This summer Kevin Durant stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder and left the franchise behind to join bright eyed Steph Curry and Co. With the addition of Durant, the Golden State Warriors boast a lineup of 4 all stars in Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Curry and KD. The acquisition spurned Thunder fans and raised eyebrows across the league. Durant’s decision won’t live on in the same infamy as LeBron’s: The Decision, but it will certainly reshape the landscape of the NBA for years to come.
With the departure of Kevin Durant, the Thunder are handing over the franchise’s keys to Russell Westbrook.
That’s right, no more spare key for Russ.
Westbrook has long been capable of running his own team, but when you play with Kevin Durant, you’re going to be the number two (with the exception of LeBron James and maybe Steph Curry). Durant and Westbrook formed a formidable duo for years, and it’s sad to see them split without reaching their ultimate goal of winning a championship. Durant has LeBron James to thank for that, perhaps that’s why him and Curry decided to team up. While those two ready themselves for a run to the Finals in San Francisco, Westbrook waits in Oklahoma City, poised to set the league on fire.
Westbrook is an absolute monster, playing with a reckless abandon not found in mortal men. The Thunder star spent the 2016 season stuffing stat sheets, and ended the year with averages of 23.5 ppg, 7.8 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game. Boasting 18 triple doubles, Westbrook was hardly a second fiddle. In wake of Durant’s decision, the Thunder brass made the obvious move and doubled down on Westbrook. With an impending free agency, Russ was priority number one and Thunder management were quick to seek an extension. Trade rumors swirled and many thought that it was only a matter of time until Westbrook was dealt, leaving the Thunder to completely rebuild. Much to the delight of Thunder fans, Westbrook agreed upon a 3-year, $85 million contract, firmly placing him as the unquestioned team Alpha.
As the 2016-2017 season approaches, Las Vegas has established Westbrook as the frontrunner to win the MVP award, and rightly so. Westbrook leads the Thunder and the league alike with his unmatched combination of speed and strength, playmaking and scoring abilities, and a fearlessness only matched by the great Kobe Bryant. Westbrook put up historic numbers last year and his 18 triple doubles is rivaled only by Magic Johnson. Durant averaged just over 19 attempts per game in his last campaign, and a majority of those shots will now be going to Westbrook. This only guarantees a surge in his offensive production as the primary scorer for the Thunder.
Throughout his career, Westbrook has been criticized for his isolated style of play, often ignoring Kevin Durant in favor of well contested shots. There has also been talk about his assist numbers, some claiming Westbrook is a selfish passer and only gives up the rock when it’s convenient or to stuff his assist column. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Westbrook is an all-around player who gives maximum effort on a nightly basis. You don’t average over 10 assists a game by playing selfish ball. With a ferocious will to win, Russell Westbrook is the embodiment of determination.
The Thunder traded away Serge Ibaka and in return got an athletic and fairly under-rated starter in Victor Oladipo. The addition bolstered OKC’s guard position and cemented them as one of the premier backcourts in the league. Steven Adams continues to expand his skills, quickly becoming a legit defender and perhaps the steal of his draft class. Along with Enes Kanter, the Thunder have a solid team and Westbrook looks to lead them deep in the playoffs.
Westbrook has all of the tools that it takes to lead a team, his averages of 28 ppg, 7.1 rebounds, and 8.4 assists per game without Kevin Durant prove that. He has a huge chip on his shoulder and seems determined to prove he’s all the Thunder need. It’s hard to picture him playing any angrier than he already does, but just imagine the ferocity he is going to bring when his team faces off against the Dubs this year. All signs are pointing toward Westbrook taking over the league this season, and he seems ready; poised to set the league on fire.