By Yusuf Gadlin
With the reigning MVP Kevin Durant sidelined for 6 to 8 weeks, the Oklahoma City Thunder will now turn to Russell Westbrook to lead them in the trenches of the fully loaded NBA Western Conference. This without a doubt is an opportunity that Russell Westbrook will savor and show the world just how dominant the fiery guard is. Last year Westbrook averaged 24 points and seven assists, you should expect these numbers to go through the roof with Kevin Durant out of action until Christmas.
But the question here is will these inflated numbers lead to wins for the Oklahoma City Thunder?
The NBA superstars have a new supporting cast which features veteran sharpshooter Anthony Morrow; an unproven athletic forward in Andre Roberson; and an inconsistent third year guard in Jeremy Lamb. Together those three players average 22.1 points last year, a full 10 points less than Kevin Durant who led the league in scoring with 32 points this past year.
This could be a ugly start for the Thunder who face 11 playoff teams from the Western Conference somewhere in their first 20 games this season. But here is where things become intriguing for the Thunder: Their organization will now see what a Russell Westbrook led franchise looks like for a small sample of their possible reality with Kevin Durant free agency looming in 2016.
Personally I expect Russell Westbrook to show up and show the hell out. Ripping every point guard to shreds that stands in his way; forcing Anthony Morrow, Andre Roberson, and Jeremy Lamb to get in where they fit in. Basically Westbrook will showcase the mentality of “just be ready to shoot, when I pass you the goddamn ball!”
I mean realistically speaking that’s as far as those players’ development goes during Kevin Durant’s absence, and when he returns. The key for those three players will be on the defensive end, and offensively catch and shoot. You should expect a lot of pick and roll action with defensive ace Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. To me this the only real development that matters.
Ibaka averaged 15 points a game last year and is the third cog to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. With Durant out, his game has to go to another level, it just has too! If Westbrook can develop that pick and roll with Ibaka It will take loads of pressure and stress off Durant during the season and during the grueling NBA playoffs.
This is truly Russell Westbrook moment of greatness. Russell Westbrook won’t let this opportunity slip through his hands. He will try to convince the world of his greatness and add credence to the best point guard title handed to him by his coach Scott Brooks. This is more than holding the fort down till Kevin Durant return. This is Westbrook establishing himself as the unquestioned leader of Thunder franchise, and forcing Kevin Durant to be his sidekick during the 2015 season. My prediction for the first 20 games of the season are the Thunder going 10-10. But I also see this season as one filled with adversity for The Thunder as the city continues and expects a NBA championship this year, anything less is a complete failure. In the end Kevin Durant needs Russell Westbrook and Russell Westbrook needs Kevin Durant.
I think Russell Westbrook will see just how much he needs Kevin Durant to be a champion and makes the necessary sacrifices to his game. Until Kevin Durant returns, all oppositions should get ready to be at the mercy of the hot headed, angry, passionate, misunderstood, and highly skilled Russell Westbrook.