This is my favorite first round matchup this year. The defending champs versus the up and coming powerhouse that they beat in the Western Conference Finals last summer.
MY PREDICTION: Thunder in 6
Mavericks Key Players: (Opponent EFF Rating)
1. Dirk Nowitzki – (22) – Expect to see a lot more of Dirk in the postseason. He has a solid matchup advantage on Serge Ibaka despite the fact that Ibaka is a premier defender, the last thing you want to put on Dirk is a shot blocker as he will get him in the air more often than not. Durant may try his hand at some point, but he is still one of my favorite players to own in the first round.
Projections: 33-37 FPPG 35-40 MPG
2. Jason Terry – (16.7) – Not the best matchup on paper, but Terry is the true second scoring option for the Mavs and I expect his minutes to get a solid boost and his production should come right along with it. He also slides to the point fairly often and Russell Westbrook can be undisciplined defensively at times.
Projections: 20-24 FPPG 30-35 MPG
3. Shawn Marion – (18.5) – Marion was one of the main reasons the Mavericks took home the championship last year, but is much more valuable in the real game than our fake one. Marion still offers double-double ability, but he is much better deployed in fantasy against less athletic teams.
Projections: 18-22 FPPG 30-35 MPG
4. Brandon Wright – (24.9) – The one thing the Thunder lack at center is athleticism with Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison manning the middle and Wright has just that. The Mavs have been trying to replace Tyson Chandler all season and finally began to do so as Wright came on late in the season. If Brendan Haywood struggles early in the season, look for Wright to become a solid contributor the rest of the way.
Projections: 12-18 FPPG 20-25 MPG
Thunder Key Players: (Opponent EFF Rating)
1. Kevin Durant – (19.3) – Durant is the best pure scorer in the NBA, you can argue Kobe or Melo if you want, but I won’t listen. Durant can score in so many ways and has ridiculous range on his jumper. He will likely see a lot of Shawn Marion, which is not good news, but he will have his work cut out for him in every matchup, so no need to panic. Expect a higher volume of minutes and shots in the postseason as he tries to take the team to a title.
Projections: 38-46 FPPG 40-45 MPG
2. Russell Westbrook – (22.8) – Westbrook has one of the best on paper matchups of the first round. While Jason Kidd is still tough on defense, he no longer has the quickness to stay in front of Westbrook and that should mean a lot of layups and assists for Westbrook this series. If the Mavs make an adjustment and start going under screens, Westbrook has shown the ability to knock down midrange jumpers consistently that he did not in the playoffs last season.
Projections: 30-36 FPPG 40-45 MPG
3. James Harden – (19.9) – Harden was able to recover quickly from the concussion suffered the other day. The Mavericks are also pretty old at the shooting guard position with Delonte West, Jason Terry and Vince Carter. This bodes well for one of the more efficient playmakers in the NBA. Their are some that believe (myself included) Harden is one of the premier players in the league despite his 6th man role on this team. He is so under control off the dribble ball screen that it seems to be in slow motion, but there is no one better. He could explode again this postseason following averages of 16.8/4.1/3.7 in the regular season.
Projections: 22-28 FPPG 30-38 MPG
4. Serge Ibaka – (23.9) – My choice for defensive player of the year, Ibaka averaged just under 3.7 blocks per game in the regular season despite playing just 27.2 minutes per game. Look for his minutes numbers to increase in the postseason and along with that so should the rest of his stats.
Projections: 18-32 FPPG 28-36 MPG