Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on Pace to Make Unique NBA History
The Durantula's 28.3 points per contest lead the league, but he is attempting one fewer shot (17.8) per game than that of Westbrook (18.8).
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, should Durant win the scoring title while attempting fewer field-goals than Westbrook, it will be just the second time in league history that a player led the league in scoring, but didn't lead his team in shots (via Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman):
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Thunder is on pace to become only the second team in NBA history to have a scoring champion not take the most shots on his team.With Westbrook (18.8) attempting more shots than current scoring leader Durant (17.9), the Thunder could join the 1954-55 Philadelphia Warriors as the only two teams with that distinction.
Neil Johnson won the scoring title for the 1954-55 season, but teammate Paul Arizin attempted two more shots per game that season.
For Durant, joining such limited company is a testament to his efficiency.
He's currently on pace to become just the ninth player (minimum of 25 games played) to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from deep and 90 percent from the charity stripe in the same season. He'll be the first player in NBA history to average 50/40/90 while leading the league in scoring as well.
As if his improved accuracy wasn't enough, the decline in his shot attempts is also indicative of his evolution as a playmaker. His 4.5 assists per contest are a career high, and he and LeBron James are the only two players in the league to be averaging at least 25 points and four assists on 50 percent shooting.
Often criticized for not shooting enough, Durant has continued to take his game to new heights. His involvement in the baking of this potentially historical pie can easily be revered.
But can the same be said of Westbrook?
Unlike Durant, Westbrook is frequently derided for shooting too much. Though his 18.8 shot attempts are down from last year's 19.2, and his assists (7.6) are up as well (5.5), he's shooting just 43.9 percent from the field.
Westbrook hasn't hoisted up fewer than 17 shot attempts per game since the 2010-11 campaign, leaving him and Derrick Rose as the only point guards to be averaging at least 17 field goals during that time.
Still sidelined, Rose's volume shooting is not just accepted, but embraced. He doesn't play alongside a perennial scoring champion in Durant. He has to shoot.
Who do the Oklahoma City Thunder need to shoot more?
Westbrook, though, not so much. He could be dishing out 10 assists per night, and even then he'd be castigated if he was taking more shots than Durant.
It is indeed a unique situation Durant and Westbrook find themselves in—one that many yearn to see reversed.
Is the abrogation of such a paradigm a matter of Durant needing to shoot more, or Westbrook shooting less? Or perhaps both? Does it even need to be discontinued?
That much remains to be seen.
Kind of like Durant and Westbrook's reaction to becoming members of this exclusively equivocating club.
*All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports, 82games.com and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.
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