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Stealing Kevin’s Thunder

February 29, 2012


People ask me my favorite part of the NBA All-Star Game. It wasn’t that furious comeback late, nah that happens every year. The real show for me was watching Russell Westbrook again try and steal Kevin Durant‘s thunder (pun intended)…just as he has tried to all year.

It boggles my mind that people can’t see that while personally they’re a great fit, basketball-wise these two players can’t reach their full potential on the same team.

In a recent game against the Denver Nuggets, Durant scored 50 points and Westbrook 41…fans around the league were hyped. But if you take a look at the boxscore it’s shocking…Russ actually shot the ball one more time than Kevin did.

Durant began the season as a serious MVP-candidate, that was, until Westbrook decided he could sell even more sneakers. The result? Russell taking bad shots down the stretch of games while Kevin “spaces the floor.” While the Thunder still has the top record out west, it’s more off talent than execution.

I agree that Russ should take part of Durant’s role on this team…..but in the locker room, not in the boxscore. This team needs more leadership at the point and less highlight shot attempts. The point guard should be the leader and the swingman should carry the bulk of the scoring burden, it’s old school but it works.

I know, a player can’t change his stripes. Russell will always be who he is: a freak athletically that looks to score first, last, and in between. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the best thing for this team.

Russell Westbrook was signed to a monster contract extension recently, it was a no-brainer. No matter if you think he’ll retire in OKC or not, you can’t let an asset like that hold you for ransom one day in a contract year (just ask New Orleans & Orlando). His stock will always be high, barring some bizarre injury, so using him via trade will always be possible.

That’s exactly what I think will happen in the next year or so.

The Thunder will eventually realize that they’re a reincarnation of the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks of the early 2000′s: a great regular season team that just doesn’t have the right make-up to be a serious championship contender. Sure, their defense is better than that of those teams…but the 1-2 punch of Durant & Westbrook just doesn’t have that synergy to win consistently in the playoffs.

I think GM Sam Presti already sees this, he just fears alienating Kevin Durant and the OKC fans.

A change like this can’t be made now, too much success has been achieved as currently constructed. But when the team stops making progress and starts to slide back down in the standings Russ will be on the first thing out of Oklahoma City.

If this team doesn’t at least make it to the conference finals again this season, it could even happen this summer.

It’s nothing against Russell, it’s just basketball chemistry. Hopefully, Kevin sees it the same way. Westbrook may be his best friend, but most great 1-2 punches in NBA history haven’t been the best of buddies (Magic-Kareem, Kobe-Shaq…I never saw Michael n’ Scottie hanging out). The distance away from the court allowed them to be tighter on it.

As Magic once said in the 80′s, “we can always be friends after the season.”

For the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Kevin Durant, to take the next level into championship contention they need a pass-first point guard. It’ll help halfcourt execution, it’ll help Durant reach his MVP-potential, and it’ll also improve the team’s defense. Balanced shot-taking means good court balance and getting back on ‘D’.

An overly-aggressive point guard looking to keep up with Derrick Rose on SportsCenter means playoff disappointment.


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10 Responses to Stealing Kevin’s Thunder

  1. big lou on February 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    russell westbrick annoys me…everything he does. he’s a cocky little dude who thinks he’s bigger than the team. they should trade him to the hornets.

