Really, though, after for all that financial justification and long-term-investment formulation chat. Let’s concentration on what’s many immediately dire and critical here: Russell Westbrook is going to flame a freaking NBA this season.
The Thunder as a whole won’t be as challenging as they were when KD and Russ rode together, yet solo Westbrook — unfettered, unleashed, undoubtedly a tip dog — will be a steer to spy on a own. Nobody wanted to see Durant strike a shelf in 2014, yet his Jones fracture non-stop a doorway for a answer to a fascinating and delicious question: what could Westbrook do if he was obliged for running, well, everything? The answer: normal a shade underneath 33 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds per 36 mins of non-Durant building time, post a league-best 11 triple-doubles in 67 games, win his initial scoring title and acquire a fourth-place finish in Most Valuable Player voting. So, y’know, not bad.
With Durant healthy again to start a 2015-16 campaign, many of us approaching Russ to take a step back, for his numbers to incline a bit to make room for a returning former MVP. And yet his scoring did drop some, from 28.1 points per diversion down to 23.5, Westbrook averaged a career-best 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds per diversion while once again leading a NBA with 18 triple-doubles, restraining Magic Johnson for a many triple-doubles in a singular deteriorate in a past 50 years. And, once again, he was impossibly manly when Durant sat, averaging 29.5 points, 11.1 assists and 9.1 rebounds per-36 with KD off a floor, with Oklahoma City outscored a antithesis by 5 points per 100 security in Russ-but-no-Durant minutes, according to NBAwowy.com.
In a 8 games Russell Westbrook played but Kevin Durant final season, he created, assisted, or scored 60.5 points per 40-minutes.
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) August 4, 2016
Westbrook has ranked in a tip 5 in both points combined for teammates around approach assist and percentage of teammates’ baskets on that he notched a approach assist in any of a final dual years. When Durant was sidelined in 2014-15, Westbrook kept Oklahoma City’s vast group fed, generating scoring opportunities for Adams, Enes Kanter, Serge Ibaka and Mitch McGary possibly by giving them a round in position to furnish or removing a round on a glass, where a Thunder’s relentless descent rebounders could pounce for putbacks. During that ’14-’15 season, OKC scored an normal of 109.1 points per 100 security with Westbrook on a floor, a top-three descent potency mark, and forsaken to 97.7 points-per-100 when he sat, that would’ve been a league’s fourth-worst. He can be an offense unto himself. He can lift a load, and be Must-See TV while he does it.
Now, a flip side of that equation is that a ’14-’15 Thunder went 45-37 and missed a playoffs, due in vast partial to their struggles defending. An OKC patrol that had perennially ranked in or nearby a tip 10 in a joining in points authorised per possession underneath Scott Brooks forsaken down next a center of a container in defensive potency that season, interjection to injuries, complicated second-half faith on remarkable pick-and-roll separate Kanter, and Westbrook’s at-times destabilizing bent to play for momentum-shifting steals. While a offseason waste of Durant and Ibaka hurt, this year’s Thunder, with a hard-nosed Oladipo on-board alongside postseason dermatitis players Adams and Roberson, could be improved positioned to reason adult defensively; OKC’s chances of creation postseason sound figure to count heavily on either or not Donovan can awaken a top-10-caliber defensive bid out of his shuffled-up roster.
Even if he can, and even if Westbrook is each unit as agitator an descent force as we design him to be, a Thunder competence be sketch passed in a discussion approaching to be dominated by a Warriors patrol that, with Durant in tow, is already breaking front offices’ mechanism models. That’s besides a point, though. Winning isn’t all that matters. It never was, and it never will be, not when distracted opposite a failing of a light can be so beautiful, so visceral, and so compelling.
Even when we know what’s coming, we can still be astounded — see: Games 5 by 7 of both a Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals — and even when a outcome comes out a approach we expected, a tour there can include of all kinds of moments that thrill, that electrify, that make us feel alive. Few players in NBA story have supposing those moments with as most snarl and character as Russell Westbrook, and now, a Thunder’s predestine rests on him providing as many as humanly possible. That’s bad news for Oklahoma City’s opponents, and really, really good news for a rest of us.
More basketball coverage from Yahoo Sports:
– – – – – – –