Not all good things stay together, or great for that matter. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won 6 NBA championships during their partnership (could have been 8 had he not retired twice and left basketball for a mind-boggling baseball decision), as well as Kobe and Shaq winning 3 rings together as a duo in Los Angeles. And now, sadly, those kind of conversations are now starting to include arguably the best, and youngest duo in the league: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
They’ve been best friends since the beginning, they’ve been All-Stars together and they’re both the go-to guys on the Oklahoma City Thunder (although the word “go-to” should only describe Durant in crunch-time, not Westbrook. He’s a point-guard.), but there’s something in the middle. Something that just isn’t quite right, and that’s Westbrook.
I’m not saying that Russ was a bad fit from the start, I’m saying that he’s slowly grown into that category the last two seasons. He’s never been a great shooter, 3-point shooter and ball handler for that matter, and that’s coming back to his UCLA days. He’s a shooting-guard playing a point-guard role in OKC (which doesn’t end well when you have a franchise player in Durant who averages nearly 30 points a night).
Remember a guy by the name of Allen Iverson? He’s a Hall of Fame player and the best that ever played the game under 6-foot, but he was forced to play the point guard role throughout his career when he couldn’t. He’s naturally a shooter. That’s why teams gave him a bad reputation that he’s a ball-hog and won’t help your team win a championship because he’ll always need it in his hands. It’s an addiction.
During the ’08-09 season, Westbrook averaged 14 shots a night (41.8 percent) for 16 points, 8 assists and 3.3 turnovers. In 2010-11, he averaged 21.9 points (17 shots, 44 percent), 8 assists and 3.9 turnovers. This season? 15.3 points (17 shots, 31 percent), 6 assists and 6 turnovers.
For a point guard, that’s not a good look.
As for shots, he should be somewhere between the 9 and 11 range while shooting in the high 40s from the field. Prior to this season, his 8 assists were excellent but they could a tad higher (10?), but his turnovers are atrocious. Westbrook has been so focused on scoring the basketball for so long in his life that for the most part, his decision making is where it should be. Where it needs to be is a whole ‘nother story. He needs to slow the pace down and make smarter passes, take smarter shots, ect. if he plans on manning the ship for the Thunder.
They’re built to play that way.
When trade rumors arose during the lockout that a possible trade between OKC and the Boston Celtics could take place — with Boston trading Rajon Rondo to Oklahoma City while the Celtics received Westbrook in return — most said it was crazy, but the truth is, having Rondo control the Thunder’ offense would take them to a championship a lot quicker than it will with Westbrook.
When the “Argument Heard Around The World” went viral Wednesday night — detailed by The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry — where Westbrook was overheard yelling at Thabo Sefolosha for passing up an open shot and when Durant tried to calm him down, Westbrook snapped at Durant (Something to make a report about, and talk about it for 24 hours on ESPN? No, not at all. It happens, teammates argue all the time. Friends, family, whatever, arguments happen).
24 hours later, ESPN beat writer J.A. Adande wrote an interesting piece on why Westbrook won’t work in OKC for not only the long-run, but financially as well:
The Rose Rule already bumped Durant’s paycheck by an extra $2.5 million a year, and Westbrook could be living in that same $18 million-a-season neighborhood. Depending on what other moves the Thunder make, a huge boost to Westbrook’s salary could put Oklahoma City in luxury tax territory next season and beyond. Starting in 2013-14 the tax will be progressively more punitive than the simple dollar-for-dollar surcharge in place now, and there are additional penalties for repeat tax “offenders.” In addition tax teams have restrictions on their abilities to make trades and sign players to the full mid-level exception.
To sum it up, Adande is stating that by the Thunder locking up Westbrook to a huge deal will ultimately hurt them in the long run when it comes to re-signing other key attributes and going after other appealing talent in free agency. One thing, though, that was really brought to my attention (it’s actually the reason why I’m writing this in the first place) is when J.A. threw out a trade idea that would send Westbrook to Golden State in exchange for Steph Curry (very interesting):
Curry is still on his rookie contract through 2012-13 (when he’ll make $4 million) so he would almost guarantee the Thunder stay below the tax threshold for another year, and he probably won’t be eligible for the Rose Rule pay boost, which would keep his maximum salary 5 percent lower than what Westbrook’s might be when it’s time to re-sign him.
Curry would also give the Thunder more scoring punch from the starting 2-guard spot than they currently have from Sefolosha. From Golden State’s perspective, Westbrook is a better defender than Curry, and that should count a lot for the new-look Warriors. (Believe it or not, Mark Jackson’s squad is among the top 10 defenses for fewest opponent points allowed so far.) And Westbrook is more likely to cause sprained ankles than suffer as many as Curry has.
Interesting enough, Curry was a fan favorite in OKC during the ’09 NBA Draft when the volume shooter was coming out of Davidson (many wanted him over James Harden). Although it’s an intriguing idea, Adande failed to mention one thing: Monta Ellis.
Trading Ellis for Westbrook makes a lot more sense for Golden State than it does by shipping Curry out the door, but it’s almost an identical swap. On paper it seems that Westbrook would help the Warriors out more than Ellis already does, but it’s somewhat misleading.
