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Regardless of Kevin Durant’s remarkable Game 3 performance, let’s not dismiss Russell Westbrook as an important cog in the machine of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He is, after all, one of the top 10 players in the NBA, and losing top-10 players tends to have an impact.
Without dousing you in the specific numbers, according to NBA.com/STATS, the Thunder have a better true shooting percentage, effective field-goal percentage, rebound percentage, assist percentage, turnover percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio and assist ratio with Westbrook on the court. They score seven more points per 100 possessions. They are quite simply a much better offense.
They have 34.3 percent of their shots come in the restricted area compared to just 30.6 percent when he's on the bench. Because of the kind of penetration Westbrook generates, the Thunder shoot better from the corner-three (44.9 percent to 41.1 percent) and above the break (37.2 percent to 33.2 percent.)
Westbrook's speed and ability to get to the rim provide the Thunder with more looks in the paint, and that in turn causes defenses to collapse on him when he breaks, issuing in a better three-point game for his kick. According to stats from STATS LLC (via Grantland), the Thunder score more than 1.2 points per play when Westbrook drives the ball, either through his shooting or scoring.
Surprisingly, he passes more than half the time he drives, a percentage which is above-average and contrary to his "shoot first" reputation. His teammates are more likely to hit their three pointers off of his passes.
It also makes the mid-range game far more effective. They shoot 43.3 percent to 37.0 percent. This is because the court is spread out with more scoring from inside the restricted area and outside of the three-point line.
The first game without their starting point guard bore this out. After a compelling start to the game, scoring 49 points in the first 15 minutes, the team overall floundered, shooting just .379. Durant did score a career-high 41, but he also scored a lot less efficiently, hitting just .433 from the field.
Durant may be able to successfully destroy the weaker defense of the younger Houston Rockets by just going Durantula on them, but will he be able to take on the Spurs single-handedly, or the Miami Heat? If he does, it will be one of the great postseasons in history.