espn | TrueHoop | 5-on-5 Roundtable: Will Oklahoma City win the Western Conference?
2. Which Southwest Division team is the most serious threat to OKC?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: The Grizzlies*. The asterisk is for Zach Randolph's availability. If he recovers from his knee injury, the Thunder can't handle him inside. He scored 30-plus points three times in the playoff series with the Thunder last year and had 24 points and 12 rebounds in their first meeting this season.
D.J. Foster, ClipperBlog: To be the best, you've got to beat the best. The Dallas Mavericks are still the defending champions, and they still represent the biggest blockade to Oklahoma City's title parade. The formula of Dirk and defense is still working for the Mavericks, despite all the new pieces.
Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: Mavericks. Dallas is still extremely good at stopping teams from scoring, and its offense is coming around with Dirk deciding it is time to start being Dirk again. The Mavs' ball movement and shooting are really hard to match up with and they can throw plenty of versatility at you on the perimeter. If they're hot from the outside, they can beat anybody.
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Co.: The Mavericks. The Spurs are an easy choice, but their recent playoff foibles make it difficult to bank on them anymore regardless of how many regular-season games they win. The Mavs' management may be looking toward the summer more than the playoffs, but the players have rebounded from a sluggish start to resemble the team that won it all last season.
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Common sense says the Mavericks, seeing as that's the team that ended OKC's dream run last season. But it's the Spurs. The Thunder's biggest weakness defensively is allowing dribble penetration, which frees up shooters on the perimeter. San Antonio destroyed the Thunder on this a week ago. And in a seven-game series, the Spurs are capable of getting hot for four of them.
D.J. Foster, ClipperBlog: The Spurs. It feels silly to call them sleepers, but once again they're among the league's elite with little fanfare. Gregg Popovich's strategy of resting his starters and getting his young bench guys plenty of minutes should pay serious dividends come playoff time. Brains could beat brawn in a season like this.