Blog Entry

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:34 pm
Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Should Oklahoma City trade Russell Westbrook?

We all heard it. Read it. Saw it. Someone even said it. Russell Westbrook needs to chill out.

For the Thunder, pretty much all of the 2011 postseason was focused on Westbrook and what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Pass more, dribble less, shoot less, give it to Durant, know your role -- and on and on. Despite all of that outside noise, the Thunder became the youngest team in 20 years to go to the conference finals and that was with the 23-year-old Westbrook leading them.

For most Thunder fans, they were all saying, “What’s the big deal? That’s just Russell Westbrook.” But it didn’t matter. When people saw box scores showing 30 attempts by Westbrook’s name and the fact he took six more shots than Durant, there wasn’t a person in the world that could calm down the harrumphing going about.

A lot of it became about Durant needing a so-called "true" point guard to play with, someone that would get him the ball and then get out of the way. And while all this Chris Paul is hot and heavy right now, some have been rumoring him to Oklahoma City for Westbrook for some time. The common thinking is that alongside a pass-first guy like Paul, Durant would flourish and rule the league as the first 100-point-per-game scorer ever. (Or something like that.)

It was even taken so far that Durant and Westbrook were feuding, which isn't true at all. Did they and do they continue to get frustrated with each other? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean they want a divorce. Consider this quote from Durant this summer:

“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”

Let's assume though, you’re Sam Presti (designer glasses and perfectly gelled hair and all). You just signed Westbrook to an extension the second a new CBA is signed. Dell Demps calls you. Chris Paul for Westbrook, straight up.

What do you do?

First instinct says to do it, right? Chris Paul with Kevin Durant and a supporting cast of James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison sounds like an incredible roster. It sounds like it because it is.

But that's why you're not Sam Presti. He wouldn't do it. Because it's not what's best for his roster in the present, nor in the future. Westbrook's younger, hasn't had a major injury and probably hasn't actually found his ceiling yet. But it's not just about age, it's also about fit.

Consider this: Via, the Thunder's offense actually improved more when Westbrook usage went up. Think about that. The more Westbrook inserted himself into the offense, the better OKC scored. And we're talking about a top five offense in both points per game and offensive efficiency.

Look at the numbers: Westbrook assisted Durant on more field goals made than any other player in the league (279, next closest is CP3 and David West with 212). The Thunder’s offense finished the season in the top five in both points per game and offensive efficiency, and was a top three unit the last couple weeks.

What made the Thunder turn the page offensively after Jeff Green was traded was three-fold: 1) Green and his horribly inefficient offensive ways were gone, 2) James Harden had a much bigger role and 3) Westbrook had a bit more leash.

The issue was never about Westbrook and Durant working together. It was about the structure and how things changed in a 7-game postseason series against a veteran team and good coach. Don’t you think Rick Carlisle had a gameplan prepared to stop the Thunder? And with seven games to figure it out, he was going to have something. The Mavs did their best to take away Durant and put all the pressure on Westbrook to make plays. Westbrook had to score. It was the only way the Thunder would crack 90.

What hurt Oklahoma City there was the fact that Westbrook often tried to do too much instead of taking a deep breath and that Durant had difficulty getting free of Shawn Marion for Westbrook to pass him the ball. In the series against the Mavs, OKC’s offensive rating dropped all the way to 78.2, which is horrible. But that was more about what the Mavericks did right, than the Thunder did wrong.

Dallas was prepared for that. Oklahoma City, all the way down to its coaching staff, was not. It’s something to learn from. And despite that, the Thunder were a couple blown fourth quarter leads away from having that series 3-2 in their favor and coming back to OKC. They weren't that far off, not by any stretch. 

Westbrook needs to improve in some areas. He knows it. Good thing he’s just, you know, 23 years old. At the rate he’s improved and transformed his game from year one to year three has been kind of incredible. He’s added a solid jumper, sees the floor much better, is under control more, passes the ball more authoritatively, actually understands offense and is capable of running one. Don’t forget: The Thunder won 55 games, the Northwest Division and was two fourth quarters away from playing for an NBA title. All with a team that features its top four players under the age of 25. The Thunder got to the Western Finals more because of Russell Westbrook, not in spite of him. People seem to forget that when they start playing with the Trade Machine.

