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Oklahoma City Thunder: Does Westbrook hold Durant back?

JoelTorelli
CONTRIBUTOR
08 Jul 2013, 12:21 IST
Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder get ready for the game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on February 20, 2013 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

Kevin Durant #35 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Getty Images)

Same age, same team but worryingly the same part of their team’s offence. Russell Westbrook was the 4th pick in the 2008 draft and is a great igniter for his young team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Westbrook is close allies with arguably the second best player in the game (at the moment) but more well known for being the best scorer over the last five years – Kevin Durant.

At only 24, KD is a scoring machine and has already collected three scoring titles and averages 26.6 points in his young career. But he has often been criticised for not being aggressive enough and allowing his partner-in-crime, Westbrook, to lead the offense.

If Durant can pull-up from 30-feet out, get to the rim, put the ball on the floor and shoot over anyone at his 6″11 height, why isn’t he taking the majority of shots in his team? Is Westbrook holding back him back?

Westbrook and Durant are without a doubt the best young duo in the NBA right now. Together they led the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals in the 2011-2012 season, losing to Miami in five. Despite their overwhelming success, they are both different people and completely different players.

Durant likes to hit the gym whenever he can and tries to get better every day, while being humble and extremely soft spoken. But that’s the complete opposite of Westbrook, who is known to be load and temperamental. Westbrook is known for his style, the thick rimmed glasses and the school boy look; in other words, he is probably Baron Davis’ brother.

Whenever the two have an argument on court, Westbrook is usually to blame because of his terrible attitude. Westbrook is labelled “the problem” to Oklahoma City Thunder. He shoots more frequently than Durant and more often than not, Durant has to pick up on the load late in the game.

As the point guard and formally a two-guard in college, Westbrook plays more like a shooting guard or small forward; a disadvantage for Durant. Instead of sharing the rock, he jacks up slot of mid-range shots, many being out of control and off-balanced, not the smartest way to play, honestly.

Although Westbrook takes more shots and gets critics on his back, Oklahoma win 77 % of the time when he does this. Incredibly when Durant shoots more they win only 71 % of their games, which is staggering, knowing Durant has a better jump shot and the best score in the NBA.

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Since 2011, the pair have played 259 games together, when Durant scores more they win 48% of the time and lose 23 % of the time. This goes to show that Westbrook doesn’t have a great field goal percentage and doesn’t get to the line as frequently as Durant does.

When Westbrook shoots over 15 field goal attempts Oklahoma have won 121 games and lost 67. But importantly, when he has attempted less than 14 they have won 56 times and only lost 14 times.

OKC missed Westbrook after he went down injured in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. (Getty Images)

OKC missed Westbrook after he went down injured in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. (Getty Images)

During the 2013 playoffs Westbrook went down with a knee injury, thanks to the Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverly in the first round. Oklahoma had won their conference overcoming the San Antonio Spurs and looked set to win the West and maybe even battle out the Miami Heat for the title.

But as soon as Westbrook went down and didn’t return for the rest of the playoffs, OKC lost in the second round to a great team in the Memphis Grizzlies. This just goes to show how important he is to his team.

Westbrook is the heart of the team and he may have some cons but he scores 23 points a game while averaging 7 assists and 5 boards. The positive of his injury meant Durant was able to run the show offensively and drop 30 points and pull down 9 rebounds a game, while getting 6 dimes as well.

With the second best player in the league at your feet and the most unguardable player in the NBA, why take the load offensively? Why take so many shots? This all comes down to Westbrook’s attitude, wanting to be the face of the team.

But unfortunately for him, Durant is humble and people draw to that and like him for a person and a player. Durant was voted to be the best player in five years in 2010 and if he gains a bit of weight and puts some muscle on, he could well go on to be the best scorer in the history of the game.

Westbrook needs to understand how to be a pure point and share the load. And while he is at it, he might want to work on his temperamental attitude as well.

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