In their first three games without Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 2-1, and lone superstar Russell Westbrook has been eating defenses alive.
The Los Angeles Lakers were the most recent recipient of Westbrook’s pent up aggression, and no one was stopping him on his home court. After a 33-point, 16-assist, 12-rebound performance, the Thunder walked off Chesapeake Energy Arena with the 113-96 over Russ’ hometown team.
That triple-double came just two days after he lit up the Phoenix Suns with a 51-point, 13-rebound, ten assist performance, and his per-game averages are just as ballooned as you’d expect: 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, 11.7 assists, with a slash line of 45.3/44.4/81.1. Are his voluminous numbers going to stay like that all season? Realistically, probably not. But this is Russell Westbrook we’re talking about.
He takes the court with a frightening demeanor about him; a ruthless killer that the NBA hadn’t seen since Kobe Bryant back in 2005-06 when he was still trying to show he could win without Shaquille O’Neal.
The narrative isn’t much different in Oklahoma City.
He’ll take whatever shot he deems best, and is still a beast in transition. The three-point shot is what’s taken his offense to another level, and Westbrook has connected on eight threes this year, two more than Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson combined.
One of my favorite stats is usage rate, and Westbrook’s sits at a cool 40.4 percent. He is the Thunder’s offense; there’s no question about it. He’s assisting on nearly 62 percent of all his possessions, and his turnover count is remarkably low for such a dynamic player. Westbrook has 35 assists to 14 giveaways, giving him an AST/TO ratio of 2.5:1, an interesting number for such a reckless player.
Victor Oladipo is still getting acclimated to the Westbrook-centric offense, but he buried three triples in seven attempts against the Lakers, and he can turn into one of Westbrook’s first options once the defense collapses on him.
Steven Adams and Enes Kanter will become more effective as the season progress, but both have looked good through the early part of the season–Adams especially. He’s getting more court action than ever, and he and Russ have the potential to develop into one of the NBA’s most lethal pick-and-roll combinations.
Where Westbrook is performing better than normal is defensively, and he’s risen to another level on that side of the ball.
He doesn’t have astronomical steal or block numbers, but he’s one of the most efficient defenders in the league despite his tremendous workload and lightning-quick pace. His defensive rating is the best it’s ever been at 95, and, according to NBA.com, opponents are shooting just 31.6 percent when guarded by the brodie.
Also, be sure to have this Thursday circled on your calendar as Durant and the Golden State Warriors match up against Westbrook for the first time this season.
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