In March of this year, I wrote a piece titled “The Conundrum Known as Russell Westbrook.” In this piece I touched on the up’s and down’s of Russ and how frustratingly good he is. At the end of my piece, I touched on how there were times when watching him and his former teammate Kevin Durant gel together was one of the most exciting things ever, and how at times, it was nowhere near the perfect 1-2 punch. Despite my hesitance, I decided that I would hold on to my Russellmania membership card for the remainder of the season. With his free agency just a year away and Durant’s departure, it looks like I’ll be renewing my membership for the 2016-2017 season.
Let’s look at some numbers…
2014-2015 regular season (67 games played, 34.4 minutes per game)
Stats: 28.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Shooting splits: .426/.299/.835
2015-2016 regular season (80 games played, 34.4 minutes per game)
Stats: 23.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 10.4 APG, 2.0 SPG
Shooting splits: .454/.296/.812
2016 playoffs (18 games, 37.4 minutes per game)
Stats: 26.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 11 APG, 2.6 SPG
Shooting splits: .405/.324/.829
These numbers are clear evidence that Russell Westbrook is an all-around player that can stuff the stat sheet on a daily basis, but there are questions being raised if OKC can even make the playoffs next April.
During the 2014-15 regular season the Oklahoma City Thunder went 45-37, and due to the tiebreaker rule with the New Orleans Pelicans, they were eliminated when the Pellies won their last game of the season playing agsinst the San Antonio Spurs.
This shot at the buzzer gave New Orleans a 2-1 record versus Oklahoma City. Since both teams finished with 45 wins on the last night of the regular season, the Thunder were dropped to the ninth seed. There’s the tiebreaker rule. Russ missed 15 games, Ibaka missed 18, and Durant had three foot surgeries in the span of six to seven months that cost him 57 games. It’s clear that had OKC’s core been a bit more healthy, they make the playoffs back in 2015.
Who will help Russell Westbrook fill the void left by KD and Ibaka?https://t.co/NfdVuGYghU
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 20, 2016
Things will be much different this time around. Losing Durant and Ibaka means that the Thunder have lost their main scoring weapon and a stretch four that doubles as a shot blocker. Victor Oladipo, the rookie Domantas Sabonis, and Ersan Ilyasova are, at best, solid pieces to have, but it’s clear that the Thunder are no longer title contenders.
Should the young age of the Thunder’s roster be an optimistic view of the future in OKC for Russell Westbrook? pic.twitter.com/O3EnFFL4kx
— Per Sources Sports (@PerSources14) July 18, 2016
It’s unclear if the Thunder will be able to re-sign Westbrook for a couple reasons. The main core may be young, but for the most part are one dimensional. Victor Oladipo is an athletic slasher that plays solid defense, but his improving jumper is inconsistent. Andre Roberson is an offensive liability who is on the floor solely for guarding perimeter players. Steven Adams is a great rebounder and solid defender, but he has little presence on the offensive side. Enes Kanter is a great offensive weapon with his jump shot and post play. He even won OKC a playoff game! He is a real hole in any team’s defense and even more so for OKC with Serge’s departure. Cameron Payne had a couple solid moments and is a great dance partner with Russ, but he’s still a prospect at this point.
With how KD left, no one will blame Russell if he leaves Oklahoma in search of greener pastures, especially since Durant unexpectedly chose Golden State of all places. NBA fans would support Russ since Durant left his close friend and teammate. Consider it a get out of jail free card. Also, there’s a question of who would they get in free agency anyway? Apparently, the Thunder want to re-sign Russ, and then get the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin during free agency. Blake is from Oklahoma, but how much does that matter anymore. Durant was from DC, and the Wizards didn’t get a meeting with him, because they weren’t a viable destination. I doubt Blake will have actual interest in going to a team that would be just as good as the Clippers are now.
There were also talks about a Westbrook to Boston trade, but there’s no guarantee he re-signs with the Celtics. I have no idea what OKC’s management will do from here, but they’ll have to tread lightly or else they’ll become a lottery team.
Next season, the Thunder are in for a tough 82 games with their new roster. With that said, I’m excited about my Russellmania membership. Now that he’s the only superstar, imagine the numbers we’ll see every night. He could throw up a 50-15-15 vs the Sixers in a win, and we’ll forget that the Thunder won in overtime, because Russ was spectacular. Here’s to another year of Russellmania.