  2. Meredith on March 2, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Excellent take!

  3. Travis Tilton on March 3, 2012 at 7:58 am

    This is completely dumb…. lets pound on Westbrook because he wants to make a play… lets criticize Westbrook because he takes one more fg attempt than Durant… lets put down Westbrook because he is more athletic and the better playmaker on the team, but his last name isn’t Durant. These two push each other to be better. These two are the perfect combo… if Durant didnt have westbrook he wouldnt get the open shots that he constantly gets. if westbrook didnt have durant he wouldnt be able to drive the lane as dominantly as he does… lay off Westbrook he is earning his new paycheck and leading the best team in the NBA… I dont understand how people can completely knock the second best player on the best team in the country. The “pass first” point guard is fading and fading fast… steve nash is the last of that genre… you dont see people harping on Rose for shooting the ball… you definately dont see people doing that to Deron Williams. yes they have more assists per game but thats because they have better all around scorers on the entire team… besides Durant and Harden (which isn’t always on the court the same time Westbrook is) you dont have any other dangerous scorers Perkins and Ibaka have bricks for hands and dont always catch a pass thrown right at their chest… Durant always has a body on him and isnt the best option to pass to without risking a turnover and Cook stands at the 3 pt at all times. To say that the best team in the NBA needs something different that what they have to make them the best team is absolutely stupid and quite honestly tarnishes your reputation as an NBA writer… get your facts straight before you spout your mouth off about something that doesnt need fixed

    • Martin Knezevic on March 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

      Travis, great points. I agree, it’s good to have teammates that push each other…but that goes for guys who play the same position competing for minutes, not the 2 team leaders that should be working in unison. Kevin Durant doesn’t need a PG to get him open shots, he can shoot over the top of anybody…he’d be better off w/ a distributor and a floor general to fit his laid back personality. Derrick Rose is on another level as a PG, while he does go to the rim like Russ he has no one like Durant next to him. Plus, he makes the right decision 9 times out of 10 (can’t say that about Westbrook in late game situations). I do think that if Rose were on the Thunder it wouldn’t be a great fit either. As for the facts, what facts did I get wrong?…this blog is just one opinion of an NBA writer. We all have opinions and I thank you for sharing yours.
      Also, great point about the team lacking scoring with Perk/Ibaka…do you think the team should start Harden?

  4. Travis Tilton on March 8, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I apologize for my little ramble about getting your facts straight… After reading other articles you sure do have a great gift as a writer. I was more just frustrated about multitude of writers that have harped on Westbrook for being the player that he is. The thing is, with the idea of Westbrook needing to be more of a distributor, Durant can and does have off nights. Without a great scoring threat at another position you would force the entire game on Durants shoulders. In last nights game against the Suns, Durant was 4 of 14 shooting near the end of the third quarter. They were trailing at the time and eventually fought back to win getting 30 points from Durant. Think of how badly they would have been trailing at that point if Westbrook wasn’t there. Yes Westbrook has shown instances of being a selfish player throughout last year and beginning of this year, but look at the jump he made from the time he got his contract extension. He became much more efficient, his assists have gone up and his overall gameplay has become one of superstar status. All of this would be a mute point if one of two things wouldn’t be happening. First, if Durant was losing production because of Westbrook. A quick look at the stats this year will show you that Durant is scoring better than everyone but Kobe… who is the only scorer on his team. So though Durant is a freak of nature and the best scorer in the NBA, I’m sure he is ok with having someone there to help him score during the game. Second and most importantly is the question “Are they winning?” With the best record in the NBA and a staggering 17-1 home record, I believe Westbrook isn’t losing games. Westbrook is the player he needs to be and is where he needs to be. Same with Durant. Westbrook scored 31 points last night with 10 assists and was by far the reason they won that game, along with many other games. I understand that Durant is the most skilled player in the NBA and will be the face of the NBA very soon if he isn’t already. I also understand that Westbrook might not have the persona of a likable superstar in the NBA. He plays tougher as a point guard than most power forwards and he always feels like he can make the shot from anywhere. He is a show off and plays with a chip on his shoulder all the time. He’s not graceful and he doesn’t seem to have the “aww shucks” personality that the media is in love with (a la Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow, and even Kevin Durant). He does have one thing going for him, and that is an extreme amount of talent on a team that is built to be at a championship caliber for the next ten years. With Harden, Ibaka, and Collison around as well this team “as is” will be extremely difficult to beat all the way to the Finals. Speaking of Harden, I used to think he should be starting. Though with the 2 starts he had earlier this year once Sefalosha went down with what seems to be the worlds longest sore foot, Harden was not effective. The first handful of plays in a game seem to be scripted for the Thunder’s offense. The main goal with those scripted plays is to get Durant and Westbrook in a groove offensively. When Harden starts there really isnt any room for him offensively and he is rendered ineffective. He works much better being the leader of the second team, If anything he controls the second team the same way Lebron would control the Heats first team. He makes his own shot, distributes well and plays above average defense and makes the second team very efficient for a group of players whose sole purpose is to not give up the lead Durant and Westbrook gave you. One day Harden will be starter and probably an all star caliber starter. Right now he has a role to play and that is to be the leader of the second team and he does that extremely well, and will probably win a ring because of it.

