Russell Westbrook Could Have an All-Time Great Season Without Kevin Durant
While most of the attention has been put on how great of a lineup the Golden State Warriors will have, it could be Russell Westbrook who has a season for the record books.
Westbrook Without Durant
Even with Durant on his team, Westbrook already boasted one of the highest usage rates in the league at 33.1 percent last season. For the season, that number jumped to an insane 39.0 with Durant off of the floor last year. If he were to maintain that for an entire season, that would give Westbrook the highest usage rate of all-time, surpassing the 38.7 percent usage rate Kobe Bryant put up in the 2005-06 season.
The 2014-15 Thunder team is a great litmus test for how great Westbrook can be, as Durant was limited to just 27 games that year due to injury. In that season, Westbrook had the second-highest usage rate of all-time at 38.3 while positing 28.1 points, 8.6 assists, and 7.3 rebounds per game.
The biggest change from that team will be the loss of Serge Ibaka while bringing in Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis from the Orlando Magic. What this could do for Westbrook’s stat line is huge, as Ibaka had a 11.5% rebound rate last season. Assuming Westbrook bumps his rebounding up from the 12.4% it was last season, it would not be a surprise to see him flirt with double figures in rebounds. However, if Enes Kanter and his fifth-ranked 21.0% rebounding rate sees more minutes with Westbrook, the rebounds might not see a significant boost.
Although rebounding could be easier for Westbrook if Kanter remains on the second unit, the loss of Durant and Ibaka, who had true shooting percentages of 63.0% and 53.2%, respectively, will hurt not only his assist numbers but will also continue to force defenders to himself.
Westbrook's assist numbers could rely heavily on whether or not Oladipo can continue to boost his three-point percentage and improve upon his inefficient catch-and-shoot numbers from last season. But Westbrook seems ready to work with Oladipo.
Victor Oladipo said Russell Westbrook reached out to him five minutes after the trade and asked: "Are you ready?" pic.twitter.com/KLQ2WZDpUP
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) July 2, 2016
Proving He Is a Franchise Player
A few years ago, it would be unheard of that a team featuring James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka would be left with just Westbrook. However, now is the time that Westbrook will have to prove to the rest of the NBA that he is truly a franchise player and not just a stat hound.
The biggest downfall to Westbrook’s game this upcoming season is likely to be his loss of efficiency and propensity to turn the ball over. For his career, Westbrook is only a 46.1% shooter from the floor, but his effective field goal percentage hit a career high this past season at a solid 48.9%. For example, in his remarkable season without Durant, that number dropped to a pedestrian 45.5%.
Along with a lack of good shooting, he also turns the ball over at a fairly alarming rate and topped out at 4.4 turnovers per game in 2014-2015 (a 14.3% rate) and jumped to 16.8% this season even with Durant. Assuming his usage rate spikes as expected and the opposing defenses adjust, Westbrook is likely to have a career-high turnover rate and turnovers themselves.
What It All Means
The only player in NBA history to average a triple-double in a full season was Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season. There almost certainly has to be a part of Russell Westbrook that thinks he can carry a team and put up only the second season averaging a triple-double.
Add into the fact that he is going into his first shot at unrestricted free agency, Westbrook is likely to play huge minutes and chase stats with a Rajon Rondo-esque flare. It also seems likely that coach Billy Donovan will push Westbrook to go over his career high of 35.3 minutes per game in an effort to keep the team relevant in the demanding Western Conference.
The good news for Thunder fans is that Russell Westbrook already knows how to pass to himself!