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I tried. I tried really hard not to state the obvious. I didn't want to put these two No. 1; I wanted to surprise you.
Russell Westbrook is no longer one of the league's best-kept secrets, as he was recently selected to his first All-Star Game. And Kevin Durant is probably going to end up winning a second-consecutive scoring title when the season concludes.
Whether or not Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder are "up-and-coming" or established is up for debate, but the KD-Westbrook duo can't be ignored in a list of the league's best young tandems. Still both 22, they have a ways to go before they reach their true potential, which should worry everybody else in the NBA.
Durant is dirty. Disgusting. Filthy. He needs a shower, because his game is stankin'. And I mean these things in the best possible way: Durant has the best offensive game in the NBA.
When he's firing on all cylinders, there isn't a player in the world capable of stopping him. It's unfair, really; a 6'10" player shouldn't be able to score in such a dominant manner. And yet he does (I was actually kind of surprised to find out that his career three point percentage is only .358, but when a player shoots as often as Durant, high percentages are harder to obtain).
He's fast enough to beat his defenders off the dribble, athletic enough to finish what he starts and a good rebounder (although, to be fair, he should be putting up 10+ boards a night).
It'd all be a moot point, though, if Westbrook wasn't on the team. And this is coming from a guy who thought Russ was overrated at UCLA; I openly questioned his selection as the No. 4 overall pick in '08.
I get it now, though. I really do.
Westbrook has improved his game noticeably every season, to the point where you can't have a discussion about the best PG's in the game without mentioning his name. Currently averaging 22.5 points, 8.6 assists, 5.1 rebounds (as a freakin' point guard) and 1.8 steals per game, Russ cemented his legitimacy when, earlier in the season, he had to carry the Durant-less Thunder for a few games.
Westbrook led the Thunder to a 3-1 record in the games KD didn't suit up for. One of those wins came against Boston. Very legitimate.
What's great about the tandem is that, while Durant is relatively one-dimensional (he's great at scoring, but simply good—mediocre, even—in most other aspects of the game), Westbrook's game has everything you'd ask for out of a point guard, and then some.
He might be the fastest player in the league, meaning he can disrupt half-court sets and wreak havoc in transition. His athleticism speaks for itself. At 6'3", he's relatively tall for a point guard, and he finds his teammates often. His assist/turnover ratio is over 2, which is what you'd want from somebody handling the ball as much as Westbrook does.
I honestly think I'd rather have Russell Westbrook on my team than Kevin Durant. At the very least, it's a discussion worth having, which speaks volumes about how truly great the Thunder's young duo is.
So, yeah. I'm putting KD-Westbrook as No. 1.
It isn't even debatable, really. The Thunder have the best young duo in the league, and should begin reaping the benefits soon.
I just feel bad for Seattle.