A broken bone at the base of the small toe will keep Kevin Durant out for at least the first month of the regular season, which means that the Oklahoma City Thunder now turn to Russell Westbrook to be their number one scoring option – an exciting and scary thought all at once.
It’s hard to imagine Westbrook playing without Durant by his side because Durant has been pretty much on the floor all the time since entering the league. He has played more minutes than anyone in the NBA since 2007, missing only 16 games in his seven seasons. Except for his rookie season, he’s been averaging at least 38.5 minutes a night during the regular season and at least 42 minutes a night in the playoffs over their last four visits to the postseason.
Last season Westbrook had a total of 41 minutes without Durant on the floor. How much did he shoot? He took 35(!!!) shots in that time, making only 13 of them (37%). That probably means that Westbrook is planning on taking 30 shots a night while Durant is out. There’s pretty much an agreement that the best way for the Thunder to win is for Kevin Durant to shoot as much as possible. That should be the same in theory with Westbrook, but he generates a different reaction in the media and among fans.
The Durant injury, which should keep him out for at least six weeks and possibly longer than eight, isn’t something that just happened. It developed over time, and got worse the more he played on it. It gives us some perspective on his decision to leave the Team USA camp just before the beginning of the Basketball World Championship. It might not have been the classiest of moves and could have been handled better in term of timing, but Durant’s body needed rest, just like he said.
According to Kevin Pelton on ESPN Durant is going to miss somewhere between 15 and 20 games due to this injury. His magic numbers tell him that it should cost the Thunder two wins compared to what they would have with Durant on the court, but it could help Westbrook get a bit closer to the top of the scoring charts in the league, at least for the first month, and it might mean a lock for LeBron James when it comes to the MVP award.
No Durant means that someone needs to fill in that slot. Thabo Sefolosha could play that role, but he’s gone. Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb will most likely be the ones getting the biggest boost in minutes, while Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka will be looked upon to improve their scoring production. Unlike Westbrook’s injury last year, in no way does Durant’s absence make the Oklahoma City Thunder any better.