Billy Donovan explains how Russell Westbrook’s role will change without Kevin Durant
It’s been nearly two months since Kevin Durant shocked the basketball world and announced he was leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors. And since then, just about the only thing more surprising than Durant’s departure itself was Russell Westbrook’s quick decision to do the exact opposite: announce his intentions to stay in Oklahoma City long-term.
The news was clearly a windfall for the Thunder, and — despite what was first discussed when Durant left — it also means that no, Oklahoma City is not going into rebuilding mode. Instead, the Thunder are in full-fledged “Build around Russ" mode. Westbrook is unequivocally the star of the team, and everything will unequivocally revolve around him.
Still, for those who think Oklahoma City Thunder games are going to simply turn into the Russell Westbrook Show well, don’t be so sure. For the first time since KD’s departure, Thunder coach Billy Donovan spoke at length about how he sees the team playing next season, during an interview with Yahoo Sports’ “The Vertical Podcast with Woj.”
There he explained that while Westbrook will be a big part of the offense – he won’t be the whole offense. He also explained why next year will be much, much different than two seasons ago, when Westbrook absolutely dominated the ball when Durant and Serge Ibaka were sidelined by injuries:
It’s a fascinating point, and honestly one that probably hasn’t been considered enough when looking at the season ahead. While it’s easy to throw out blanket statements like “Russ will average a triple double” or “He’s an MVP lock” based on what he did two seasons ago, it’s easy to forget that what Westbrook did in 2014-15 was in large part because the Thunder had no choice. Durant missed extensive time with injury, and the Thunder had to adjust on the fly. That resulted in Westbrook averaging a career-high 28.1 points per game, to go along with 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds.
This year, though, the Thunder have months to prepare for life post-DK. Things will be much more balanced, and according to Donovan, look much more like they did last season in Oklahoma City (even with Durant), when Westbrook had the second highest assist percentage in the league.
Those are certainly interesting comments, and the good news is that we will find out soon enough just how true they are.
The Thunder open their season Oct. 26 in Philadelphia.