Shiny shirt theory: Westbrook to explode in absence of Durant

By Hal Conick

Russell-Westbrook

For all but 13 games of his NBA career, Russell Westbrook has had to hear that he isn’t passing the ball to Kevin Durant enough.

“KD’s the superstar and needs the ball in his hands to end games!” some shouted.

“Why isn’t Westbrook running the offense!?” those who are unfamiliar with Scott Brooks’ complete lack of offense may have wondered out loud.

“How can a guy who dresses like that think he can take that many dumb shots and get away with it??” people unfamiliar with high-fashion uttered.

To borrow a line from Westbrook; “WHAT? Bro what are you talkin’ about, man?”

Kevin Durant is an iron man. It may be very thin iron, but the man has only missed 16 games throughout his entire career thus far, 13 of those alongside Westbrook. Now, the Oklahoma City Thunder face six to eight weeks, perhaps INXS of 20 games, without a their incandescent superstar and reigning MVP. Durant has suffered a Jones fracture, the same injury Mo’Nique seemed to suffer in Busta Rhymes’ “Pass the Courvoisier 2” video.

Any other team may be doomed without their superstar. As a Chicago Bulls fan, I still recall the three-season-deep dread of being told our star player is hurt. However, the Thunder are going to be left with a bit more than shutdown D, Marquis Teague’s incompetence and Carlos Boozer’s angel voice.

Even with the departure of Thabo Sefolohsa, the man who clearly would have taken the extra shots from Durant, to the Atlanta Hawks, the presence of Westbrook means the Thunder will be A-OK.

Why is that? Because Russell Westbrook is a fucking monster. He’s the T-1000 in the form of a point guard. He’s mini-LeBron James if LeBron James decided that passing was for pussies. He’s the most gloriously violent offensive NBA player in the league, both to our senses and to the rim.

Let’s take a brief look at last year. Westbrook returned from a meniscus injury to post 21.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.9 steals in just more than 30 minutes per game. The 2013-14 season saw Westbrook (who some mistakenly and perhaps hilariously call “Westbrick” even though only his zaniest shots tend to ricochet off the rim or backboard at odd angles) post his best-ever Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 24.7. If he had played more qualifying games, this would have put him 7th in the league, just behind Carmelo Anthony’s 24.42 and ahead of Steph Curry’s 24.08.

As someone who died once told a superhero, “with great power comes great responsibility,” so there may be a drop in his efficiency as his usage rate climbs into the stratosphere this season. But let’s not get it pretzeled; Russ is no superhero. His responsibility will be what it usually is to start this year: wreak havoc. I’d compare his playing style less to a superhero and perhaps more to a supervillain. Hell, maybe even more to a very drunk biker gang member who has spent his 4th of July doing a lot of PCP. He doesn’t get discouraged easily and when he does, he’s just going to keep coming at you that much harder. Want to hit him? And one, likely on an insane dunk or circus shot that will leave him in the top 10 and you in the Not Top 10. In addition, he’s absolutely fearless and does not care what the clock says or what is supposed to happen in the flow of a game:

And let’s not forget, when he’s not slamming it with authority or throwing up clutch shots, he’s making buckets that really have no business going in, such as this:

The great unknown, as always with the Thunder, will be how often they will stagnate due to Scott Brook’s pure unwillingness to insert any kind of offensive sets… but Russell Westbrook serves as the code breaker in this system. Zone defense? Fuck you I’m throwing up a three. One on one? I’m going to muscle you into the paint for a dunk. Trap? I’m going to muscle through the both of you, take a hard foul and let Steven Adams and Kendrick Perhaps fight about who gets to punch your jaw loose.

We’ve debated for years about how many shots Westbrook should take. Should he have deferred to Harden more? Should he let Durant handle everything late in games? Those who ask these questions are likely used to Raymond Felton running the point for their team.

Westbrook is the first of a new breed. He’s a maniac with and without the ball who will do whatever it takes, even if there’s a fair chance it could mean embarrassing the ever-loving-shit out of himself, to win. Although the injury to Kevin Durant may seem like a curse (and Lil B fans may argue that it actually IS a curse), it could truly be a blessing for those who love to watch chaotic, fun and explosive basketball.

Can we get Russ’ usage up to 45 percent? Is he going to average more than 30 points a game? What the hell is that thing he’s wearing?

No more questions for you, bro.

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3 thoughts on “Shiny shirt theory: Westbrook to explode in absence of Durant

  1. I agree that Westbrook is a very underused player. There definitely is room for both KD and Westbrick (first time I’ve heard that and it’s hilarious). I mean there have been amazing big threes that were able to share the ball. So why not two? I just don’t think Westbrook has that kind of leadership to carry a team. Great article by the way.

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    1. I’m not sure if he can ever be the guy to carry it in full either, but I’m definitely excited to see how it works in the interim. Russ has never averaged more than 19.2 shots per game in any season… I at least want to see that average smashed for the first month or two of the year.

      Really wish Brooks would have just a few set plays that they pulled out in necessary moments. I feel like so much of their end-of-game offense relies on KD hitting an amazing shot or Westbrook making something happen that no one else can do. I can’t imagine that it’d be too hard to get Ibaka or Lamb to pop wide open after years of doing the same couple things over and over again.

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      1. Oklahoma is going to go through what the Miami Heat is facing. A good defense, but lack of depth and weak offense. It will definitely be interesting to see how the players step up.

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