Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook, Paul George to mix well

Four-time All-Star Paul George is now an OKC player, but can he form an effective partnership with MVP Russell Westbrook?


Improved transition play

When you have a chance to acquire a top-20 player with the prospect of him playing alongside the league MVP, whilst only giving up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, you do it. This is exactly what the Thunder organization did. So good was the deal that Oklahoma City probably didn’t extensively examine whether these two elites can coexist. 

Paul George is undoubtedly a great acquisition and his defensive value has been hugely overlooked in this move. It is obvious that the Thunder want to preserve Russell Westbrook as the main man and have taken extra defensive pressure from him by getting George so he can display his explosive attacking talents and not have as much opposition attention on him.

George is more than capable of switching on the countless picks to guard many positions. With the physical force that is Steven Adams protecting the rim, combined with George’s underrated defensive abilities, the Thunder’s rearguard could become a force in the league. This would greatly enhance their transition play as well, with PG13 and others getting defensive stops and then using Westbrook’s explosiveness in attack.

Scoring pressure off Westbrook

Obviously, the Thunder will expect Westbrook to finish the season being the highest scorer on the roster but the pressure on him to score consistently has been eased dramatically with the four-time All-Star now there.

What made Westbrook so good last season (and his whole career) is his ridiculous ability to surge to the hoop whenever he wants and not be stopped. Having an offensive player of George’s caliber on the court at the same time provides such a good option for Westbrook. The MVP automatically has the opposition’s attention on him eased, as rivals cannot exactly leave a 23.7-point-per-game player (George’s 2016/17 season point average) sitting open on the perimeter.

This also means that the 2012 Olympic gold medalist will save a lot of energy. He frankly burned out at the back end of last season due to no fault of his own. The Thunder struggled to score with their net rating dropping 12.5 points per 100 possessions while Westbrook was on the bench. the 28-year-old will be able to rest whilst knowing a player of George’s offensive quality is out there, which will be hugely beneficial for the team.

Clearly defined roles

In terms of their roles, Westbrook will still be an incredibly high-usage player and George knows that. George is in Oklahoma to take the pressure off Westbrook both offensively and defensively. During his time in Indiana, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist had been accused many times of not breaking into the top tier of players, especially after his horrific injury.

In addition to the best two-way players in LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard, the likes of Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Giannis Antetokounmpo have arguably leapfrogged George in terms of elite two-way ability over the past three seasons. Having an alpha player like Westbrook, whose dominance drove Durant out of Oklahoma, might suit George much better than some are suggesting.

The 2013 Most Improved Player will no longer have the pressure of producing the last clutch shot of a close game, which he would have had to do at the Pacers. We have seen many times how he has a tendency to come up short in big games. The intoxicating inspiration that Westbrook possesses could be the best thing for the 27-year-old, who can go about his own game and flourish without the pressure of being the main man.

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Ashad Langdana

Lifelong sports fan, particularly football, basketball and tennis. If you would like to get in touch, please don't hesitate to contact me!

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