When evaluating Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey, it's difficult to say exactly what we've learned after two games.
Durant is very good. Westbrook is very athletic. Both of which we already knew.
Beating Croatia 106-78 and Slovenia 99-77 simply proved Team USA was the better team, perhaps far better than projected heading into the tournament.
At 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-4 3/4 wingspan, Durant remains a matchup nightmare with his length and shooting ability.
The lightning-quick Westbrook is a blur in any country. He makes good (and sometimes bad) things happen in a hurry.
As a starting forward, Durant has averaged 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 22.0 minutes. He has five steals, is shooting .542 from the field (13 for 24) and has yet to miss a free throw (7 for 7).
As a backup guard, Westbrook is averaging 10.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 18.5 minutes. He is shooting .818 from the field (9 for 11), but only .429 (3 for 7) from the line.
Even though the Americans are not facing the same level of team competition found in the NBA, should we completely ignore the results so far?
"If you had a draft of every player in the basketball world right now — Europe, college, the NBA — and you were building for the future, you'd have a hard time not taking him (Durant) No. 1," said former college coach Fran Fraschilla, ESPN's game analyst during the World Championship. "He may not be as powerful as LeBron James and he may not yet have the killer instinct that Kobe Bryant has, but Kevin would probably be No. 1 or No. 2 in a world draft, and he's only 21."
Durant's rebounding and defense seem to have intensified and his open-court playmaking skills have become more prevalent.
"I watched him for an entire year in college (at Texas), and I didn't realize he was this versatile," said Fraschilla, who previously served as the Big 12's Big Monday analyst. "His overall basketball game is incredibly polished for someone his age. He's flowering before our eyes. We saw his one year of brilliance in college. NBA fans have seen it his first three years in the league. Now the world is finding out about this young man's immense overall ability."
Westbrook still has some growing up to do. He frowns and barks at the refs far too frequently, which never looks good for a 21-year-old kid.
"While this level of play won't help him improve, I think his overall maturity level will improve coming out of an event like this," Fraschilla said. "He's going to be faced with a different kind of adversity than he's seen in the league. The problems you have to solve are a little different, whether it's the zone defenses, adjusting to being around great teammates, knowing what the coaches want out of you. This is an opportunity for Russell to improve his maturity, which I think is critical for someone who's growing into a point guard like he is."
The World Championship ends Sept. 12. Thunder players must report back to Oklahoma City by Sept. 27, which is also the team's Media Day.
Best of the decade
ESPN.com last week revealed a survey of 93 NBA experts who were asked to determine who will rule the league for the upcoming decade.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant finished second to Miami's LeBron James for player of the decade, while the Thunder finished second to the revamped Miami Heat for team of the decade.
Chris Sheridan picked the Thunder and Durant at No. 1.
"It comes back to Kevin Durant, my pick for player of the decade, and what a special talent he is," Sheridan wrote. "The Thunder have also surrounded him with solid, young, complementary pieces that have only begun to scratch the surface of what they are capable of (especially Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka; I am not as sold on Jeff Green), and they have a great coach (Scott Brooks) who is still young enough to relate to such a young team. If the core sticks together, the sky is the limit â€” especially over the last five years of the decade."
Team of the decade
Miami Heat (56 votes)
Oklahoma City Thunder (21)
Los Angeles Lakers (11)
Chicago Bulls (2)
Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks (1)
Player of the decade
LeBron James, Miami (50 votes)
Kevin Durant, Thunder (31)
Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers (3)
John Wall, Washington (2)
Blake Griffin, LA Clippers; Dwight Howard, Orlando; Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee; Chris Paul, New Orleans; Derrick Rose, Chicago; Dwyane Wade, Miami; Jared Sullinger, Ohio State (1)