When one thinks of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team that has worked its way into the conscience of every NBA fan with explosive offense and unmatched athleticism, the first player to come to mind is probably Kevin Durant. The league's leading scorer, averaging 28.5 points per game, Durant is an unstoppable force in the paint, on the perimeter and literally anywhere on the court. The man cannot, will not be contained.
But it's Russell Westbrook, the team's starting point guard who provides the spark for this young team. Typically, point guards are grouped into two categories: playmakers like Rajon Rondo or Steve Nash, who prefer to create a shot for a teammate rather than attempt one themselves and shooting point guards like Deron Williams or Derrick Rose, who, while they are proficient at finding open players, prefer to take shots themselves. Both styles of play have their merit and provide different benefits to a team. But Westbrook is invaluable because he's the perfect harmony of both styles of ball.
Averaging 22.4 PPG to go with 8.4 assists and nearly a pair of steals, Westbrook is at home either drawing out defenders to find a cutting Durant or Ibaka under the basket or splitting his opponent's defense and getting to the rim himself. Anyone who watched last Monday's game, pitting the Thunder against the two-time reigning champion Lakers, saw that even a top-tier team like Los Angeles had no answer for Westbrook in transition. He scored at will on fast breaks and backed up his impressive 86 free throw percentage by making 8 of 11 at the stripe. Granted, he missed his two three-pointer attempts and wasn't insanely efficient, going 12 for 23 in field goals, but Westbrook, who finished the game with 32 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds and a pair of steals, put the team on his back and helped to keep them in a game that saw the Lakers up by as many as 15 in the third quarter.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in a tie with the Utah Jazz for first in the Northwest Division with both teams having a stellar 27-14 record at the midway point of the season. And it's safe to say that with Westbrook's incredible versatility and Kevin Durant's scoring ease, the Thunder are poised to make a huge run in this year's post-season.