These Oklahoma City Thunder only know life with Russell Westbrook. Now they might need to learn it without him.
Since Kevin Durant left Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder back in 2016, the Thunder have played a grand total of three games without their dynamic, fierce point guard across two regular and postseasons.
All three games were regular season contests, and despite the Thunder going 2-1 in them it would seem that OKC will struggle if Westbrook does end up missing part of the regular season after his recent knee surgery. This iteration of the Thunder simply doesn’t know life without him.
Westbrook has had injury-plagued seasons in the past, but those Thunder teams were built around multiple heavy usage stars ready to step in. This one has Paul George, who is an elite player, but who is best utilized as a second option. Having PG-13 helps, but it’s not quite the same as being able to fall back on Kevin Durant.
Everybody will have to shoot more with no Westbrook in the lineup, including players typically not asked to do a whole lot on offense. Having George take some more shots is one thing, but asking Andre Roberson, Steven Adams or Jerami Grant to do more on offense could compromise their efficiency.
Thunder GM Sam Presti might have a crystal ball stashed away in Oklahoma City somewhere though, as Dennis Schroder will have no problem eating touches if Westbrook misses time. Schroder at the helm instead of Westbrook is like trading in a Mustang for a Yaris though. It’s still radically different, even if at their base levels both players are score-happy point guards.
Missing Westbrook for the start of the season would be rough for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The only silver lining is that maybe some time without him could help the team figure out what to do when he sits, which has typically led to disaster in OKC.
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