The Oklahoma City Thunder have the enviable luxury of having two of the best basketball players in the world on their roster. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are the most dominant combo to grace the NBA since Shaquillle O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in the early 2000’s. This combo has their Thunder The duo of Westbrook and Durant have been to an NBA Finals, but have yet to taste the sweet victory of winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The lack of rings has led to heated debates on whether the duo should split and which one of these players in truly the alpha dog on the roster.
Both of these players could be the go-to option on just about every other team in the NBA. But for now, both Durant and Westbrook have to deal with one another each wanting to get theirs.
Durant is easily the better all around scorer of the duo. He’s got an MVP to his name and is a serious candidate to take home the award again, as he’s enjoying another spectacular season. On the year, Durant is averaging 27.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists. His scoring numbers are even more impressive when you take into account that he’s shooting 50% from the field, 90% from the line and 38% from three point range, which leads to a 28.2 Player Efficiency Rating.
But Durant isn’t just all offense. He’s a good, yet underrated defender on the wing. His defensive numbers may not be all that impressive (.96 steals per game, 1.19 blocks per game) but there are just some things that numbers can’t measure.
The Slim Reaper has always been clutch down the stretch, hitting multiple game winners in his career, including an absolutely icy three pointer against the Magic earlier this season.
But one of the knocks on Durant is that he sometimes seem to defer as the true emotional leader on his team. That award goes to Westbrook more times than not. When the ball isn’t in his hands, Durant sometimes just watches the play happen, instead of trying to get involved and be a difference maker on the court. But when it’s crunch time, Durant has shown the ability to be clutch, which I believe is an actual ability, instead of just blind luck.
As for Westbrook, he’s enjoying what might be his best NBA season to date. Westbrook is averaging 24 points a game, with 10.2 assists and 7.2 rebounds a game. His rebounding numbers are astonishing for a point guard, but not really a surprise with Westbrook, who always seems to find his way to the basketball, no matter where it is on the court.
Westbrook is second in the Association in triple-doubles with eight, trailing on Draymond Green who has 11. Westbrook has the more all-around game than Durant, which leads to a PER rating of 28.9, but his shooting numbers aren’t the greatest.
Shooting has never been much of a shooter in his career, and this season he’s shooting just 29% from downtown, but is shooting an impressive 83% from the foul line. Russ’ game is slashing and getting to the basket, which either gets him fouled or he gets to throw down sick dunks like the one below.
Russell is easily the most exciting player in the league to watch. He plays with such a desire to win that is just about unmatched. There’s a legitimate argument that he’s the best point guard in the game, even better than Curry.
Like Durant, Westbrook is a plus defender, except Russell’s numbers show up in the stat sheet. Westbrook is a menace when his man has the ball and averages 2.3 steals per game.
When in big names, Westbrook seems to play at his best. He takes over games for long stretches of time, whether or not Durant is on the court. He’s the emotional leader on the team and the Thunder feed off of his energy game in and game out.
The Thunder will have some serious decisions to make in the next two off seasons. Kevin Durant is a free agent, and the rumors surrounding him are already flying. Next offseason, Westbrook is a free agent, which could mean the duo could split. But if the Thunder can only choose one, they should choose Westbrook.
He makes his teammates better around him and can run an offense. The NBA is a point guard driven league, and having an elite guard just about guarantees a shot at the playoffs. The Thunder have Cameron Payne waiting in the wings, but he and Westbrook could play against each other in a pinch. Teammates feed off Russell’s energy and play harder with him on the court. He can do anything he wants on the court at any moment, he just has that ability. He’s a legit MVP candidate, and should be the Thunder’s choice if it comes down to a me or him situation in Oklahoma City.
Cover Photo via RotoWriters
Gifs via UpRoxx.com and CBSSports