Originally written on Fox Sports  |  Last updated 10/22/14
The favorite to take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy sits comfortably in an Eastern Conference lacking few, if any, real challengers. But while the Miami Heat begins defense of its title with a series of not-so-intriguing first- and potential second-round playoff match-ups, the Western Conference is riddled with compelling games and storylines. The West may not have the presumptive favorite, but it does have most of the first round's real drama. For the Thunder, the West's No. 1 seed, their first-round opponent will serve up plenty of intensity if not a real threat to their playoff hopes. The eighth-seeded Houston Rockets are too young, not deep enough and not ready to pose a serious threat to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook's plans to get back to the Finals. But in James Harden, at least, the Thunder will confront a dangerous adversary with motivation to inflict some damage and a reminder of the key piece they're missing in their quest for a championship. T...
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