No Russell Westbrook, no problem.
At least until the NBA Finals, but that’d be a major problem even with a healthy Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook tore his meniscus (a small tendon in your knee) during the second quarter of Wednesday’s night game against the Thunder. (video of Russell Westbrook injury after the jump)
There is no timetable for Westbrook’s return, but the average recovery time from this type of injury is 6-8 weeks. However, Metta World Peace underwent a similar surgery a few years ago, and returned in just 13 days.
Even without Westbrook, the Thunder are still the favorites to win the Western Conference.
Kevin Martin will have to step up and become the Thunder’s second scoring option. He is very capable of increasing his scoring average. Martin averaged 14.0 points per game this year as OKC’s 6th man, but has averaged 20 points per game in six of ten seasons in the NBA. Martin is very efficient as well, so he won’t need ten extra shots per game to up his average six or seven points.
Now let’s look at Serge Ibaka. While Ibaka is known more for his shot blocking then his jump shot, he actually has a pretty nice offensive game. Serge has a solid mid range jump shot, a pretty nice hook shot, and finally understands how to score with his back to the basket. Ibaka averaged 13.2 points per game during the regular season, so with a few more shot attempts, he could easily up that average to about 17, 18 points per game.
Finally we have Kevin Durant. Before the season, experts were saying that KD was just as good as LeBron. Well we know that’s not true now, but Durant is still a bonafide superstar in the NBA. He’ll be under the microscope for the rest of the post season. We are about to find out if Durant can single handedly carry a team to the NBA Finals. Without Westbrook on the floor, Durant will be able to take a lot more shots. Someone is going to need to pick up the scoring load, and I’m expecting Durant to go off. Look for him to score about 40 points per game in the rest of the playoffs, and carry the Thunder on offense. Put his teammates on his back and carry them through. Either Durant is going to dominate the rest of the playoffs and reassert himself and the NBA’s second best player, or he is going to suck and have people question his mental toughness and such. I have to believe that he will step up though. He’s an elite player for a reason.
As for the rest of the West, I’m still not sold on any other team. The Spurs are so old that Duncan could pass away before the next round even starts. Even if they’re healthy, they don’t have the athletes to matchup with OKC’s wing players. The Clippers don’t match up well with OKC, and were swept by the Thunder in the regular season. Memphis probably won’t even get out of the first round. The Warriors without David Lee are a bunch of 3-point gunners, and you don’t win in the playoffs playing like that. The team with the best chance to beat the Thunder is the Nuggets, but they’re not the same team with Gallinari and really struggle to shoot the ball.
The road just got a lot harder for the Thunder, but I still expect them to represent the Western Conference in this year’s NBA Finals.