The Oklahoma City Thunder have failed to win a championship despite having two of the league’s top five players on their roster.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are unquestionably two members of the NBA superstar club. This is an opinionated club of course, but my five members include Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook. As you can see, two of these phenoms, Westbrook and Durant, are on the same team, yet somehow, they are still not wearing any jewelry.
On the surface level, the Thunder look almost unstoppable on the offensive end. They average 110 points per game (second best in the league) and they lead the league in rebounds at 48.4 rebounds per contest.
So an argument may be they do not pass the basketball. But even this is not entirely true. The Thunder rank No. 10 in assists, averaging nearly 23 dimes per outing. They distribute the ball better than nearly two third’s of the league. So then what is the problem?
The problem is that the Thunder have no depth despite having a dynamite six-man rotation. There is simply nobody to fill in the gaps when Westbrook and Durant are not on the floor. There is no longer a James Harden or Reggie Jackson. All that is left are players like Randy Foye and Anthony Morrow. Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters have been decent bench players, but their roles have been to keep the boat afloat. Championship caliber teams are built on bench players that are capable of flooring the boat. Golden State and San Antonio’s B-teams drive yachts for goodness sake.
The second problem with the Thunder is that there is still no team leader. I know this has been said a thousand times, but it is worth mentioning again. There are two Batmen on this team, and neither one wants to be labeled Robin. The only problem is, somebody has to be Robin.
Jordan to Pippen, Shaq to Kobe, LeBron to Wade, the list goes on and on. Somebody has to take a back seat. But that is not the way things are done in Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant is recognized as the team’s best player among fans and media. He leads the team in scoring (28 ppg) and rebounds (8.3 rpg) Durant is a pure scorer and perhaps the most unstoppable offensive threat in the league next to Curry.
However Durant’s partner in crime, Westbrook, has exploded all over the map in the past two seasons. He has become a triple-double machine. He has a league-high 16 triple-doubles this season. His play has really been on the rise as of late. The former UCLA Bruin only had eight triple-doubles in his first six seasons; he has 27 in the past two alone.
If this was any other season, Westbrook would be winning the MVP award. He is averaging nearly 24 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. He is essentially two rebounds a game shy of averaging a triple-double.
So what is the solution to the Thunder’s championship drought dilemma? Honestly it comes down to whether or not Westbrook and Durant can play as a team rather than as two supreme entities. They have the talent, they just lack the chemistry. The only way to stop teams like Golden State is by playing team basketball.