My first reaction to the news that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will miss the next 6-8 weeks after the team discovered he had a Jones fracture was one of sadness.
Durant’s the second best player in basketball and an absolute joy to watch. He’s an offensive savant, with the ability to take over a game whenever he wants.
En route to winning his first MVP award, Durant averaged 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game this past season. He’s a fantastic all-around talent and the fact that we won’t get to watch him at the start of the 2014-15 NBA season is a bummer.
But, strangely enough, there is actually a positive to Durant missing action.
Durant being out means that Russell Westbrook will be the Thunder’s leader and go-to-scorer for at the very least the team’s first 16 games (based on a six-week timetable).
Westbrook’s talents have gone underappreciated to a degree while he’s played alongside Durant. With KD being such a skilled player, many basketball fans have been clamoring for Westbrook to defer more to Durant in recent years, turning the UCLA product into a player some think is actually holding the team back.
I, however, am on the pro-Westbrook side of things. Yes, he makes questionable decisions at times and is not a perfect player. But Westbrook is an incredible player, a true athletic freak that is absurdly explosive when attacking the basket.
Given that the Thunder haven’t had many complementary scorers in recent years, Westbrook taking 17-20 shots per game is exactly what the team has needed.
He’s not the offensive talent that Durant is, but he remains one of the best scorers in basketball and someone any team would be fortunate to have.
Now, Westbrook will have a chance to prove to his detractors just how skilled of a player he is. The Thunder are his team to start the season.
He’s going to stuff the stat-sheet, dazzle with his play and lead Oklahoma City to some early season wins.
Fans will still call for him to shoot fewer shots and give the ball to Durant once the Thunder’s top player returns.
But perhaps Westbrook’s abilities will go a little more appreciated following his time as the Thunder’s top player.