Room for Two

There’s not much separating the two best players in Oklahoma City.

In age, it’s just two months. In the clubhouse, their lockers are just two spots away from each other.

One was the second pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, the other was selected fourth in 2008.

Both were chosen to represent Team USA this summer at the FIBA World Championship. One served as the offensive force off the bench, the other proved to be the most dominant player in the tournament.

Ever since their time overseas, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have been unstoppable, and they have a chance to make history this season.

There have been plenty of dynamic duos in the NBA: Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan and finally Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Every player listed in the paragraph above has won NBA titles and if not already, will have be enshrined in the Hall-of-Fame.

The difference between the legendary players and the duo in Oklahoma City was no set of players were put their ego aside and really become co-leaders of their franchise.

In each instance, one player had to defer to the other and when one player refuses to step aside (see Shaq, Kobe) one player had to go.

With Durant leading the league in scoring at 27.5 points per game and Westbrook not far behind at 24, the duo has an opportunity to become the first combination to each average over 25 points a night.

A feat no combination of players has achieved in the history of the game.

There has been some speculation the Honeymoon may be ending in Oklahoma City as Westbrook has greatly elevated his game to become one of the most talented guards in the league.

Kevin Durant was joined on the Sports Illustrated cover by Thabo Sefolosha and Nenad Kristic.

The difference is, Durant is the undisputed leader of the Thunder, only he doesn’t have the ego to most stars have to become damaged as Westbrook continually receives more and more praise for his talents.

Everyone points to Durant announcing his contract extension via Twitter as an example of how he doesn’t crave the spotlight.

The fact is, Durant’s unselfishness is on display constantly.

When Sports Illustrated asked Durant to pose for its NBA Preview cover, the 22-year-old refused unless two of his teammates be included in the photo shoot.

Last season Durant became the youngest scoring champion in league history, averaging 30.1 points per game while leading the league in minutes played.

His outstanding performance this summer for Team USA made him the the favorite to capture his first MVP award this season.

While Durant has played at an All-Star level this season, his teammate has taken the next step towards becoming a superstar.

Westbrook is the only player on the roster to register a 40-point game this year, torching Indiana for 43. In his third year in the league, he jumped his scoring average eight points per game, up from 16.1 points a season ago.

Combine his scoring totals with 8.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game and he has become one of the elite point guards in the league.

While he has improved tremendously offensively, it’s his play on the defensive end that has transformed Westbrook into an MVP candidate this season.

Coming off the bench for Team USA this summer, Westbrook filled in for Derrick Rose and was able to completely change the pace of the game on both ends of the floor. He earned the crunch time minutes for the Americans because of his ability to lock down his opponent.

Westbrook has carried that defensive intensity back to Oklahoma City, averaging a career high 2.2 steals per game this year.

His stellar play on both ends of the floor has turned him into the co-leader for the Thunder.

There is no question Oklahoma City has the best young duo in the league.

When Durant missed some action nursing a sprained ankle, Westbrook didn’t miss a step, scoring 31 during win at Boston (the Celtics first home loss of the year). A few nights later, he dragged Oklahoma City to a double-overtime win at New Jersey, totaling 38 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

His efforts have already have been recognized as the Western Conference Player of the Week.

Even Durant recognizes the improvement in his game, telling Westbrook has been playing like an MVP this season.

No matter which player wins the individual hardware, the one thing bonding the two together is their intense work ethic.

In just four seasons, Durant was able to transform Oklahoma City into a winning atmosphere, leading the Thunder to a 50-32 record last season after totaling just 43 wins in the two years prior.

Most rosters with an average age of 24.6 years would play too quickly, lack focus on the defensive end and under-perform in crunch time situations.

Oklahoma City (16-8) is one of the most dangerous teams in the league because of the example set by Durant and Westbrook each day in practice.

To say each player is a gym rat is an understatement. Both players suited up for Team USA this summer, not content to just make an appearance in the playoffs last season. The effect on their game is on full display each night in the Oklahoma City Arena.

Both have been praised for their stellar work ethic year round.

When teams spend extra time practicing together, the right way, the results are evident on the floor. Westbrook ranks seventh in the league in assists and ninth in scoring, making him the second most efficient player in the league behind Chris Paul.

Durant is likely to win his second-straight scoring title, ranking first in the NBA despite a poor shooting display to open the season.

For the year, Westbrook has exceeded 25 points on 10 occasions, 16 times for Durant, including each of the last five games.

What makes it possible for both players to achieve the feat is their games mesh so well together. Eight times this season, both players scored 25 points or more in the same game, including the Thunders last two games.

No surprise, Oklahoma City is undefeated when both of their superstars are lighting up the scoreboard.

No matter which player is putting the ball in the basket, Oklahoma City is going to be the league’s most dangerous team because of their young stars.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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