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Why the Thunder would have won the NBA Finals

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TRKR Labs technology helps us realize why Cleveland wouldn’t have stood a chance

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

For all the talk of the Warrior’s brilliance, they seemed awfully quick to blame injuries when things looked hopeless and Curry wasn’t playing like the best, second-best, or even third-best player on the court. But they are finding a way, despite last night's loss, and I give them credit for that. I also give their analytics department credit for using every tool at their disposal - sensory deprivation tanks, NAVY SEAL psychological training, and the cold hard math behind the Bogut-Ellis trade. .

The thing is, I just don’t believe those tools should be limited to the best teams in basketball - interested fans deserve a piece of the action too! That’s why I’m using my connections to bring you some fresh analytics of our own. We can see what Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook might’ve looked like as they dominated the 2016 NBA Finals.

To win in the Finals, you first have to make it there. But given the act of God the Warriors needed to win Game 6, you aren’t violating any laws of nature by insisting the Thunder could have emerged victorious in that series.

So what if they did? Does that guarantee them a title? Are the Cavs and the East really that weak?

Maybe. The Warriors (and Curry) have not played up to their standards, and the Cavs have had their holes glaringly exposed on the league’s biggest stage. Neither of these teams looks terribly dangerous right now - certainly not as dangerous as OKC did for the better part of the Conference Finals.

That’s where sharper thinking - the same "light years ahead" mentality that brought analytics to the Warriors - comes to play. Fortunately, with the latest tracking from TRKR Labs, we are able to see exactly how players benefit from increased downtime between games (without needing tech billionaires to pay for it like you know… the Warriors do).

Not only is injury risk down across the board with more rest, but the numbers say that with more rest, a player’s performance can SPIKE as high as Russell Westbrook gets on a dunk. Not only a nice metaphor, but just as pretty too:

Usually TRKR gives you a nice dashboard like this detailing your individual stamina, rest, sleep, etc. But we were able to go behind the scenes and plug in numbers for Russ and KD. Once you do, it becomes obvious how well they play with rest. I couldn’t provide their sleeping patterns because I’m just not as close with them as I want to be (yet). But minutes and breaks for star players as the season progresses do matter, so much to the point where they can tip a series in your favor.

Maybe that’s why the Thunder ran out of steam in Games 6 and 7, and why the exhausting defense they played at the beginning of the series took its toll by the end.

Now, about those Cavs.

True, we did lose twice to them this season before Billy Donovan pulled his vampire mask off and showed us what top-five coaching looks like. I mean, TRKR told us Durant has a 127 Offensive Rating after one day of rest, and 142 when playing Curry-esque minutes. If you look at the Offensive Rating of the Cavs thus far, it’s horrific: LeBron is at 104 and Kyrie is barely at 112. Sure they scrambled against a Dray-less team in Game 5, but the Thunder are on another level. Russell posts a 121 ORTG when he gets as much as rest as Kyrie’s had. That’s inhuman.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we could have rewritten the script this year, but the data suggest that next year is ours. These Warriors don’t have the three-peat in them, because even if the Dubs take it this year, no team that’s three-peated has had to deal with this version of OKC two years running. And if the Cavs can finally limp back to the Finals, LeBron will be too old to get the job done. As usual, we just need to be a tiny bit smarter to become unstoppable. Let’s go.