There has always been some tension about the relationship between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City and Grizzlies shooting guard Courtney Lee just added some fuel to the fire. He said about Russell Westbrook:
“We’re fine with Westbrook taking shots. I mean, that’s kinda what you want – the more shots he takes, the less Durant takes.”
Russell Westbrook in my honest opinion is a fantastic sidekick for Kevin Durant, but he does have the tendency to shoot too much and try to take over games when he probably should leave that to Durant. What makes this tough is that if he’s on any other team, Russell Westbrook is the guy you want on your team taking those shots. But when you also have Kevin Durant, you probably wish that Durant was taking more shots than Westbrook, especially down the stretch. On Monday night, Durant and Westbrook each took the same number of shots (28), which for the Grizzlies is a good thing. You want Westbrook shooting just as much as Durant, and preferably more.
However, I think more than just raw shots, what makes Westbrook’s shooting a concern for the Thunder is his shot selection. Westbrook shot 1/7 from 3-point range whereas Durant shot 5/12 from 3-point range. That explains why Durant had 36 points and Westbrook had 29. Durant is a better shooter than Westbrook because he takes better shots and also is better from 3-point range. Westbrook shot 31.8% from 3-point range this year and Durant shot 39.1% from 3-point range. That’s your difference. Westbrook isn’t nearly as good of an outside shooter as Kevin Durant is, and I think that’s what Lee is really alluding to. When it comes to outside shots, the Grizzlies will let Westbrook shoot all the threes he wants because his percentage from beyond the arc is so much lower than Durant’s.
So, if I can adjust Lee’s quote or interpret it for you, he’s really saying “The more threes Westbrook takes, the fewer for Durant.” That’s where the Thunder get into trouble. It isn’t when Westbrook is slashing to the rim for a dunk or a lay up or even a mid-range jump shot. It’s when Westbrook pulls up for a three. It’ll be interesting to see if the Grizzlies continue to use the strategy of letting Westbrook chuck up as many threes as he wants. I expect that they will. Especially since they make sure that they put Tony Allen (the best defender on the team) on Kevin Durant and not on Russell Westbrook.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord