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Durant defends his shot volume and why it’s not higher

Mar 13, 2013, 11:12 AM EDT

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets Getty Images

Monday night in a loss to San Antonio, Kevin Durant hit 7-of-13 shots on his way to 26 points. Russell Westbrook on the other hand put up 27 shots (including a ridiculous half-court shot trying to draw a foul), hit 11, and finished with an inefficient 25 points.

Tuesday that brought up the same old “why doesn’t Kevin Durant get more shots?” discussion. As noted by the Elias Sports Bureau, the Thunder are on pace to become the second team ever to have the scoring champion take the second most shots on his own team. Thank you Westbrook.

Durant said it’s not about the number of shots, it’s about making the right basketball play, via the Oklahoman.

“I can do whatever I want on the offensive end,” Durant said. “I can come down and take 30 shots. That’s not the right brand of basketball for me, to just come down and shoot. It’s not because of the defense limiting me to 13 shots. I could have shot more than that, but I was trying to make the right basketball play.”

We should add in Durant’s defense here he got to the free throw line 11 times, he made plays that didn’t count as shot attempts.

Sometimes as fans we have a sense that our stars must play a certain way — Jordan took over games, Kobe Bryant willingly takes over games, why won’t Kevin Durant? (Remember LeBron James used to hear the same thing.) But Durant is not Kobe nor does he want to be.

Durant is right that for the Thunder to take the next step it can’t be about him jacking up more shots, his buckets need to come out of the flow of the offense. Teams are going to work to not let the best pure scorer in the game get easy looks and the Thunder as a team have to make them pay with ball movement and other guys scoring.

There needs to be a balance. Westbrook needs to pick his spots better on when to shoot and when to set up Durant and others, and frankly he has been better this year. He wasn’t against the Spurs.

The bottom line is Durant and Westbrook remain one of the best combinations in the NBA, two guys under age 25 who led their team to the NBA finals. They are a team on the cusp of a title, a true contender. The loss Monday was one March game. Don’t go overboard with your reactions in OKC. Especially to the Spurs game, which was the Thunder’s fifth game in seven days. Move on.

  1. aboogy123456 - Mar 13, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Durant and westbrook need to find a way to make each other better instead of just taking turns scoring. Lebron and wade had that problem but they learned how to play off of each other and it led to them winning a championship. Look at how Kobe and dwight played last night. They create a system of playing off of each other so it becomes much harder for the defense to gameplan becuase they are constantly dealing with two superstars.

    I’m not sure what the best way for them to figure this out is but I think one option is that durant can become more of a post player. They have no interior post presence and if he really developed down low it would open up their offense for westbrook and make them harder to guard. Right now they have nobody to post up on offense so Durant should try to fit that role more.

    • gpatrick15 - Mar 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      It’s not that they “take turns scoring,” it’s that Durant has a much higher basketball IQ than Westbrook and displays it on the court. Durant knows when he needs to score, and can do so mostly at will. He picks his shots and his spots wisely. Westbrook is one of my favorite players, but sometimes he tries to impose his will physically rather than play within a system or make the right play. A lot of the time, his way works. When it doesn’t (like the game vs the Spurs), its magnified. I don’t care what goes through his head regarding his matchup, he should always run the offense in a way that gets the best shots, regardless of who takes them.

    • gpatrick15 - Mar 13, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      However, I do agree with your last part. Look at how great Carmelo has been while playing mostly at the 4. It’s been shown time and time again that the Thunder are better while playing small with Durant at the 4 spot and Perk on the bench, with either Ibaka or Collison playing center. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t completely trust Scott Brooks. The Thunder are my favorite team, but sometimes Brooks’ decisions baffles me. In the Heat series last year, it was clear that Perk was ineffective, yet he got plenty of playing time, when the most effective lineup would have had them playing small.

  2. asimonetti88 - Mar 13, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    “Sometimes as fans we have a sense that our stars must play a certain way — Jordan took over games, Kobe Bryant willingly takes over games, why won’t Kevin Durant?”

    Kevin Durant DOES take over games. He just does it differently than others. There are stretches of the game where Durant scores at will. He is a very efficient scorer- he is averaging 50-40-90 on the year. He doesn’t need to take more shots to score tons of points.

    • brutl - Mar 13, 2013 at 9:46 PM

      No, not when foul shots are half his points. That spurs game was ridiculous with the calls the thunder were getting, and they were still getting their butts kicked.

  3. michaeljordanseviltwin - Mar 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    I don’t care for Westbrook’s shot selection but I’m not going to keep bitching about it. At this point it seems that he is the player he’s gonna be and we should just appreciate him for what he does well. He still averages 8+ assists and makes some of the most awesome athletic plays you’ll ever see. And man does he compete. That boy wants to win.

