Russell Westbrook has more than proven this season that he is able to completely carry this Thunder team without Kevin Durant. Averaging almost a triple-double per night, this man is the sole reason this team not only will most likely make the playoffs, but give their opponents a run for their money. Without Westbrook playing for the Thunder, this team would probably be at the bottom of the table with the Suns.
The month of January was definitely a tough month for OKC, going 7-8, with only 3 of the 15 games being played at home. This schedule in January also consisted of playing some of the top tier teams in the league this year, like Houston, Golden State, Los Angeles, and back to back games with San Antonio and Cleveland to end the month. On top of their extremely difficult month, the team truly struggled overall with tough losses to teams like Charlotte, Minnesota, and Milwaukee, whom are all teams that they are more than capable of beating. These struggles have continued early on into the month of February, as they were absolutely blown out by a struggling Bulls team last night, 128-100. This loss was their third in a row and they have now dropped into the 7 seed in the Western conference.
One should note that the Thunder’s 2 previous losses were to San Antonio and Cleveland, but Oklahoma was not able to put up enough of a fight to really contend by the time the 4th quarter came around. Russell Westbrook has been able to carry this team into contending for a playoff spot, but they are yet to prove that they can beat the top tier teams in the league this year. There is only so much that Westbrook can do before teams start shutting him down and he has to rely on his teammates around him. He doesn’t have Durant to go to though as another offensive threat anymore; he has Victor Oladipo, who is not anywhere near close to being an answer for the loss of a superstar like KD.
The trade deadline less than 3 weeks away, and there is no doubt that the Thunder need to go out and get another piece to work with around him. Steven Adams and Oladipo are definitely starters that are suitable pieces that Westbrook is able to work with, but OKC is extremely weak with both of their forward positions. Andre Roberson is only averaging 6.4 PPG at small forward, while Domantas Sabonis is their starting power forward as a rookie. Both of these players are very young still and have a probable future in the NBA, but OKC needs answers now to help Westbrook contend in the west, and they are not going to cut it.
Rumors were spinning that Rudy Gay would have been a done deal to be traded to OKC before the trade deadline, but he sadly tore his Achilles and will most likely not be ready to play again until the start of next season. This would have been a huge pickup for them, as it would have fulfilled their need at the small forward position, but they have to move on from this possibility. Someone else they should look after is Paul Millsap in Atlanta. The Hawks are thinking of possibly trading the forward before the deadline, and what better fit than a team like the Thunder. Millsap has been one of the best power forwards in the game today, and this would be a huge improvement to have in the power forward position, while having Sabonis develop underneath.
All in all, this team needs to make some moves before the trade deadline if they plan on giving a better fight against the top tiered teams in the NBA this season. Westbrook has been able to carry them alone this far already, but he’s going to need help and improvement from those around him if they truly believe to become a top threat the remainder of the season.