No Durant, Big Difference?

As what will be known as one of the most disrespectful free agency moves, Kevin Durant deferred to the Golden State Warriors prior to the start of the season. Thunder fans were in an outrage, and feared for the fate of the following season. Well, does it really make all the difference? My analysis:

Last season, Oklahoma City Thunder went on to the playoffs, and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals where they blew a 3-1 lead. Ok, this year’s Thunder team is not going to make it that far, but doesn’t what they pulled off without Durant prove enough of a point?

Playoff Bound and Down

Sure, the Thunder are currently down 2-1 to the Houston Rockets and are likely facing elimination. After losing a guy who was averaging (28) points and (8) rebounds a game, with no replacement, they still managed to win 47 games and clinch playoff berth. Speaking of, last year, with Durant OKC only won eight more games with a 55-27 record.

It’s simple, the fact that Westbrook (and others) managed to take this team to the playoffs without Durant (a former MVP and scoring title recipient) is nothing short of incredible. It proves that not only is Russell Westbrook is the true heart of this team, but that Durant’s departure made way for Westbrook’s legacy.

Statistically Speaking

they’re not that much worse off. I collected data in comparison of the last year (with Durant) and this year:

Statistic WITH WITHOUT
Record: 55-27 47-35
Playoff Seed: 3rd 6th
PPG 110.2 106.6
Opponent PPG 102.9 105.8
Offensive Rating: 113.1 108.3
Defensive Rating: 105.6 107.5

As you can see, Westbrook has done an admirable job with holding this team to its true standard in the Western Conference.

Mr. Triple Double

If I’m Russell Westbrook, as pissed as he is, I’m sending Durant a thank you text. Without his counterpart, Westbrook would go on (similar to 2015-2016 Curry) and break record after record. He earned the season’s scoring title with a (31.6) point average this year. In addition, he surpassed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a season with (42). And of course as well all know, he became the first player since Robertson to complete a season average of a triple-double with (31.6/10.4/10.7). Hell, should he win it, Durant would have also enabled Westbrook to win the MVP!

All in all it seems that while Durant was bringing wins to OKC, he was also holding back the true potential of their new franchise cornerstone.  With Durant accepting failure in such a feeble manner, I’d say the future of this franchise is better off in Russell’s hands.

In Conclusion

Although last year’s Thunder team made it to the Western Conference Finals, they still blew a 3-1 lead. Something wasn’t working, and maybe losing this superstar helped them realize that. Now, it’s back to the drawing board, in preparation for another run at the title.

If nothing else, Westbrook has held his team to the top of the list in free agent destinations. Look for the Thunder front office to sign a big name this off-season, and continue their pursuit of a championship without Kevin Durant.

All stats and information provided by ESPN, Basketball Reference, and NBA.com. Featured image provided by Sporting News via Google Images. 

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