So far this season no duo has scored more points than Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Durant is averaging 27.7 points per game and Westbrook 23.4 for a combined 51.1.
The two have both been very hot of late with each scoring 31 in the Thunder’s 101-93 win over the Hornets last night. Two nights ago the duo combined for 91 against the Nuggets.
Is it too much? Do they really need more scoring options to win a title?
The third leading scorer for Oklahoma City is James Harden averaging 16.8 points per game off the bench. Harden is basically a starter however and actually leads the NBA in fourth quarter minutes per game.
After Harden the Thunder scoring really drops off with Serge Ibaka averaging just 8.3 points per game and then Daequan Cook at 5.6.
In a podcast with Bob Ryan last week, Bill Simmons discussed how he felt the Thunder just didn’t have enough scoring options to win a title this year. He suggested adding a piece like Ray Allen — just as an example, not a likely move — would be a perfect fit for the team.
The issue arises in crunch time when Oklahoma City struts out Kendrick Perkins alongside the obvious Durant-Westbrook-Harden-Ibaka core. Perkins is not a threat on offense to score at all but does provide an underrated value when it comes to setting screens for Durant and banging for rebounds.
The Thunder will play small sometimes down the stretch with Durant at the four and Cook on the floor instead of Perkins, or Thabo Sefolosha when healthy. This lineup makes the Thunder much weaker on defense but with more spot-up shooters.
But I think Simmons may really be nitpicking with the Thunder this year. Sure you can question things like Westbrook not always making the best decisions or that they are too much of a jump-shooting team but to say that they don’t have enough scoring options simply isn’t true.
There’s only one Miami Heat out there with three true scoring options but the Thunder are now the closest thing to that with Harden’s emergence this year. And who says having three scoring options is even a good thing? Isn’t it better to have one or two guys who are going to create their own shot and then surround them with a bunch of shooters and rebounders? Isn’t that what the Thunder have?
The real thing the Thunder need to work on is getting more scoring out of the post. They don’t need to look for someone else to give them this but rather have Durant and Westbrook look to score down there more often.
They definitely have done this more often this season but they can still do it more. Westbrook is bigger than almost any point guard that is matched up with him in the league and Durant can get his shot off over anyone. Durant is already trying to emulate Dirk Nowitzki’s game in this regard.
The Thunder have also already figured out how to run one of the better crunch time offenses in the NBA with the Durant-Westbrook pick-and-pop that they go to almost every game now. This play accentuates the strengths of Durant and Westbrook and as long as they make good decisions, is completely unstoppable.
The notion that the Thunder don’t have enough scoring on the floor to win a title is not true. Having Ibaka as the fourth scorer averaging 8.6 points per game is right around where every championship team’s fourth scorer averages.
If Westbrook worked on becoming more of a playmaker and Ibaka started averaging double-digits would the Thunder become a better team? Probably. But right now that isn’t their identity.
Durant and Westbrook are 23 years old. Harden and Ibaka are 22. No one’s questioning that they have time to improve but championship windows can come and go and don’t care how old you are. Only time will tell if Oklahoma City’s formula proves to be the right one.