ESPN ranked the top point guards in the NBA a few weeks ago, with a sub-category of an MVP discussion, which spawned a lengthy rant-and-rave among the best basketball minds (sitting in my 10 foot radius) of our time about Russell Westbrook’s worth to OKC and weather or not the door is closing on the Thunder’s possibility of a championship.
First, let me preface this entire mouth-word-vomit by saying I’ve completely bought in to the “Russell Westbrook Experience” in Oklahoma City. Like the ugly broken horse on a carousel that never ends, I’ve come full circle on Russ. Three years ago, you couldn’t TELL me anything about Westbrook’s game that I didn’t have a negative rebuttal for:
- “He’s the most athletic guard in the league” – His shot selection is ridiculous and borderline criminal.
- “He’s got that killer instinct and will win you games” – He’s more out of control than a drunken cheetah chasing a herd of gazelles, and he constantly let’s his emotions get the best of him.
- “No one in the league can guard him” – If I see him look-off Durant and shoot an ill-advised pull-up 18 footer one more time……….
The point is, in the last 3-4 years Westbrook has finally figured out how to play WITH Durant and still be able to dominate the game WITHOUT necessarily dominating the ball. Because of this learning curve that Westbrook has finally mastered, the Durant/Westbrook combo is the most unguardable 2-man game in the entire NBA (as Warrior fans scream Splash Brothers?). I’m not saying Westbrook is perfect by any means, but he’s a Walter White to Heisenberg character transition compared to what he was 5 seasons ago.
But how could Westbrook’s emergence as a 2015 NBA MVP candidate (yet OKC isn’t in the playoffs) mean that OKC’s window is closing on a possible championship? I’m posing the question, NOT attempting to answer it yet, so let’s examine………shall we?
- The most glaring problem with OKC is that they can’t seem to ever stay completely healthy all at the same time. Doesn’t it SEEM like the dynamic duo of Durant and Westbrook haven’t played an entire season with each other without injuries in a couple years? It’s actually been since 2012-13 that they both played over 75 games together. In fact they’ve only played over 90% of a full season together 4 times in their 7 year existence together. Having said that, they HAVE been healthy together in the playoffs 4 out of the last 5 appearances.
- Westbrook REALLY, REALLY wants to be the one and only top dog on a contending team. Whether or not he’ll ever admit it (he won’t), I think it’s obvious he wants to be THE go-to-guy all the time no matter what, similar to James Harden, who left town in 2012-13. The proof is in the pudding this season especially, without Durant this year he put on a show of triple-doubles, racking up 11 total for the season with a streak of 4 strait games of triple doubles that even Ice Cube would admit was amazing. It felt like a giant Pedro Cerrano-type EFF YOU from Westbrook to the whole league, “EFF YOU JOBU, I’ll do it myself!”
- The Thunder’s depth and bench play are a problem for them to contend with the likes of the Western Conference. In Bench Efficiency, OKC ranks 12th overall in the league, BUT they’re behind the Spurs, Lakers, Warriors, Mavs, Grizzlies and Trailblazers; all teams they’ll be fighting with on a daily basis.
- The Thunder have a handful of young, but yet-to-figure-it-out role players that show very good upsides: Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow, Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb. BUT, the first three names are all basically the same player at basically the same efficiency level (6’10”-7’0″ guys who are super RAW). As are the last three names (6’5″-6’9″ guys who are super RAW), at the moment they are small-time contributors that are ultimately just weighing OKC down in the short term until they actually develop. Dion Waters is the only somewhat consistent offensive player, but he doesn’t want anything to do with playing defense and is prone to jacking up terrible shots after dribbling the shot clock down below 5 seconds. The Thunder are about 10 minutes away from tearing the club up, but it feels like a midget is hangin from their necklace. It’s hard to dance with a midget hangin from your neck, even if it is 24-K Gold.
The 2015 NBA Playoffs have opened in exciting fashion, well at least the Western Conference games have been exciting……not sure what I’m watching in that other conference. Seriously, the Boston vs. Cleveland, Chicago vs. Milwaukee and Atlanta vs. Brooklyn series are the pre-party before the dinner party before the real party, while Toronto vs. Washington is a complete snooze-fest with less scoring than a quadriplegic ice hockey game.
But the one key ingredient missing this playoff season is the OKC Thunder’s presence, maybe we’ve just been spoiled getting to see them be a thorn in the side of the perennial Western Conference top guns for the last 5 seasons while Westbrook and Durant become more and more unguardable. But Durant and Westbrook aren’t the only one’s who are pissed off about their absence from the playoffs, I’m stuck here watching the Uni-brow try and one-man-show his Pelicans towards an underdog “here’s a ribbon for participation” award against Steph “MVP” Curry’s Warriors. It’s fun, but going nowhere.
OKC is looking at a possible overhaul in the off-season to try and make Durant and Westbrook happy, and I can’t wait to see what happens. I think we all wanna see another Thunder vs. Lebron’s Current Team NBA championship again.