them in the second round proves how tough of a challenge it will be to make the Finals. Regardless of who the Thunder face in the first round, the match-up with Denver is nearly inevitable.

The Thunder, however, should like their chances if they can avoid a second-round matchup with the Champs.

Shai shooting over Jokic

Denver is banged up, and they must be tired after being the last team standing last year. Their second-best player Jamal Murray has missed a ton of games with different injuries.

The Nuggets are being very cautious with him as he continues to nurse a problematic knee issue that has caused him to miss several games since March 21st

I don’t see Denver losing before the Conference Finals even with an injured Murray. But a healthy, young OKC squad with fresh-er legs will be a real threat that late in the playoffs.

The Thunder’s best chance to make it out of the West will be against a tired and beat-up Denver in the Conference Finals.


OKC lack of playoff experience

Finally, the Thunder are a young team with a lot of potential, but lack the experience of some of the other teams. The playoffs are a high-pressure environment, and it’s a real possibility that the Thunder will struggle to keep up.

This young team isn’t afraid of anyone and their combination of talent doesn’t back down from any matchup. A big reason as to why they have been battling for the top seed in the West all season long.

However, the playoffs are a completely different beast, not only will the players be tested but so will the coaches. Teams need to adjust during a 7-game series and doing so dictates whether you move on or not.

It doesn’t matter how good you were during the regular season, possessions matter more, defensive coverages get tougher and the room for error is smaller. If the Thunder are to make a deep run, their guys will need to remain fearless under the bright lights and learn to adjust, fast.

Oklahoma City has a legitimate chance to make the finals this year. They match well with every other team in the West in a first to 4, and their biggest threat is beatable.

With SGA, Chet, Williams, and the rest of the roster in prime position to make plenty of noise this postseason. The Thunder have a path to make the Finals and it’s doable, even with their lack of experience.


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