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Oklahoma City Thundersuperstar point guardRussell Westbrookhas not been cleared for full practice because of a knee injury, and it remains unclear if he’ll be available for the team’s season opener on Tuesday, Oct. 16, against theGolden State Warriors, perRoyce Youngof ESPN.com.
According to that report, Westbrook is “progressing on schedule” and “participating in some ‘controlled contact’ portions of practice,” though “Billy Donovanwouldn’t say whether or not Westbrook is expected to be available opening night.”
Westbrook, 29, remains Oklahoma City’s most important player as the Thunder enter the second year of his pairing withPaul George. Gone is Carmelo Anthony, who never seemed to fit in Oklahoma City. In came Dennis Schroder—who will guide the team as the starting point guard until Westbrook returns from injury—Nerlens Noel, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Abdel Nader and rookie Hamidou Diallo.
The additions of players like Schroder and Noel and the re-signing of Raymond Felton were expected to bolster the bench, though if Westbrook misses the start of the season, the bench unit will take a hit with Schroder forced into starting duty.
Once Westbrook returns, however, the Thunder will be a playoff contender and one of the more interesting teams in theNBA. In Westbrook and George, the team has two legitimate stars, while Steven Adams remains one of the league’s more underrated players. Andre Roberson is a defensive stopper, while Jerami Grant offers the team excellent athleticism.
That starting five should smother opposing lineups on the defensive end, while Westbrook and George will be taxed with carrying the load offensively.
Westbrook won’t mind. He’s averaged at least 21 shots per game in three of the last four seasons, posting 25.4 PPG, 10.3 APG and 10.1 RPG in 2017-18, the second year in a row he averaged a triple-double. That earned him the MVP in 2016-17, but he finished fifth in the voting for the award last year.
Oklahoma City’s offense completely runs through Westbrook, and in his absence, George will lead the way. He averaged 21.9 points on a more modest 17 shots per game last season. If Westbrook misses any time during the regular season, those numbers will go up.