Thunder’s success on Westbrook’s head

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Russell WestbrookThe NBA Playoffs are in full swing and with it comes the seasonal task of assessing Oklahoma City Thunder Point Guard Russell Westbrook’s impact on the offense side of the ball. To be short, Westbrook did himself few favors with a poor April showing in which he shot only 39 percent from the field and only 27 percent from three-point range while the Thunder struggled to a 8-7 record to close out the season.

The question for the Thunder has never been if Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can coexist offensively, but rather can Westbrook set-up his teammates for easy buckets when games get tight in the fourth quarter?

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His love affair with the quick elbow pull-up jumper and calling solely isolation plays down the stretch greatly minimizes his teammates on-court efforts who aren’t named Durant.

Nobody would argue that the Thunder will lose to the Mavericks because of Westbrook’s lack of floor general skills, but problems could arise against the likes of the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, or Miami Heat in later rounds. The Lakers proved that Kobe can lockdown Westbrook when he needs to, while Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks grind and harass Durant. Westbrook must set-up his perimeter shooters to space the floor and allow for more shots at the rim if the Thunder wish to beat those elite teams in crunch time.

As the New York Knicks have shown, it takes more than two superstars to lift a team to championship contender caliber. Boltsquad have made great leaps to become a cohesive unit and fully developing Westbrook’s leadership skills represents the final hurdle. For a roster that finished dead last in assists per game as a team this year, the onus is firmly on Russell Westbrook to properly distribute as a point guard if the Thunder wish to bring Oklahoma City its first title.

Eric Eulau is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at EEulau@TheSportsBlitz.com.

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