The vast majority of NBA championship teams for the past three decades have had a Most Valuable Player on their roster. Commissioner Adam Silver will be handing the Podoloff trophy to Durant within a couple of weeks, which will make the Thunder "eligible," so to speak.
You might be focusing on their wobbles. I'm still fixating on the defense they played against the Clippers when the Thunder celebrated the return of their full starting lineup with an impressive victory in Staples Center. They looked championship level. They're ready.
Israel: I'm with you with Durant. If there's one player in the Western Conference, and possibly even in the entire league -- including LeBron James -- that can turn this postseason into his personal show, it's Durant.
Even against a Grizzlies defense, if OKC is in a game late, it's a safe bet Durant will still take over and pull out a win. He just finished a Michael Jordan-type season. A Jordan-type postseason wouldn't be much of a surprise at all.
But possibly the most intriguing series to start is that Los Angeles Clippers- Golden State Warriors matchup. It hurts that Andrew Bogut won't be a part of it, but given how explosive that Warriors backcourt is, don't you think there's some fear in the heart of Doc Rivers today? I mean, if he comes in, makes Blake Griffin an MVP candidate, has a record-breaking regular season for that franchise and still ends up losing in the first round, that would be devastating.
That Raptors-Nets series is intriguing, but it would still be only the fourth-best series in the West." -- Israel Gutierrez
J.A.: It wouldn't be so devastating that it would cost Rivers his job. Not after the first year of his three-year, $21 million contract. Big contracts like that don't just buy the coach financial security. They buy the franchise stability.
Mark Jackson and the Warriors don't have it like that. The same goes for Frank Vogel and the Pacers. I fear for Vogel and Jackson if they don't make the conference finals -- maybe even the NBA Finals, in Vogel's case. That's the sinister side of these playoffs.
Here's something to contemplate for teams thinking of a coaching change: For all of the coaching turnover last summer, only one new coach took his team to the playoffs with a substantially better record than the previous season. That would be Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Bobcats (but Jeff Hornacek sure came close in Phoenix). Firing the coach isn't the magical solution.
Israel: I'm not so concerned about Jackson's job security, unless he's got an eye on another job. Part of the reason is just how much his main players like him. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee could make this postseason a personal "Save Mark" situation. Not that the Clippers will have no say in this, but with Bogut already out and Curry and Thompson entering the playoffs on a roll -- Thompson is shooting 49 percent from 3-point range in April, with Curry just a couple points back at 47 percent -- the Warriors could make this a shooting contest.
And while Bogut's absence affects rim protection, Draymond Green's toughness could make life a bit difficult for Griffin before he even gets airborne.