Russell Westbrook is the best player on the Oklahoma City Thunder, and it’s not cutting-edge basketball knowledge that they’ll do worse when he’s not on the floor.
But the degree to which they were inept without him during this week’s playoff series loss to the Houston Rockets is staggering.
Westbrook played 194 minutes in the series’ five games, of which Houston won four. When Westbrook was on the floor (for 39 minutes per game), the Thunder outscored Houston by 4.9 points per 100 possessions. Taj Gibson (plus-13.7) and Steven Adams (plus-7.7) posted even better net ratings when they were on the court.
When Westbrook wasn’t on the court, Oklahoma City was even worse than you probably thought. The Thunder were outscored by 51.3 points per 100 possessions while Westbrook watched from the bench, for a total of 46 minutes during the series. That’s about one full game, scattered throughout five games, of total ineptitude.
In real terms, when Westbrook sat this series, the Thunder were outscored 137-79 in 45.5 minutes of total court time. They lost by 58 points without Westbrook playing. For the entire series, Houston only outscored Oklahoma City by 43 points.
The Thunder were plus-3.3 points per 100 possessions with Westbrook on the floor during the regular season, and minus-8.9 without him. That’s not good, but it doesn’t explain their outrageous degree of terribleness without him against Houston.
The Thunder didn’t have a single lineup without Westbrook — not even one that played a minute or two — that finished in the net positive against the Rockets.
Things reached a crescendo in Game 5 on Tuesday.
Russell Westbrook was off the floor for 6 minutes in Game 5.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 26, 2017
In those 6 minutes, the Rockets outscored the Thunder 27-9. pic.twitter.com/AicL24JgEd
You can play around with various Thunder-Westbrook numbers on the NBA’s official website. None of them will do anything to hurt your argument for Westbrook as MVP.
The Thunder’s Westbrook-less futility will be remembered for a tense press conference exchange after Game 4.
Russell Westbrook goes off on reporter who asks about team's play while he's on the bench pic.twitter.com/oikTf0GxCj— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) April 23, 2017
A reporter asked Adams about the team’s inability to succeed without its star on the court, and Westbrook became furious. He said the reporter was trying to “split up” the Thunder. But the numbers make it clear that the reporter had a point.