NBA preseason predictions: Heat over Thunder in Finals, per Sporting News

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

The Sporting News thinks the Thunder will be back in the NBA Finals, where they will lose to the Heat, again.

The Oklahoma City Thunder reached the NBA Finals last season, only to fall to the Miami Heat. This year, they are back and have their eyes on taking the NBA crown away from the Heat, but they will have some increased competition in the West to deal with before they can even worry about Miami.

The Los Angeles Lakers traded for Dwight Howard and are now a greater threat to the Thunder, while the Los Angeles Clippers added some much-needed depth. The San Antonio Spurs are still there, too, so things are going to be rough for Oklahoma City out West. Still, the Sporting News thinks the Thunder are going to come out on top and represent the West in the finals again, even if they expect another loss there to the Heat.

It was clear that Durant, Harden and Westbrook all took last year’s loss to the Heat especially hard, and the result has been a productive offseason in terms of their work and individual improvement. That will show up on the court, as will the toughness gained from last season’s playoff run. It might still be too much to ask them to take down the Heat, but even with the seismic changes in the West, they should be conference champs again.

This is going to be a big year for the Thunder. Not only do they have the experience from a Finals run and expectations higher than ever before, but James Harden could leave after the season, making this possibly the final chance for this core group of players. The pressure is on in Loud City and the competition has stepped it up a notch. Can the Thunder stay on top of the heap out West and take it a step further to conquer the entire NBA?

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