Russell Westbrook: The Deciding Factor in the Thunder's Playoff Run
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It took me all of about five episodes to learn the different roles of the characters in Workaholics, a show I quickly learned to love. Of the three main characters, Anders is the most professional, but nothing ever seems to be going well for him. Adam, my personal favorite, is the most immature of the group and therefore the funniest; Adam is usually the one suggesting the three to do whatever they do, and it almost never turns out well. Lastly is Blake, the one who follows the crowd and is slightly immature himself. Like stated before, it didn't take long for these roles to be identified.
In the same way, each player on every team in the NBA has their own role, whatever it may encompass. Some players have much larger roles for their team, like Deron Williams, whose team would be completely lost without him. On the other hand are players like Luol Deng, where they play a big factor in their teams' success, but at the same time, their team is not completely dependent on them. In Deng's case, Derrick Rose is the main cog of the team. There are also players like Ronny Turiaf who provide leadership and energy to their team, but not much talent. And then we have Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, who have been playing alongside each other for four years and are still trying to find their roles. Both players are incredibly gifted scorers, which has turned out to be more of a curse than a blessing for the Thunder organization. It is not bad to have a point guard who can drop 30 (on any given night) by any means, but when that point guard has the best scorer in the game playing next to him, then a problem presents itself.
Logically, with many points comes many shots, and in Russell Westbrook's case, too many shots. For a player that once averaged 3.4 points per game (at UCLA), Westbrook sure is shot-happy. Skip Bayless tackled this subject recently, repeatedly criticizing the shoot-first point guard. Durant, who happened to catch the segment, said in response:
Are the Thunder better when Westbrook takes more shots?
“We’re worse when I take more shots. Like I said, that guy doesn’t know a thing. I don’t think he watches us. I think he just looks at the stats. And traditionally, a point guard is not supposed to take more shots than everybody else on the team. But we’re better when he does do that and he’s aggressive. And I’m better when I’m out there facilitating, rebounding, defending and being more efficient on my shots with less shots.”
However, no matter what KD says or how he tries to defend his point guard, statistics have proven that Westbrook does indeed, need to take less shots. Last night's game against the Pacers justifies that. In an uncalled for loss, the Westbrook chucked up 23 shots and only made 7, whereas Kevin Durant went 15 for 24. The Thunder have only lost 15 games this season (last night's being one of them), and in those 15 games Westbrook averages 21.2 shots a game (only making 9), compared to 18.9 shots per game in 40 wins. How many shots Westbrook decides to take will directly correlate with the Thunder's success in the playoffs.
On the year, KD has taken 1077 shots compared to Westbrook's 1074. If you don't think this is a problem, well, you're crazy. When discussing the best scorers in the league, Kevin Durant is almost always in the top three of anybody's list; I would be surprised if anybody put Westbrook in the top ten. With that being said, Durant has made 42 more shots than Westbrook despite their identical field goal attempts.
If the Thunder want any chance at a title in the next five years (which is definitely possible), they ultimately have two choices: teach Westbrook how to be a true point guard or make a trade for him. There is no middle ground.
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