It’s stating the obvious saying that the Oklahoma City Thunder are better off with Kevin Durant than without him. That’s not the point. The issue is how having Durant back in action takes the team out of the irresponsible hands of Russell Westbrook, and balances things out for a bit.
The Thunder won and the Thunder lost while Durant was out with Westbrook in charge of the team. But the basketball is so frivolous and has nothing to do with any planning or system, instead completely based on the kind of day Westbrook is having, it’s impossible to see the uber-talented point guard ever getting a team of his own to lead. It just wouldn’t make sense for someone thinking about the playoffs and championship building around a player who’d rather steal the show from everyone else and do it all on his own, unless you can find 11 guys who are OK with that.
Billy Donovan still doesn’t have control of this team. Maybe he never will. It’s the same iso systems and selfishness we got used to seeing from this team, that due to the talent of the two main stars of the show will lead to plenty of open looks for other players, but will always be about the kind of shooting day the both of them are having. And when it comes down to close games, especially when Westbrook tries to be involved as much as possible, it’s a liability, not an advantage.
Durant scored 27 points on an almost perfect shooting night in the 111-89 win over the inconsistent Utah Jazz as the Thunder win three out of four, hoping to start another winning streak like they had when the season began. The defense was on point this time, with Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka proving to be an impregnable wall of blocks in the paint, while Durant took advantage of bad passes and lack of concentration on the Jazz offense to come up with 4 steals. The defense is still trailing the days of Scott Brooks at his best.
If Donovan can somehow tame this team and especially Westbrook, this is a championship contender in the difficult West, even with the Warriors running away from everybody. But if we get to the playoffs and this is once again about whether or not Westbrook is hitting his crazy floaters and tough mid range jumpers or not while not falling asleep on defense, then the whole firing of a successful head coach like Brooks was for nothing, not to mention the rising chance of Durant bolting through free agency.