|Durant Scores More On Average, But There Is
Nothing Average About Russell Westbrook
By: Jeremy Graham
Can you be the league MVP if you are not even the MVP of your own team? That’s the question facing Kevin Durant, the chic pick at the beginning of the year to bringing home the hardware. Kobe’s getting older, Lebron’s taking his talents to South Beach, and Chris Paul’s on a “lottery team.” It’s KD team, and his time to win 10 straight MVPs.
With the playoff run and the international grind Durant is starting slow. I still don’t know if he would be the most valuable player to the Sonics, yes I am calling them the Sonics. (ED: FCP says “Damn Straight!” ) Right now, and maybe in the foreseeable future, Russell Westbrook is unquestionably the best, and most important player on his team.
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Double take expected; I almost can’t even believe what I am writing. How can I say that a combo guard who wasn’t supposed to even be a PG can be better than Kevin Durant? Simple! In the time they have played together Westbrook has progressed much more than Durant. Westbrook was never intended to be the full time point guard yet he wanted it so bad he told the franchise “I’m your guy” and took the bull by the horns. Westbrook has progressed so far that he is now arguably a top 5 PG in the league.
I know, top 5 is alright but you have to be top 3 to be elite. After Chris Paul and Deron Williams you can play musical chairs with Nash, Rondo, Rose and Westbrook so today’s “arguably top 5″ is really yesterday’s elite. Durant may be a top two or three player at SF, depending on how you rate Carmelo, but SF does not have the depth of the PG position in the NBA. There are four different categories to rate players on, scoring, rebounding, passing and defense. Right now I think that Westbrook is outshining Durant in all four.
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This is like the Kobe vs Lebron debate for who is a better scorer. Talent or Production, what to choose? Durant is, of course, the more talented scorer from anywhere on the court. He resembles Vince Carter with the way he can stroke the 35 foot three when he wants to. Westbrook is a little more modest and is relegated to inside 20 feet. Despite this Durant€ is less efficient. He scores more than Westbrook, which looks great, till you dig a little deeper.
Durant is currently shooting 42% from the field and only 31% from the the arc. For a recently appointed “best offensive player in the game,” those numbers are lacking. Westbrook isn’t lighting it up either, shooting only 3% better at 45% but when you shoot as much as both players do it adds up. By getting his buckets closer to the basket Westbrook takes higher percentage shots for better efficiency. Some say Durant gets to the line and shoots so well the easy points compensate his poor shooting nights. Good point, except Westbrook is getting to the line just a touch less and is shooting just a tad lower. For now Westbrook is the best scorer on the Sonics. Will this last all year? Perhaps not, but it’s the case so far in 2010 and could continue.
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It also looks like Durant is the better rebounder on the surface. He does average more per game. But he plays a position where rebounding is part of the job, whereas at PG rebounds are a bonus. Westbrook doesn’t think along those lines. He is one of the best rebounding guards in the league.
Not just from the point but of all guards. Durant pulls down 6.6 RPG and Westbrook pulls down 5.5 out of a non-rebounding position. You have to look at the offensive glass as well. Westbrook averages almost 2 offensive rebounds a game, Durant doesn’t even average 1. Durant is phenomenal, but that reeks of low effort. A PG should not be cleaning the offensive glass better than your SF. It’s not how basketball works. Is it a paradigm shift in the league towards a new uber athletic PG? Perhaps… Some day Durant is going to be pulling down 10 rebounds a game, he may even hit the offensive glass. Right now though, Westbrook has him beat by a country mile.
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It goes without saying that a team’s PG the better passer when compared to a SF. For the sake of this I will focus ball control. For a jump shooter that puts the ball on the floor intermittently Durant frankly turns the ball over far too often. His TOs are as high as Westbrook without running the offense. Westbrook performs the main ball handling duties putting him in position to turn it over much more often.
Advanced stats appear to disprove this. Durant does have a higher usage rate and a lower turnover percentage. Does that mean that he holds onto the ball better? Nope, it sure doesn’t. Durant has a higher usage rate because he puts up more shots, not because he has the ball in his hands more. More shots should equal fewer turnovers. Next you might say, “Well Durant plays more minutes, of course his turnovers are higher.” Good point! Until you see they both average 3.5 TO per 36 minutes. In time Durant will protect the ball and drop more dimes. Presently, Westbrook is his superior.
|PG’s Get Higher Then Their
Centers For Blocks Now???
It does win championships as they say. Durant has turned himself into a very decent defender after a mostly lost rookie year. Westbrook has been a very good from day one. I am not saying Westbrook is better because of history, I am saying he is better… because he is.
Durant’s length/smarts put him in position to steal the ball 1.5 times, and block about a shot, per game. Not only that but he plays solid man and team D at a more important defensive position. Westbrook may play a less important defensive role than Durant but he plays his role better. With the influx of excellent to elite PGs it’s becoming more important to have a good defender at the point.
Just ask the Heat. Westbrook is able to defend elite guards without much help and gets at least 2 take aways per game and tips many passes that don’t make box scores. Durant may have a slight advantage in blocks, but steals nearly always result in a change of possession. Defense is hard to judge, especially statistically and when comparing different positions, but you have to give the edge to Westbrook. All without mentioning that Westbrook can guard both guard positions very well.
Come MVP voting Durant may very well pull ahead of Westbrook and be the best player for the Sonics. His numbers very well could sky rocket. He has all the talent to do so. A few questions should still arise at that time. Will Westbrook have the better numbers? Will it matter if he does, or will Durant win the MVP because he was supposed to be? And can you be the MVP if someone on your own team is outperforming you?