    • Martin Knezevic on March 9, 2012 at 11:45 am

      No worries Travis, I can see that you’re just a hardcore Thunder fan. You can make my amends by adding me on Twitter and liking us on Facebook hehe. You’re right, the media is piling on Russ these days and I usually go against the grain on those things…but in this case I just can’t help but feel that this isn’t the best mix for championship contention. You’re absolutely right, Russ isn’t costing OKC games…but in the playoffs that may be a different story. This blog is more about big picture. Don’t get me wrong, having Durant and Westbrook together is a coach’s and fan’s dream. My idea of getting a pass-first PG in there is contingent on Brooks starting James Harden at the SG to make up for the scoring. I think a Rajon Rondo would be dynamite for this group…he’d ad 5 -10 pts/gm to Ibaka’s total and even get Perk a few dunks per game. Your point on Westbrook’s personality is dead on…people love Derrick Rose for his demeanor as much as his drives to the basket. It’s all about public opinion (just ask Lebron).
      Who should the Thunder fear most in the playoffs (LAL, DAL, LAC, SAS)?

  5. Travis Tilton on March 12, 2012 at 10:22 am

    I absolutely will follow you on twitter… and I agree with your analysis on Westbrook and Rondo in some ways. The way Westbrook played in in the playoffs last year certainly costed us games. I do believe though, that he has matured because of it and is more likely to make better plays this year. As far as Rondo goes, I believe you are correct though I would still like to keep Westbrook if for no other fact than I’m a fan. I’ve defended him this long and I personally would not want to see him go. I personally think we would match up well with any of those teams you referred to in the playoffs… the teams there that would give us most trouble are the Clippers and Spurs. I’m more concerned with a battle with Portland, Denver and Memphis. Those three teams always play us tough and have the type of team that can match up with us well. If i see us fall in the playoffs I could see it be against any of those three.

  6. Morris Bueller on March 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I agree a hundred, Russell just isn’t a good fit next to Kevin., And KD’s friendship w/ Westbrook is blinding him.

    • Nur on December 16, 2012 at 4:33 am

      Durant, Westbrook and and Harden are franchise plyraes.. OKC is gonna be very big in the near future, they already made it to conference finals, but there are better things coming i think

  7. Jhony on December 16, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Durant is a lock? Durant sure can score, but what else can he do? His presence on the Thunder does not make them a beettr team. Heck, for a while after the All-Star break, the Thunder were winning more games without Durant than they were with him.Durant + Roy + Aldridge does not necessarily equal greatness. There have been other teams loaded with prolific scorers–Golden State, Phoenix, etc–and yet they weren’t Championship teams. Yes, they were fun to watch, but that’s it.If the Blazers had Durant, there is no way that they’d be contenders this year. Please. That’s a ridiculous statement that neglects a lot of keys to this year’s success. Batum’s defense has been important. So has Travis’s scoring off the bench. And Rudy’s development. Do you think those things happen if Durant is here? No. Also, this was the year that Lamarcus emerged. If Durant was on the Blazers, he and LA would be getting in each others way regarding development.People need to stop comparing the stats between Durant and Oden. The NBA is not a Yahoo! Fantasy League.

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