In the NBA, this might be a consistently played-out scenario, but it shouldn’t be one that we crave. Sure, history tells us we can probably expect it, but that doesn’t mean it has to happen. The marriage doesn’t have to fail. Two spectacular young players can make it work, can be friends, can stay together.
Over the weekend, Kevin Durant did what was both necessary and not surprising: He confirmed to Yahoo! Sports that Russell Westbrook is the only point guard he wants. He doesn’t want to play with Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo or any of the league’s other great lead guards if it means giving up his boy.
“I don’t want any other point guard,” Durant said. “He’s perfect for us, the type of guy he is, the type of player he is, the type of teammate he is. We’re all competitive, especially me and him. We get the best of each other in practice every day, and we want to go at each other and make each other better. We are going to have disagreements. That’s what all good players on good teams do.”
The struggles Oklahoma City had in the playoffs – never mind that they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals with a core of players who were barely old enough to drink and hadn’t won a playoff series before last year – always came back to Westbrook. Because of his status as the team’s point guard, he inevitably got the blame when the Thunder struggled late in games to find shots. By definition, that is part of his job. But in the playoffs, in the NBA, who normally gets the fault when things don’t go well late in games? Not the point guard. The best player gets the criticism.
Was some of it Westbrook’s fault? Of course. He deserves a lot of the blame. Too often, it dissolved into Westbrook dribbling 14 seconds off the shot clock before taking an all-too predictable pull-up. But are we really shifting blame from the team’s best player to the second best? Durant was just as much at fault for not getting open or allowing more physical players to push him where they wanted him. Both players struggled late, and that’s a product of youth rather than some fantasy quest for locker room power.
Outside of Westbrook, the five best point guards in the league look something like this (in no order):
Would you trade Westbrook for any of these guys? Nash is too old. Way too old. So you can count him out right away. A Paul-for-Westbrook swap has been thrown around the Internet at times. To start, it’s still a question whether Paul would even sign there long-term. He’s also 26 and is coming off a 2010 season where he missed close to 40 games and last season where he didn’t look at all like himself for six months before dismembering Derek Fisher in the playoffs. For the last two-to-three seasons, CP has been a “top 5 in the L” PG instead of “all-time” PG. Westbrook also made the All-NBA Second Team ahead of him last year. No one remembers that.
Rondo would feed Durant consistently. But late in games, what would happen? The Thunder crutch is having just three guys who can do anything offensively (KD, James Harden & Westbrook). Now you’re going to get rid of one for a player who’s very limited in the last five minutes of a game? That doesn’t make sense. They’d be even more predictable late in games.
Williams is a beast, but he’s also going to be turning 28 next June. And Westbrook gets compared to Rose so often that it’s almost like they’re twins. So how would Rose play any differently?
This is not to say these trades are even being talked about. It’s only doing what KD has done: showing Westbrook fits. There’s no way Sam Presti and the rest of the OKC front office is going to give up on Westbrook. It’s just not going to happen.
Durant says there’s no better fit than Westbrook on that team. Right now, I agree. He can defend. He’s athletic. He can score in any situation. He can get his own shot and distribute. He’s a killer. And of all the point guards I mentioned – the very best in the world – Westbrook is the youngest one.
Do you agree with Durant?
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