No one, noting can hold back Russell Westbrook. That is a source of both joy and sometimes pain for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are probably the favorite to make it out of the West and into the NBA finals once again, but the fact that Kevin Durant, the top scorer in the NBA, is taking less shots than him, has to be worrying somebody.
This is the usual flack against Westbrook – He doesn’t defend well, he takes bad shots, he’s a selfish player. His numbers don’t really disprove that. While he is in the top 10 in assists with 7.6, he’s also in the top 10 in scoring with 23.3 points per game. The most amazing stat of all is that he averages more field goal attempts (18.8 per game) than Kevin Durant, the leading scorer in the NBA, this season and in the previous three (17.9 shots per game).
Kevin Durant sometimes seems to be the Devil’s biggest advocate. He keeps saying after games, good & bad for Westbrook, but especially those in which he took an enormous amount of shots (like his 27 attempts in the recent loss to San Antonio) how it’s OK for him and his team that Westbrook takes the scoring load away from him, and that he doesn’t mind it.
The problem isn’t a hurt ego or a team that steps away from its best scorer – there’s no contract that says that Durant or any top scorer should be the one taking most of the shots every game. Westbrook is one of the most athletic guys in the NBA and a very gifted scorer. It’s not out of the question for him to be attempting more from time to time.
But the entire season? The last time a player out-shot a scoring champion teammate was nearly 60 years ago. There’s a reason scoring champions shoot more, and it should be especially true for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who don’t run the kind of spacing, sharing, equal offense that might explain this kind of parity. There’s no real uniqueness to the way they play – they simply have young, fast, athletic and extremely talented players. The best option to score is almost always Kevin Durant.
Kendrick Perkins once spoke about Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook, comparing the similarities between the two, referring to their diva attitudes. What’s that? Someone who doesn’t really care about the criticism thrown at him, and actually thinks and behaves like he’s the best thing on the court, all the time. Confidence is good, but delusional can take you to the wrong places.
Russell Westbrook attempting a half court shot with 17 seconds left on the clock because he thinks he can draw a foul. Don’t think anyone in the NBA will even think about trying to pull something like this off. We’ve mentioned Westbrook with these lines a few times: Great players have short memories. Failures just disappear and fade away into the background. Nothing from shooting less than 40% from the field on some games, or taking bad jumper after bad jumper from mid-range, Westbrook’s weakness along with his concentration on defense, stays for the next game.
At some point, like it did in some games in the postseason, this hurts the Thunder. This carte blanche he’s given to run the offense without any chance of benching him or limiting him because of the way this team is run and because there isn’t a worthy backup for when he plays bad can sometime ruin a team’s chances to win games, especially at big moments. Maybe starting to work on no-point guard lineups, where Durant is the actual point-forward, is the answer to trying and get to Westbrook, somehow, a little bit, curbing his game towards the less selfish and potentially self-harming.