The Thunder may have lost Durant but they still have one of the top five players in the league in Russell Westbrook. The past nine season the team has been Durant’s, yes there was talk that it might be Westbrook’s but those rumbling only started last year. Now the keys to the kingdom are in Westbrook’s hands for the first time ever, and there is plenty to be excited about if you are an Oklahoma City fan.
When Durant only played 27 games in the 2014-2015 season Westbrook became the man for the Thunder and he took that role head on. Westbrook had the second highest usage rate of ALL-TIME that season at 38.3 while destroying the league averaging 28.1 points, 8.6 assist and 7.3 rebounds a game. Then you look at last season. Westbrook played 80 of the 82 games and average an unbelievable 23.5 points, 10.4 assist and 7.8 rebounds. He also led the league in triple-doubles with 18, five more than the next closest player, Draymond Green.
Everyone and their mothers know that Westbrook will get his points this season, so that aspect of his game is not in doubt on his quest to average a triple-double. Westbrook averages 7.3 more points per game without Durant in the lineup, so expect Westbrook to average at least 25 points a game, if not more. Next come the assist numbers. With Durant departing analyst think that Westbrook’s assist numbers will drop due to Westbrook not being able to kick it out to KD for an easy three or to Ibaka for a money mid-range shot. Crazy thing is, Westbrook averages 8.4 assist without Durant. That’s 0.9 more assists than with Durant on the court. So Westbrook who averages an assist more without Durant, and now that Westbrook is going to command the double team that Durant used to get, the floor will open up for him to dish it out to the open player. Last season he averaged just over 10 assists so expect him to maintain that average if not improve a little as he dishes it off to the super stash bros.
Lastly comes the one everyone thinks is impossible, rebounds. Westbrook has never averaged double digit rebounds in his career, but this season is his best shot to do so. The departure of Durant isn’t the reason Westbrook will bump up his rebound average, but the trade of Ibaka will have a huge impact. The reason that Ibaka’s hole in the middle will help Westbrook is due to the fact that Ibaka had a 11.5% rebound rate last season. So there is now an 11.5% rebound rate floating around the team waiting for someone to grab it. Kanter will see his 21% rebound rate increase some, but Westbrook has started to attack the basket like it owe him money over the past few years. So Westbrook needs to bump up his rebound rate from last season’s total of 12.4%. If he can move that up a couple percentage points he will be averaging anywhere from 9 to 13 rebounds a game.
The Thunder also lose the shooting percentage of Ibaka and Durant, so there will more than likely be more opportunities to grab some boards for Westbrook. Westbrook as a great opportunity to do something only done by the great Big O, average a triple-double. And even if he doesn’t average a triple-double expect him to put the league on notice that he doesn’t need Durant on his team and that he was the best player on the Thunder.