Brodie just put up one of the most spectacular MVP performances we have seen in the modern NBA. What more could he possibly prove?
Russell Westbrook always has had something to prove. It started at UCLA, where he wasn’t even on scholarship at the school and paid to attend and play basketball there. Worse yet? He wasn’t even a starter, he played 6th man for the team. Russell spent endless days working on his athleticism and game, running with weights on his ankles on the beach; whatever it took to accomplish his dream of becoming a legendary basketball player.
It wasn’t until the final few weeks of the draft that people looked at Westbrook as a lottery pick. Initially many people questioned the Sonics (yes, he was drafted by the Sonics, bring them back!) for drafting Westbrook at pick #4 in such a loaded draft, with the big star at his college Kevin Love being taken the pick after him. Even more Westbrook had to prove.
As the team filled out its roster, it became clear that this team was built with Kevin Durant in mind and Russell Westbrook as the secondary piece next to him. After the Thunder lost out in the NBA Finals with a core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden coming off the bench as the sixth man, the future looked bright for OKC. Here were three young players yet to hit their peak making it to the NBA Finals.
It wasn’t meant to be. The Thunder traded away James Harden for Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb and some draft picks while deciding to pay Serge Ibaka instead. The Thunder, in a small market, simply couldn’t afford to pay the luxury tax and keep all players.
It became clear that Russell Westbrook was the type of player you build your whole team around when Kevin Durant went down with an injury and Russell Westbrook stepped up.
You could see how much he loved being the #1 option, and what an adjustment the team had to make when KD came back. But with Russell’s wild play, Kevin Durant grew frustrated with the way they played ball, leading to Scott Brooks being fired, and eventually a breakdown in a ball movement heavy style with new coach Billy Donavan, Durant felt like the two couldn’t coexist. He opted for a style that got him more open looks with the 73-9 Warriors.
After Westbrook averaged a triple double and took home MVP honors last season in his first full season as a number one option, his team fell short in the playoffs. The Thunder knew they had to do something to keep the man Michael Jordan said reminded him most of himself in the modern NBA after losing Kevin Durant the off-season prior.
The Thunder acquired Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. Another small market team traded for hometown hero and prime ticket seller Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after George publicly cried he wanted out when it was clear management wasn’t able to give him the support he needed to make it deep in the playoffs, including going over the luxury tax.
This is a pivotal point for the Thunder and Westbrook, as Paul George will leave if the Thunder does what it did in the past by letting go of Harden to save money, and on Russell Westbrook to make it work. After all, he’s finally where he belongs as the centerpiece of a franchise. Let the build begin.