No Kevin Durant, no problem.
Actually it seems to be benefiting Russell Westbrook more that Durant took his talents to the Bay Area this offseason.
After spending eight seasons together, the dynamic duo are separate entities on vastly different teams — one on a team expected to make it to the NBA Finals for the third-straight year, the other expected to have to battle all season just to get into the playoffs.
Westbrook seems up to the challenge ahead of him, though, and is off to a blistering start to the NBA’s 2016-17 campaign.
In three games, Westbrook has recorded a triple-double twice and led his team to three wins.
His compilation of stats hasn’t just been impressive, it’s been historic:
You read that correctly.
Through the first three games of the NBA season, Westbrook is averaging more than 40 points, 10 boards, and 10 assists per game.
Westbrook made history earlier this week too, when he put up 51 points in the league’s first 50-point triple-double since 1975:
That’s not to say Westbrook is a stranger to big-time performances; he isn’t.
In a career that’s already included five All-Star selections, Westbrook has averaged 21.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game.
But now without Durant, Westbrook has been given free reign of a backcourt that includes Victor Oladipo and little else.
Sports writers were split at the start of the season as to what to expect from the new-look Thunder, who also lost Serge Ibaka in the offseason in the trade for Oladipo.
Bleacher Report expected the Thunder to finish 43-39 and clinch a No. 7 seed in the postseason.
FiveThirtyEight predicted they would win 50 games and finish with a No. 4 seed.
One thing is for certain — Westbrook will be the key to the Thunder’s success.
He is already scoring 38 percent of their points per game this season and despite his ridiculous numbers, the Thunder only won their first two games by a combined nine points and needed all 51 of Westbrook’s points to beat the Phoenix Suns in overtime.
They have a tough stretch ahead this week with a back-to-back in L.A. against the Clippers followed by a date with Durant’s Warriors.
The Thunder’s performances against those teams will be telling in how they will compete against marquee teams after their first three games were against teams with three of the four worst records in the league last year.
Westbrook will be looking to show he deserves to be in the MVP conversation — and you do that by winning games like these ones.
Keep an eye on Westbrook this year. Or don’t — he doesn’t seem to mind being an underdog.