‘I am in shock’. That is what I tweeted when I found out about Russell Westbrook’s injury, and I think I am still in shock now. This is pretty much the worst thing that could have happened to the Thunder in this years playoffs (other than KD going down). With Westbrook gone with a torn meniscus, the Thunder’s shot at winning a title is now next to nothing. I personally believe that if Russ is gone for the entire playoffs then the Thunder will not come out of the west.
I have been looking at how the Thunder are going to look on the basketball court with Westbrook gone, and it is not pretty. I really like Reggie Jackson, and I think he will come in as a starter and really produce very well for OKC. However, he is no Westbrook. In fact nobody in the NBA is, and that is why this injury is such a blow to the Thunder. Jackson will probably put forth around 10 points and 4 or 5 assists a game playing starter minutes. That is not nearly enough to replace the talents of Westbrook. During the regular season Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson combined for around 28 points a game. If Jackson gets 10 or 11 per game for the rest of the playoffs, then where is that leftover 17-18 points going to come from? I think KD can pick some of it up, as well as Martin and Ibaka, but I highly doubt that they will be able fully replicate Westbrooks numbers. Don’t’ even get me started on Derek Fisher, because he is pretty much useless at this point in his career. That is not disrespect to him, but he is just too old at this point and his point guard skills are not what they used to be. Ibaka is a much improved player, and Martin is a proven scorer but they rely on Westbrook for a ton of their shots and life is going to be tough for them during Westbrook’s absence. Jackson is also a very good player, and I think that after these playoffs his stock is going to rise around the NBA, but living up to Westbrook is a very tall task and I don’t think that Jackson can do it.
Putting numbers aside, I think Westbrook’s absence is going to have a big impact on KD. Durant is by far the best scorer in the world, and if he wanted to he could average 35 a game. But he really benefits from having Westbrook as a running mate. Russ is probably the best in the league at getting to the hole, and that opens up KD on the outside. Without Westbrook attacking and getting to the basket, Durant is going to have to create his own shot more often, deal with a lot more double teams, and that is going to slow him down. Now, with that being said I think KD is going to average at least 30 points a game for the rest of the playoffs just because he will be absorbing a lot of Westbrook’s shots. But I don’t think he will be nearly as efficient as usual and that is going to clog up the Thunder’s offense.
The bottom line is the Thunder are screwed without Westbrook. He is one of the hardest guys to defend in the league, and when he is rolling, there is nobody in the NBA (well maybe KD) that could match him shot for shot. Despite KD’s star status, I believe that Westbrook is the heart and soul of this team. This will inspire the Thunder to play hard basketball over the next couple of games, but when we get down to crunch time in these playoffs, I don’t think the Thunder will be able to rise to the challenge without Westbrook.