Golden State would still have the same problems defensively that they do now, and they’d still have the same turnover issues that Ellis provides and the out-of-control shooting outbursts throughout the night.
This what happens when you put a shooter at a facilitators position.
Lets say for a minute that Westbrook does end up in Golden State at some point between this season and the next (this isn’t a rumor, this is just a discussion), what’s the guarantee that he would automatically turn into a facilitator on a team built for running? As for Curry, yes, he’s had issues with his ankle, but at the end of the day he has the higher basketball IQ, and that includes his shooting, passing skills, and the ability to spread the floor substantially better than Russ.
If the Warriors are in a “win now” situation — which I don’t believe they are since they just hired a brand new coach in Mark Jackson — and if the front office believes Curry is going to be an injury-prone player from here on out, I could see them offering this kind of trade. Other than that, no. It doesn’t make enough sense because at this point I’d rather pay Curry $3 million less to run my offense like a point guard should, than pay Westbrook $3 million more to run it like a shooter.
Since becoming head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Mark Jackson has stated some bold, and pretty unique plans for this team with the talent that he has; especially with Monta Ellis. There’s no question that Ellis is a tremendous offensive talent, can score from anywhere on the court and has late-game heroics, but what about defending constantly? What about playing the post? Yes, we’re talkin’ about post game (Allen Iverson voice).
Ellis isn’t exactly someone you’d picture banging in the paint (he’s 6’3, 180), but Jackson believes otherwise:
“He’s so skilled offensively, and so unselfish that you’re going to get a good play out of it,” Jackson said. “We’re absolutely looking to capitalize on having him in the block.”
It does make a little sense to me; Ellis is a such a focus offensively from opposing teams that by him playing more down-low, it will give the Warriors plenty of opportunities for kick-outs and maybe Ellis himself will be able to score on his own and become comfortable. M8 is no slouch when it comes to scoring in the paint: According to Hoopdata.com, Ellis has scored 60 percent or above at the rim ever season since he’s joined the league back in ’07 (his highest percentage came last year with a whopping 69%, that’s just ridiculous). Monta is one of my favorite players in the league and now I’m really interested in seeing how this all pans out.
I love media day sessions. Why? Because that’s usually when the everyday basketball fan gets to find out whether or not teams will be showing off their new jerseys, ect. The Utah Jazz were the first to show off their new forest green unis, then you know the Kings had to reveal those new dope black jerseys (same link, just scroll to the bottom) with script lettering. Brought out yesterday, the Miami Heat have another arsenal added to their already stacked squad: all black with white outlining. Peep the photo below for the first look at South Beach’ new gear.
The Golden State warriors also revealed a little somethin’ somethin’ on their new jerseys: a new 50-year anniversary patch near the right shoulder. Rumor has it that the Mavs still have to show off their new alternate jerseys, Toronto also and a few throwbacks, not including the 2012 All-Star game uniforms.
Hands down, this is the best NBA “From The Future” commercial they’ve put out so far. The Kevin Durant one was pretty awesome too but this Stephen Curry one is just crazy. Anyone else think Steph looks EXACTLY the same as he does now? He even has the same behind the back dribble and jump shot. Sorry for the bootleg video but that’s all I could find I on YouTube for now.
Update – Thanks to DIME for the HQ version.
Don’t look now but the Miami Heat are playing exactly how everyone thought they would be playing – dominant. With 8 wins in a row, Dwyane Wade provided an exclamation point with this sick putback dunk in the lane last night against the Kings. After the jump check out a nice 2 handed flush D-Wade had from Pitbull Carlos Arroyo and an even nicer alley-oop that Wade threw to LeBron on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors.
A quick warning to the Golden State Warriors or Stephen Curry fans when watching this clip – it ISN’T pretty for your boy. Brandon Jenning’s gives Stephen Curry the classic “you reach, I teach” lesson which results with Curry on the floor and begging the trainer for some extra thick ankle tape…
In a Dime Magazine exclusive – Kevin Durant, Brandon Jennings, and Stephen Curry talk about EA Sports’ newest offering – NBA Elite 2011 (with KD35 on the cover). It’s cool hearing what these rising NBA stars have to say about the game but I think in 6 month’s they’ll have a 360 controller in hand with this CD popped in the console.
We’ve already seen Amare Stoudemire dunk on Portland Trailblazer’s Dante Cunningham and San Antonio Spurs’ Richard Jefferson but after watching this cram on Golden State Warrior’s Anthony Tolliver, I’m speechless…
“Yo! Did you see what Amar’e just did to Anthony Tolliver? Call CSI Oakland cause he just killed that man” – Austin Burton of Dime Magazine
Stephen Curry gave Chris “Birdman” Anderson a sick crossover in the paint and then an even sicker head fake to spin Birdman all the way around for an easy two points.
You’ve probably already seen this on ESPN but I had to post just for the fact that Celtic’s fans everywhere are smiling knowing that Mikki Moore is no longer rocking the Celtic green.