Despite Success, Kevin Durant Should Leave OKC Thunder Because of Russell Westbrook


Source: (Hashtag Basketball - Brian Han)
Everyone seems to be enamored by the genuine bromance developing between Oklahoma City Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
 
These two have established themselves as one of the most memorable NBA duos in recent history.
 
 
On the one hand you have one of the most graceful seven-foot forwards gliding around the court who's wingspan and height allow him to shoot over any defender.
 
The 2014 MVP bounced back from an ominous foot injury that kept him out for most of the following year and erased any doubt about his future and subsequent value as a player.
 
Then there's Westbrook, one of the most enigmatic, yet aggressive point guards who just put up historic regular season stats that continue to draw comparisons to those of Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
 
In fact, the self-appointed "Brodie" racked up 18 triple doubles tying Magic for the most in a single season.
 
The Oklahoma City Thunder went 18-0 in those games.
 
So why in the world would you ever split these two up especially with their recent success?
 
The team displays some of their vulnerabilities in the most egregious ways.
 
Most recently, the Thunder suffered a 32-point blowout loss against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Conference Semi-Finals.
 
They couldn't figure out how to defend LaMarcus Aldridge in pick-and-roll situations and Aldridge couldn't miss.
 
If anything, it was bad luck mixed with a coaching staff's inability to adapt during the game.
 
But then there are moments like Game 3 where Westbrook shoots the Thunder out of the game. He went 10-for-31 from the field and committed crucial turnovers during crunch time. It was almost as if he sought out one-on-five challenges throughout the second half.
 
 
Even if we go back to the 2014 Conference Finals against the Spurs, we see the same thing. This time leading to a season-ending three-point attempt that had no business going in the basket.

 

 
That's a Brodie problem.
 
This isn't an isolated incident. For an eight-year veteran, there's not much of an excuse for that kind of play especially when you have an elite scoring threat like Durant at your disposal.
 
To Westbrook's credit, he took full responsibility for his performance and adjusted his approach. The Thunder went on to win their latest series 4-2.
 
To contrast, take Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry for example.
 
For a player who shattered shooting records -- most notably his own with 402 three-pointers during the 2015-16 regular season with baffling efficiency -- he still has no problem deferring shots to his teammates. On top of that, he doesn't need a horrendous performance to get himself back on the right path.
 
If teammate Klay Thompson finds a hot hand, expect Steph to pass it to him over and over on successive possessions. In fact, the Warriors backcourt is so selfless at times it almost becomes comical.
 
 
That's a teammate. That's something from which Durant -- or really any player -- could benefit greatly.
 
With Durant as the only "superstar" to hit free agency this offseason, it's something that he will heavily consider given his situation.
 
The 27-year-old is undoubtedly in the middle of his prime and on the verge of signing a blockbuster contract, but with the Thunder's ongoing postseason success, it becomes more likely that he will sign a a two-year deal with the Thunder containing a player option in the second year.
 
That means he can play another season alongside Westbrook leading up to a scenario where they both hit free agency at the same time. Secondly, the salary cap is expected to significantly increase in 2017, which means bigger contracts.
 
But Durant has yet win a championship and it's obvious that he wants one. Operating on that assumption, teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic who have lots of young talent and cap space are inevitably ruled out.
 
The league is currently top-heavy and leans hard toward the Western Conference, which is precisely where the majority of its true championship contenders reside.
 
If he's already there, the only direction is for him to move up. At the moment the only rung higher on the ladder than the Thunder are the Warriors who seem to be a very real destination for Durant.
 
Joining that squad and winning a championship might come with an asterisk on his legacy, but expect this upcoming Western Conference Finals series to play a critical role on his decision.
 
One last point. Westbrook's style of play relies almost solely on his aggressiveness and physicality. It's what allows him to be the best rebounding guard in the league.

 

 
He's certainly not immune to injury, although at times you have to wonder if he truly has some kind of invincibility code turned on.
 
The majority of his value on the court is a direct result of this particular characteristic. Time will catch up to him faster than most players.
 
If we've learned anything from watching Westbrook for the better part of a decade, it's that he gets so lost in the moment, it sometimes takes him a while to figure out how to make a more meaningful impact in the long run. Let's hope that doesn't bleed into the progression of his career.
 
Then again, if the Thunder happen to get a ring in 2016, all of Oklahoma City's free agent worries will disappear into thin air.
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