The Oklahoma City Thunder will be without Kevin Durant, last season’s MVP and scoring champion, until at least the end of November with a stress fracture in his right foot. That means Russell Westbrook will be tasked with carrying the team for the first month of the season, if not longer. We examine if he’s up to the task and what a Westbrook-led offense could look like for Oklahoma City.
Rare opportunity for Westbrook and Thunder
Russell Westbrook played 1,411 minutes in 46 games last season for the Thunder, but only 41 of those minutes came without Kevin Durant on the floor. If the sample size is expanded to cover the past two seasons, only 286 of Westbrook’s 4,273 minutes (6.6 percent) have come with Durant off the floor.
Furthermore, Durant played every minute for the Thunder in clutch time over the past two seasons, defined as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime with the score within five points. Westbrook has not played a single minute of clutch time without Durant since the 2010-11 season.
Better off without Westbrook?
Comparing how the Thunder performed with Durant and Westbrook off the court over the past three seasons, the Thunder were more efficient offensively and defensively without Westbrook than they were with Durant off the court.
Thunder Past 3 Seasons
With Notable Player Off Court
Over the past three seasons, the Thunder are 15.3 points per game worse with Durant off the court than they are with him on the court, but they are actually 3.1 points per game better with Westbrook off the court than they are with him on the court in that same time.
Westbrook’s game without Durant
Westbrook is definitely the focal point of the Thunder offense when Durant is not on the floor. Over the past two seasons, Westbrook has a 45.0 usage percentage and has averaged 30.7 field goal attempts per 40 minutes when playing without Durant.
If those numbers were Westbrook's numbers for an entire season, the 30.7 field goal attempts per 40 minutes would be the second-most in NBA history for a single season behind Wilt Chamberlain in 1961-62, while the 45.0 usage percentage would be easily the highest in NBA history. The current all-time high is Kobe Bryant’s 38.7 in 2005-06.ESPN Stats & Information
Westbrook has become more of an offensive focal point with Durant off the floor.
Westbrook and Thunder growing without Durant
Each season, without Durant, Westbrook has learned to take over even more. Westbrook's usage percentage, points per minute and field goal attempts per minute with Durant off the court have increased in each of the past four seasons.
Although Westbrook's usage percentage with Durant off the court seems like an astronomical number over the past few seasons, Westbrook has actually become more and more efficient without Durant and the Thunder offense has been more and more efficient with Westbrook on the court without Durant over the past four seasons. Westbrook’s scored 1.31 points per field goal attempt with Durant off the court last season, his highest without Durant in any of the past five seasons.