  4. roeski - Mar 13, 2013 at 12:50 PM


  5. Distinguished Male - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    I wonder how many people who see Westbrook taking more shots actually watch these Thunder games. Yes, Westbrook can sometimes make boneheaded plays and jack up crazy shots, but in this system, on this team, he has to.

    Scotty Brooks is falling out of favor with me. Other teams have figured out how to have top players play extremely well off each other. Miami and the Lakers, for example. If you look at a crunch time situation for OKC, they hand the ball off to Durant or Westbrook, and just hope for the best. They don’t really run plays that well.

    Therefore, Westbrook has to create. He crashes into the lane because it opens up outside shots. He pulls up for a quick jumper, because it will suck the defense in the next possession, opening up an inside look. Look at any stat relative to a PG efficiency (ast% / turnover %, etc) and Westbrook is one of the best in the league this year. All the more impressive considering he has one of the highest usage %s in the league. The Thunder NEED Westbrook to create in order to get their offense going.

    Durant has always been a bit of the Ray Allen type. Catch and shoot. He’s gotten better at creating his own plays, and plays for his teammates, but catch and shoot has always been his preferred offense. Look, OKC is a top ranked offense. But even good teams have bad nights.

    People keep trying to make this “Westbrook is bad for OKC” storyline happen, but it’s not going to. He’s still improving, people. And the fact that he’s already this good, and yet still has room to improve, is just flat out scary, especially when you consider the fact that the scoring champion is right next to him.

    • scalfor3 - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      That’s because pulling up for a contested 20 footer with 19 seconds left on the shot clock isn’t considered a turnover. It’s still a bad basketball play.

      • Distinguished Male - Mar 13, 2013 at 5:35 PM

        Right. Like I said, he’s prone to make silly shot selections, but he really does get much more flak than he deserves.

        It’s like Josh Smith jacking up anything outside of 20 feet. You don’t want him to, but he does. Sometimes though, he gets hot from that range, and look out. Same applies to Westbrook’s questionable snap jumpers.

        Westbrook is one of the top players in the league, and thinking OKC needs to get rid of him because of Durant is like thinking the Heat need to get rid of Wade because they have Lebron. It doesn’t make sense.

      • scalfor3 - Mar 13, 2013 at 10:50 PM

        Oh I agree with you there. If I were OKC I would’ve traded Westbrook and kept Harden though.

  6. lew24 - Mar 13, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    A big mistake was OKC not trading Westbrook for Paul.

  7. LPad - Mar 13, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    This is just lazy analysis. The second leading scorer on your team will occasionally take more shots than your leading scorer. Especially if both are giving you more than 20 a game. Pippen occasionally took more shots than Jordan too. It’s not a big deal and it occurs for several different reasons.

    For example, Westbrook gets more steals per game, which lead to more open floor opportunities for him. In a game he may get three or four open court layups while Durant may get only one or two. Also, he penetrates more and gets less fouls calls, which means he is more likely to get hit, miss a layup and get a putback. That’s two quality shot attempts for Westbrook and zero for Durant on that possession. Matchups is another way. Durant usually has the opponents best defender on him, which means that Westbrook usually is able to get his shot off easier. Also teams double Durant more, which means that Westbrook gets more open shots.

    Also the idea that Durant doesn’t take over games is silly. Since when is going for 35, 40 plus not taking over a game. He does that like once or twice a week.

    • Kurt Helin - Mar 13, 2013 at 6:49 PM

      This is not a one-time thing, or even just an occasional thing. On the season Westbrook averages 18.8 shots a game to Durant’s 17.9. Again, only one team in NBA history (and it was a long time ago) had someone other than the league’s leading scorer AVERAGE more shots a game.

  8. BigBeachBall - Mar 13, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Westbrook sucks.

  9. kb2408 - Mar 13, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    This is one of the reasons why OKC won’t win a title. Everyone else seems to understand that KD should be taking more shots than RW, except for KD himself. He’s unselfish to a fault. Furthermore, OKC tries to beat Miami at their own game. However, Miami does it better. OKC should’ve kept the Beard and traded RW instead. With the Beard and KD an average point guard would’ve sufficed.

  10. iamjimmyjack - Mar 13, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    This relationship will last two more years max! These guys want to be the guy who takes the last shot. They are coexisting cuz they have to. Trust me if they don’t win a ring in the next two years, one of them will request a trade. Likely Westbrook. Enjoy this while it lasts okc. Nothing lasts forever.

  11. broadstbully - Mar 13, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    But it’s less than one more shot per game. All of LPad’s points account for that, even over the course of the season. I don’t think your analysis was lazy, Kurt. But maybe it was incomplete. At worst, the numbers deserve some looking into.

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