Are the Thunder Better off Without Russell Westbrook?
The Oklahoma City Thunder knotted up their Western Conference Finals series against the San Antonio Spurs at two games apiece with a 105-92 victory in Game 4 Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
OKC point guard Russell Westbrook had a stat line (40 points, 10 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals and 1 block) that only Michael Jordan could dream of having. In fact, he is the only other play to ever have such a game (40 points, 10 assists and 5 steals) in the history of the NBA playoffs.
So as we read, hear and watch the local and national media rave over how great of a performance Westbrook had in Game 4, we would be remiss if we didn’t entertain the thought that this is the exact reason why the Thunder are a better team without him in the lineup.
Game 4 was an aberration. Not because he dropped 40 points. He can do that on any given night. But rather because he dished 10 dimes that led to 23 of the Thunder’s points.
The Thunder do not need a guy who can score 40 points, they already have one.
They need a player who can dish out 12 or 13 assists on any given night, and with their current roster that is not a tall order.
The fifth-year player out of UCLA is having a monster playoffs thus far, slightly increasing his assist numbers while improving point totals from his regular season numbers by almost 5 points. All this while helping OKC claw out of a 2-0 deficit they found themselves in, thanks in part to Serge Ibaka’s calf injury and in part to the Spurs being the Spurs.
But if the Thunder had a pass-first point guard instead of a shoot-first-ask-questions-later one like what they have in Russell Westbrook, could this series already be over?
Moreover, would they be the ones attempting to win their second title in as many years, rather than the Miami Heat going for a three-peat?
Russell’s assist numbers are also a little skewed due to that fact that he is
playing with the best player on the planet in Kevin Durant. Out of his 10 assists last night, six of them were thanks to the 2014 scoring champion and NBA MVP.
Surely, any serviceable point guard can pile up the assist when they have a weapon like that at the 3.
There is no debating that Westbrook is a phenomenal scorer, but on a team with a litany of shooters and Mr. MVP himself, the Thunder are better off with a guy like Rajon Rondo who can facilitate an offense rather than Russell Westbrook, who was the only player to touch the ball in 19 plays last night.