Let’s make one thing very clear before going any further: There’s no doubt Russell Westbrook cares more about winning than his stat line or the number of shots he gets. He’ll be one of the happiest people to have Kevin Durant back because of how much they struggled with Westbrook as scoring options one, two and three.
With that being said, Westbrook is going to have an interesting transition going back to sharing the offensive load with Durant and coming down from his league-leading usage rate of 38.4.
There was something right about Westbrook taking all of the shots for the Thunder last season. With all of the criticism he and the Thunder have received for Westbrook taking away shots from Durant, it must have been liberating for the electric point guard to throw moderation to the wind and shoot to his heart’s content, especially since the Thunder needed him so badly to produce offense.
Westbrook’s offensive game lends itself to taking a lot of shots, and last season was the ultimate showcase of how good he can be when he gets that high volume of looks. He showed he can be a team’s offense almost entirely by himself, and he nearly took a depleted roster to the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.
But as impressive as Westbrook’s season was last year, the Thunder are clearly better off with him and Durant sharing the bulk of the offensive load. The question is: Can Westbrook go back to being option 1A for the Thunder, or will he fall back into habits developed last season and shoot too often when he should be looking to get the ball to Durant?
The reason everyone gets on Westbrook’s shot selection is that, when healthy, Durant is one of the most efficient scorer’s in the league. Why would you want Westbrook shooting contested, pull-up jumpers when Durant is anywhere on the floor?
The answer is you usually don’t and that Westbrook should stop and find the more efficient shot elsewhere on the floor. However, part of what Westbrook brings to the table is that there are nights where those pull-up jumpers keep going in, and those games are really hard to lose.
The reality is this: Westbrook took questionable shots before Durant got hurt, and he’s going to continue to take them when he returns. There may be a period where Westbrook fails to adjust to Durant’s return and takes a lot of unnecessarily difficult shots, but this might not be the worst thing in the world considering the circumstances.
KD is coming off multiple foot surgeries, and the Thunder will surely want to ease him back into the lineup before he’s full-blown MVP Durant again. If there’s one thing the Thunder can’t afford next season, it’s the loss of any of their superstars. As fun as it was to watch Westbrook carry the Thunder last season, no one, especially Westbrook, wants to see Durant miss any more time. That duo needs to work well together for Oklahoma City to win a title.