The experiment in Oklahoma City is continuing to fail, especially if the Thunder cannot make it past the first round of this year’s playoffs. That situation is not likely to happen as Zach Randolph is suspended for Game Seven on Saturday, but if the Thunder cannot win a championship- and soon- the fans will grow impatient.
After Westbrook’s rookie season with the Thunder, OKC has averaged 54 wins a season, but they have only made it to the NBA Finals one time- losing to the Heat in five games. However, during those years, the team had an undisputed number one alpha player- Kevin Durant. During that Finals run, if the game was on the line, one player was getting the ball no matter what and the rest of the players had to fall in line. Durant was always that alpha player, as the other up and coming star players on the team, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, understood what their congruent roles were on the team. However, times have certainly changed.
Harden is now a key player for the Houston Rockets and Westbrook, rightfully so, has become important in his own right. Westbrook is young, talented and hungry for the ball when the game is on the line. But how does Durant fit into that situation? Having two valid options to go to when time is running out is a problem most coaches in the NBA would like to have. Though, in this year’s playoffs, it seems to be costing the number two team in the West. Through most of this first round, Durant has taken a backseat to the Russell Westbrook show, especially in the games that went into overtime. In the games that have gone into overtime so far, Westbrook had the same amount of shots attempted as Durant (14), but Durant went seven for 14 and Westbrook went zero for 14 from the field, racking up one point.
So the question remains- if the Thunder fail to win a championship, should the Thunder trade Westbrook?
Most people would answer this question with a resounding no. But let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. The Thunder may just be a better team without Westbrook. With Westbrook gone, the Thunder could play more of a “team” game and give role players such as Ibaka and Jackson an opportunity to contribute. If Durant and Westbrook are on the court and taking 25-30 shots per game each, it does not leave much room for production out of the rest of the team.
The numbers throughout Westbrook’s regular season and postseason career speak for themselves. In games where Westbrook takes 25 shots or less, the Thunder have a regular season win percentage of .620 and in the postseason have a win percentage of .625. When Westbrook takes 26 shots or more, the Thunder have a regular season win percentage of .421. In the postseason, the numbers are even worse. The Thunder’s win percentage in those games that he shoots 25 times or more is a measly .300.
The Thunder are certainly a better team with Russell Westbrook on their roster, proving that they can beat any team on any given day when Westbrook attempts 24 shots or less a game- as seen in Games One and Six in this series. But unless Westbrook decides to be more of an assist man and role player, playing behind Durant instead of in front of him, the Thunder will be forced to make a move in order to win a championship.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles
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