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Berry Tramel


Oklahoma City Thunder: Was Russell Westbrook taking away shots from Kevin Durant?

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 24, 2014 at 11:35 am •  Published: January 24, 2014

In the days before Patrick Beverley turned Thunder Universe upside down and put Russell Westbrook on the shelf, there was a common theory floating around. That Westbrook took shots away from Kevin Durant.

Of course, it only made sense, right? If you’ve got two superstars — anyone still wanting to argue that Westbrook doesn’t qualify?  — then they’ll have to share a little bit. There’s only one ball. But the theory was that Westbrook was taking away too many shots from Durant.

Well, Westbrook has missed 18 games this season because of knee surgeries caused by his collision with the Rockets’ Beverley. A decent amount of data to determine how many chances Westbrook was denying Durant.

And to this point, the difference is four: 4.42 to be almost exact. That’s how many more usages Durant has in 18 games without Westbrook than Durant had in 25 games with Westbrook.

Durant averaged 18.7 shots per game with Westbrook; he’s averaging 21.2 shots per game without Westbrook. With Westbrook, Durant put up 468 shots, 221 foul shots and committed 81 turnovers. Counting two foul shots as a possession, that’s 26.36 possessions per game.

Without Westbrook, Durant has put up 382 shots, 218 foul shots and committed 63 turnovers. That’s 30.78 possessions per game.

Just for grins, here are Westbrook’s numbers in 25 games: 448 shots, 150 foul shots and 100 turnovers. That’s 623 possessions; 24.92 per game. So Durant was getting more usages per game than was Westbrook anyway.

Here are Durant’s numbers with and without Westbrook:

Scoring: 28.6 with Westbrook, 34.5 without Westbrook. A major step up for Durant.

Rebounding: 8.2 with Westbrook, 7.1 without Westbrook. An odd development, considering Westbrook is an excellent rebounder, which means there should be more rebounds available. Maybe rebounding is where Durant occasionally catches his breath.

Field-goal percentage: .502 with Westbrook, .505 without Westbrook. This is Durant’s best advancement. He struggled mightily with his shot against Memphis in the playoffs last year, without Westbrook. Of course, playing Memphis five straight times will have an adverse affect on anyone’s shot.

Turnovers: 3.2 with Westbrook, 3.5 without Westbrook. Despite those 11 turnovers against the Spurs on Wednesday night, Durant’s turnover rate has remained about the same. Which is remarkable, considering how much more he’s handling the ball.

Assists: 5.2 with Westbrook, 4.9 per game without Westbrook. I would guess Durant’s passing hasn’t changed much. He’s getting about 41/2 more possessions per game, but he’s taking about 21/2 more shots per game, and he’s averaging 12.1 foul shots per game without Westbrook, compared to 8.8 foul shots per game with Westbrook. So that’s about 11/2 possessions. And his turnovers are up slightly. So Durant’s passing seems to have not changed much.