Grading the OKC Summer

Russell Westbrook is the anti-Durant. We discuss…

OKC made the best decision for themselves by signing Westbrook to an extension. If they lost him, they would have had a 5-year rebuilding window. But did Westbrook make the right decision for Westbrook?

C.J. Hampshire: Yes. The extension is short. If he really wants to come back to his hometown (Los Angeles) ala LeBron James, he can and the young talent on the Lakers will have matured in three years. If the Thunder make a move to add one more superstar and they are back in championship contention, then he will stay and end his career in a small market. Let’s not dismiss how much he is getting paid to stay. By signing the extension, he ends the speculation and drama. Win win for everyone.

Mallory Stith-Wheat: Primarily from a business perspective, he took the reasoned approach. There were risks he had to weigh. If he refused an extension, the Thunder had zero trade partners. He wasn’t going to sign an extension with team X just because. He had what James Harden didn’t. Leverage. Actually, Kevin Durant did Westbrook a favor. He gave Westbrook his own team. Whatever happens from here on out, Westbrook will be a hero in Oklahoma. He was loyal.

Brendan Gillespie: What other destination could he go to? Maybe he could have gone to Miami and moved Dragic over to the two but the Heat aren’t much different than the Thunder. They don’t have a small forward and the Chris Bosh situation is iffy. Boston is looking for a star but they don’t need a point guard. They need an athlete in the front court. The Lakers are way too young. They need to develop their talent under Walton. So, looking at the landscape, he put his UCLA education to good use.

Julian Billick: It was a surprise even as he did what most players do. Most don’t leave, not if they are happy. And Westbrook is happy in OKC. The only place for him would have been L.A. because that is home but they are not ready. Other than that, bloom where you are planted, as they say.

Stay around long enough and your narrative will change. Westbrook used to get a lot of hate because of his shooting and ball dominance and iso personality. Now he is seen as the anti-Durant. He is the hero while Durant is the villain. Fair?

Brendan: Totally. Westbrook stayed. It doesn’t matter why, he stayed. That roster isn’t a championship roster. They don’t have a second All-Star. When Durant was hurt a few years back, Westbrook did everything and they still didn’t make the playoffs. But he was loyal and Durant was a traitor. Those are the optics.

Mallory: It all comes full circle. LeBron was a traitor. Now he’s a hero. Westbrook was the whipping boy and now he is the center of gravity. It can’t be overstated that he’s a L.A. guy and chose a small market.

Julian: It’s fair. You are judged by your decisions. The Durant departure makes no sense other than he didn’t want to be in OKC. His team was a dominant force. Westbrook wants to be in OKC for the short term. He gets the love.

C.J.: Sports depends on narratives. We follow athletes through the prism of stories, many of which are fables. There has to be goat and there has to be a perfect human being and someone has to be greedy and someone has to be loyal. Every few years it changes because athletes are human. Durant knew what was going to happen when he jumped ship. No one feels sorry that he is hated in OKC and around the league.

OKC made a strong finish to their summer. Give them a grade.

Mallory: It would have been an F if they had to trade Westbrook but a B-. They don’t have much scoring talent. It remains to be seen if Westbrook can carry a team in the last two minutes. His decision making has been spotty. And frankly, every single team is going to double him late in a close game and make Oladipo beat them.

Julian: C. They lost Durant. They lost Durant to the shiny penny on the hill. Durant is a better player than Westbrook. There is LeBron and there is Durant. So not keeping the second best player in the league was devastating. They rebounded with Westbrook but it still doesn’t negate what Durant did to them, even as he was entitled to do so.

C.J.: B. Westbrook saves a lot of things. The West is deep and I don’t know if the Thunder make it into the top-6 without another gifted scorer. But this extension kept the Thunder from irrelevancy.

Brendan: The Thunder and their fans can exhale. There is a reason to watch. It looked pretty grim for a while. The loss of Durant hurts. But Westbrook can fill in the holes. He’s a band-aid for a gunshot wound but he’ll win games for them. Is he Kobe 2006? Maybe. Kobe had Lamar Odom and no one on the Thunder has Lamar Odom talent. So I’ll give them a C+ for keeping the house from burning completely down.


photo via llananba