The Thunder aren't just fine with Westbrook. They're actually better off with more of him.


Since: Feb 3, 2007
Posted on: December 5, 2011 8:47 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Durant didn't have a hard time getting free to get passes.  Westbrook wasted the shot clock dribbling the ball never looking to pass many possessions.  What series were you watching?  You make it sound like Durant was being doubled away from the ball.  He wasn't.  And no way is someone going to deny him getting the ball if his PG would have passed it more.

Since: Sep 20, 2006
Posted on: December 5, 2011 7:19 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

No offense, but Chris Paul doesn't want to build a winner in OKLAHOMA... He wants to be brought into a winner, in NYC, via the same route that took LeBron and Bosh to Miami to join Wade.

THAT should be considered by any sane GM entertaining thoughts of trading for Chris Paul.

Westbrook is a fine player. The Thunder doesn't need a better point guard, they need another scorer.  After Durant and Westbrook, who does any team have to fear, Harden, Perkins, Ibaka  ?? Give me a break.      

Since: Jul 26, 2008
Posted on: December 4, 2011 10:39 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

 Exciting to watch, but not even close to the PG needed to lead a team to an NBA Championship.

Which team are you the GM of? How many title teams have you put together? Fisher has rings, Stockton does not. Magic has rings, Nash does not. Basketball is a team sport. Execute the style of play that you are being asked to run, and hope that it leads to a title. Pretty basic facts, and a pretty simple idea. Some fail, some succeed. Making comments that deal in absolutes are usually biased opinions or shoot from the hip hack talk.

You never make the Westbrook for Paul trade. Not today, nor tomorrow. You know what you're getting with Paul. We still have a ceiling to reach with Russ. Both great players, but the pro and con list would favor the younger player of similar talent.

Since: Feb 28, 2008
Posted on: December 4, 2011 8:35 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

You have to do all that you can to keep elite talent like Westbrook. Westbrook makes Durrant a better player. I would take Westbrook over Paul anyday.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: December 4, 2011 5:51 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

I believe the Thunder coach is above average.  If our management knows how to work it, he won't have to go somewhere else (in order to not make the same mistakes twice).  If they can keep him "progressive" minded, he can be a super coach!  He's not there now, but close enough to see he has it.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: December 4, 2011 5:47 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Westbrook and Durant are non-tradables.  You do not trade your superstars, unless they are old or want out, period.

Westbrook is pure power and has an emotional edge that you need on a team.  Without Westbrook, OKC has no chance to win.

Since: Feb 6, 2011
Posted on: December 3, 2011 3:56 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

Of course NOT, people who have steak always want a better cut!!
If you think Westbrook is mincemeat then deal him to the Knicks!
You don't get to the NBA Championship with an inadequate  point guard.
The kid is young and needs a Real Coach - however, you can't Coach talent!
The Knicks will gladly take him off your hands for Billups, couple of picks and a bag of balls!

Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: December 3, 2011 3:44 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

nilbog44, if that was directed at me, I'll check in on you when the playoffs roll around. Westbrook, and the Thunder will be no closer to a title than you or me! LOL...

Since: Jun 23, 2010
Posted on: December 3, 2011 2:57 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

That's just plain idiotic. Thank god you aren't Sam Presti.

Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: December 3, 2011 2:26 pm

Pop Quiz: Would OKC be better without Westbrook?

The Thunder will NEVER..., that's right I said it! NEVER win a Championship with Westbrook playing PG. He's a shoot first point guard, and I can't think of a team that has won a championship with that style of PG running the show. PG's are supposed to be distributers, and Russell doean't excel at that. You have him, and the # 1 option taking a majority of the shots. That means the ball doean't move as much, and makes you easier to defend in my opinion. And Russell likes to shoot it. He's not doing it out of necessity like D Rose in Chicago. If Rose had an option like Durant on his team, you wouldn't see him taking 30 shots a game. He's the new Gilbert Arenas. Good player. Exciting to watch, but not even close to the PG needed to lead a team to an NBA Championship.

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