At halftime of Wednesday night’s Western Conference semifinal Game 2 between the Thunder and Clippers, TNT studio analyst Kenny Smith went out on a limb and predicted another Thunder player besides Kevin Durant could win an MVP award: Russell Westbrook.
“I’m going to make a bold statement,” said Smith, noting he had predicted Durant’s MVP award a few years back. “In two years, Russell Westbrook is going to win an MVP, if…”
That if, Smith said, depended on Westbrook realizing he could maximize his ability to thrive in two roles, as a point guard and No. 2 guard. He noted Clippers star guard Chris Paul didn’t have that same ability.
“The difference is Chris Paul doesn’t have the explosivenss or the ability to go into a 2 guard situation like he does. He one day will be getting the MVP award, I think,” Smith said.
TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley laughed the prediction off, noting that Westbrook hasn’t changed his game in three years and was a No. 2 guard playing the point.
“He just hasn’t crossed the bridge where he learned to make the players around him better,” Barkley said. “He still has the mind-set that I can get my shot anytime I want to.”
Westbrook finished with a triple-double, his third of the playoffs, although the TNT game and studio announcers thought his 10th assist on Thabo Sefolosha’s drive to the basket was generously credited by the Thunder stat crew.
“If that’s an assist, I broke John Stockton’s record,” studio analyst Shaquille O’Neal said.
“That’s home cooking if I’ve ever seen it,” Smith said.
Durant’s fast start
Game analyst Steve Kerr raved about KD’s 17-point first quarter as the Thunder took a 37-28 lead.