NBA Playoffs: Russell Westbrook's Injury Doesn't Kill Oklahoma City Thunder
As a fan, a gambler and a pure admirer of the Oklahoma City Thunder, I'm just as devastated as anyone by the news of the day. According to an AP report, Russell Westbrook is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus.
Before you jump off of the OKC bandwagon, remember a few important things:
First of all, LeBron James led the 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. Only three other players from that team (Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Drew Gooden) are still in the NBA. All of the others didn't deserve to be in the first place. This could be Kevin Durant's chance to put the Thunder on his back just as LeBron did in Cleveland.
Second, the rest of the Western Conference isn't exactly healthy. Denver is without Danillo Gallinari, Golden State no longer has David Lee, the Lakers don't have Kobe and the Spurs haven't really been fully healthy in two years. Only the Clippers and Grizzlies are both at full strength and present a real threat to the Thunder.
Can the Thunder still win the Western Conference Without Russell Westbrook?
Speaking of the Clippers and Grizzlies, despite LA's 2-0 lead, they will likely beat each other up pretty badly in their series. Even without Westbrook, beating the Thunder after dealing with each other will prove a difficult task.
There's another important factor to consider as well. It sounds almost blasphemous, in fact, I feel stupid for even bringing it up, but are we sure the Thunder wouldn't be better off without Westbrook anyway?
Think about it, he completely monopolizes the ball. On most teams this would be fine, but Kevin Durant is his teammate. Now, without Westbrook, Durant will be able to control the team. He'll be able to shoot as much as he wants. Sure, it will make the OKC offense far more predictable, but until they reach Miami in the NBA Finals, I don't think there's a Western Conference team who can really exploit that.
Kevin Martin is a passable second scorer. Serge Ibaka can pick up a bigger load on offense. Kevin Durant will step up. It's not a perfect situation, but the Thunder are far from dead. Oklahoma City is still my pick to win the Western Conference. All this does is make Miami's road to a second straight championship that much easier.
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