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Thunder Roundtable: Is Russell Westbrook OKC's most important player?

From Staff Reports Published: June 10, 2014

The Oklahoman’s sports writers discuss three topics surrounding Russell Westbrook:

1. True or false: Russell Westbrook is the Thunder’s most important player.

Darnell Mayberry (beat writer) — True. We've seen life without him in the regular season and postseason. Here's a recap. It ain't pretty. The Thunder has no chance at a championship without him. And even though the team can survive the regular season, we now know that only a herculean effort from Kevin Durant keeps OKC afloat during the dog days.

Anthony Slater (beat writer) — True. Kevin Durant remains OKC’s best and most valuable player, even if Westbrook was both of those in this latest postseason. But I think Westbrook has always been OKC’s most important player. He’s an every night barometer, because of the ball-control position he plays and the erratic nature of his polarizing game. Durant is typically Durant. But when Westbrook’s great, OKC is nearly unbeatable. When Bad Russ rears his ugly head, the Thunder has problems.

Berry Tramel (columnist) — False. Kevin Durant is the Thunder's most important player. But it's not a stupid question, which tells you all you need to know about Westbrook. Comparing his value to the reigning NBA MVP is perfectly legitimate. The Thunder can't excel without him. We saw in the 2013 playoffs what the Thunder offense is like without him. It ain't pretty.

2. True or false: Russell Westbrook is the league’s best point guard.

Mayberry — False. Allow me to be a traditionalist here. Westbrook is not the best leader at the position. He's not the best passer or the best at consistently making all of his teammates scoring threats. He doesn't have the best shot selection or the best decision-making. Doesn't play with the best pace or the most control. The truth is Westbrook might not be in the top five at his position in any of those categories. When I think of point guards, I think of those things, and Chris Paul, to me, is far and away superior in each of those categories. With that being said, here's where I throw tradition out of the window. Westbrook is a better player than Paul, not more polished but more dominant. And after his magnificent postseason I'm ready to declare Westbrook a top three player, positions be dammed. The Thunder, from day one, has forced a square peg into a round hole and spent the last six seasons challenging anyone who claims Westbrook doesn't fit. Well, I'm done debating the demonstration. You can call Westbrook whatever you want. I'm calling him a dog. One I'd take on my team every day of the week.

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