HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS — Not everything about The Finals matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat will center on the respective “Big Threes” both teams will unleash on one another.
There will be room for other men to step into the global spotlight The Finals always brings. And who better to fit into that void than Thabo Sefolosha, the Thunder’s swingman, defensive specialist and the only Swiss player ever drafted into the NBA?
He will, after all, spend the majority of his time in the next four to seven games chasing either Dwyane Wade or LeBron James around the court. And that should result in an abundance of face time with the world’s basketball-loving public, the likes of which Sefolosha hasn’t experienced yet in his career.
His work on the defensive end in The Finals will be crucial to the Thunder’s cause, since he could alleviate that pressure for All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Sefolosha has cut his teeth this postseason on some of the league’s best offensive talents, having had to deal with Lakers star Kobe Bryant in the conference semifinals and Spurs star Tony Parker in the conference finals.
But the challenge is even greater with Wade and James, especially considering what’s at stake in this series. Sefolosha has proven himself to be an absolute menace at times, frustrating both Bryant and Parker in ways few defenders can. And at 6-foot-7 and 215 pounds, he has the size, foot speed and athleticism to stay with players bigger and smaller.
He also has that Bruce Bowen-esque quality about him in that he’s willing and perfectly able to knock down a big shot or two from the corner when called upon. His work in the series-turning Game 3 win over the Spurs — 19 points on 7-for-16 shooting, 4-for-10 from deep, six rebounds and six steals — probably opened a few eyes.
The Heat have seen enough of Sefolosha to know what they’re dealing with. In two regular season matchups against Wade, Sefolosha played just 20 and 21 minutes. Wade didn’t really go off in either game, though, scoring 22 points in a March 25 loss to the Thunder and 19 in a Heat win 10 days later.
In a series where everyone goes in wondering which role player from the Thunder and/or Heat will reveal himself as the wild card, we’re casting our lot with the player whose game is a perfect fit for the role (no offense to Heat forward Shane Battier, a more seasoned version of Sefolosha, who ranks as No. 2 on our list).
Plus, who has a better back story in The Finals than Sefolosha (we’ve always been a bit partial to the cat who comes out of the crowd to shake the Commissioner’s hand on Draft night)?