Russell Westbrook Should Thank Kevin Durant for Leaving Oklahoma City
Think back to July 4, 2016. For most of you, that was just another great day spent celebrating America’s birthday. If you are an Oklahoma City Thunder fan, that is the day the golden boy left for the big bad Golden State Warriors. Yes, that is the day when Kevin Durant, who claimed to love playing in Oklahoma City, decided that he would rather chase a NBA Championship with the best team in the league (sorry Cleveland), than with the NBA’s newest city. This is all well and good, the NBA adds to its newest super team and it adds fuel to the rivalry with Cleveland. There is one person though, that everyone thought was really going to get hurt by this move and that is Russell Westbrook.
The Seattle SuperSonics selected Russell Westbrook in 2008. The SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City that same year and became the Thunder. Going into a new city the Thunder had Kevin Durant who showed in Seattle he had the potential to be a great player. They drafted Westbrook who also had the potential to be a star. The year after that they drafted James Harden. Just keep that in mind when looking at the Thunder. Two of those players have a shot at the MVP this year and the other would have too if he didn’t get injured. In a different universe, the Thunder would be making big waves and probably would be the team in the finals every year with Cleveland. That has all changed though.
Russell Westbrook is the only player of those three still in Oklahoma City and he is having the best season of his career. Besides working hard to be a great player there is one person Westbrook should thank, that person is Kevin Durant. Since Durant left Oklahoma City, Westbrook’s numbers have skyrocketed. He went from being a really good point guard to maybe the best player in the NBA right now. Westbrook has less competition on his own team for the ball now. According to basketball reference, last season, Westbrook averaged 23.5 points per game, 10.4 assists per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. Those are very good numbers for a basketball player in the NBA. One might even say that those are superstar numbers.
This season improved upon those numbers immensely. Not only did Westbrook break an NBA record and record 42 triple-doubles in a season, but also he is averaging a triple-double a game. His numbers through 80 games this season are averaging 31.9 points a game, 10.4 assists per game, and 10.7 rebounds per game. That is a ridiculous jump for someone between seasons. The only real change has been the absence of Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant’s absence in the team forced production from other areas and that is where Westbrook has had to thrive. This is a great thing for individual statistics, but does not bode well for a championship.
Last season with Kevin Durant, the Thunder finished with a 55-27 record and made it to the Western Conference Finals. This year with the unreal statistics by Westbrook the Thunder are 46-34. That is a significant difference for a team that was close to contending for a championship last year. This goes back to the idea that there is no I in team in the NBA. Westbrook is having the best season of his career, but is further away from winning a championship than last year. There may be some serious bad blood between Durant and Westbrook, but one thing is true. Westbrook has really found a whole different level and Durant’s absence can be the reason for that. Durant may have a chance to win his first NBA title this year, but Westbrook just cemented himself as the frontrunner to win the MVP. One thing is for certain, if Westbrook continues this style and gets a bigger cast behind him, he has shown enough to make a serious push for a championship. For now he will just have to enjoy winning awards and breaking records.
Statistics from Basketball-reference.com