OKC Thunder: Ranking the 7 worst starters of the Russell Westbrook era

Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Domantas Sabonis #3 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Number 6: Domantas Sabonis

It pains me to put Domantas Sabonis on this list. This is more so a timing issue than a skill issue. If you ask anyone with the Thunder or who follows the OKC Thunder, they immediately saw his potential to be a really good player in this league. However, during the 2016-17 season, Sabonis was just not ready for the bright lights.

The Gonzaga big man was selected 11th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. He was shipped to OKC with Victor Oladipo just weeks before Kevin Durant would leave the Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors. He was then thrust into the league playing 81 games as a first-year player, starting 66 of them.

With the Thunder trying to recover from losing a future Hall of Famer, and an all-time great player, Russell Westbrook, went on an absolute tear on the way to winning the Most Valuable Player award despite the OKC Thunder finishing with a 47-35 record, good enough for sixth in the tough Western Conference. Of course, Westbrook averaged a triple-double, and without him, the OKC Thunder would have been one of the worst teams in the NBA, so there was no questioning how valuable he was in that season.

Domantas Sabonis averaged six points, 3.6 rebounds, and an assist while posting 0.9 STOCKS per game. He shot 32 percent from three-point land, 40 percent from the floor, and 65 percent at the line. Sabonis turned the ball over once per game and was just a young big that made a few too many mistakes.

While his potential was made clear, he seemed to have a hard time getting up to speed alongside Russell Westbrook. A common opinion back then was that Sabonis was a bit timid playing next to the league’s MVP.

Sam Presti quickly shipped Sabonis and Oladipo out of town to land Paul George that Summer. Since then, Sabonis has become one of the league’s top big men with three All-Star selections, a league-leading rebounder, and an All-NBA selection.