Oklahoma City Thunder: Future Is Bright But Team Is Average Without Russell Westbrook
The Oklahoma City Thunder started their season much like it is playing out right now. They were without Russell Westbrook and there were questions floating around about Kevin Durant‘s ability to win games while carrying the team on his back. It is a weight too heavy for any player to hold, especially in today’s league. Look at the landscape of the league. Teams like the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers have some great talent. It would be impossible for any young superstar player to take a team of even younger players and pull their team — by themselves — through the rough trails in the woods of the NBA, where the animals await to prey on the weak.
Weak is just what the Thunder are without Westbrook — face it. It is a hard pill to swallow but it is the truth. There will be night’s where they can come together and flow smoothly on both ends of the court, but there will be more occurrences of a team playing with no identity because they are without one of their leading players. Still, I do not think it is such a big deal because on most nights, Durant is still going to keep you close, but I think too many people forget that Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb are the two players tagged with filling in the void left by Westbrook’s injury.
These two players are in their second and third years in the league. They are still going through the learning curve and becoming comfortable with their new roles on the team — playing extended minutes in the Thunder’s rotation. If we revisit this in a few weeks, then we would probably have something good to talk about. Until then, the Thunder will need a little time to for adjustments.
Durant will try his best to carry the load, but recent losses to the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz show that only one player — no matter how good — can achieve the entire team’s goals by himself. With Westbrook, I have the Thunder as the best team in the entire league, no questions asked. I am very confident that they will be just fine and are still good enough to finish slightly above .500 without their All-Star guard. It would not be a surprise if he gets back on the court quicker than expected. He has been traveling with the team and has even been seen getting a little time in with the ball — great news for fans in Oklahoma City.
Before you get down and start to give up on this unit for now, stop and take a deep breath. This resilient group of phenomenal players will grow and learn on the fly if they have to. There is really nothing telling about the first week or two after a star player goes down. It is more about what the final project will look like. Knowing that Westbrook will return should be good enough reason for everyone to be at ease.