Both players arrived in Oklahoma City at the same time.
Durant had been the second overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft after one outstanding season at the University of Texas. After winning Rookie of the Year honors with the Seattle SuperSonics, he was with the team when it moved that summer from Pacific North to the Great Plains.
Westbrook was the fourth overall pick of the SuperSonics in the 2008 NBA Draft and made his debut with the Thunder that fall.
The pairing didn’t get off to an auspicious start. Under former coach P.J. Carlesimo, the transplanted Thunder lost 12 of their first 13 games before assistant coach Scott Brooks was promoted to the lead chair.
OKC went 22-47 the rest of the way—the franchise’s fourth straight losing season—and its 23-59 record marked only a three-game improvement from the team’s final year in Seattle.
But since then, as Durant and Westbrook learned how to coexist and learned the ways of life in the NBA, the Thunder have flourished. Since 2009-10, Oklahoma City is 207-98 in regular-season play.
In 2009-10, the Thunder returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and fell to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the first-round. Their win total skyrocketed to 50 from the 23 they managed the previous year.
In 2010-11, OKC took the next step, winning 55 games and advancing to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Dallas Mavericks.
In the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Thunder won 47 games and reached the NBA Finals for the first time since 1996. And for all the talk of problems between the two, Durant and Westbrook were able to do stuff like this in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs:
This year, OKC is 55-20, leads the Northwest Division and is currently in second place in the Western Conference, just a half-game behind the San Antonio Spurs after beating the Spurs 100-88 on Thursday, April 4.
Durant and Westbrook have become as conjoined as other great NBA duos of the past, pairings such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen or Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.
But are Durant and Westbrook the best combination in the NBA right now?
There’s an argument to be made that they are, but there are also counter-arguments that say that Durant and Westbrook haven’t quite reached the top of the mountain just yet.
In terms of pure scoring, the Oklahoma City duo is far and away the best tandem in basketball, as shown below:
|Team||Player 1||Player 2||Total|
|Kevin Durant (28.3)||Russell Westbrook (23.2)||51.5|
|LeBron James (26.9)||Dwyane Wade (21.3)||48.2|
|Carmelo Anthony (28.1)||J.R. Smith (17.6)||45.7|
|Kobe Bryant (27.0)||Dwight Howard (16.7)||43.7|
|James Harden (25.9)||Chandler Parsons (15.3)||41.2|
|Stephen Curry (22.6)||David Lee (18.6)||41.2|
But LeBron James and Dwyane Wade outperform their Oklahoma City counterparts in terms of overall efficiency, as measured by the pair’s combined player efficiency rating (PER), shown below:
|Team||Player 1||Player 2||Total|
|LeBron James (31.4)||Dwyane Wade (24.1)||55.5|
|Kevin Durant (27.9)||Russell Westbrook (23.5)||51.4|
|Chris Paul (26.2)||Blake Griffin (22.7)||48.9|
|Tim Duncan (24.5)||Tony Parker (23.5)||48.0|
|Brook Lopez (24.4)||Andray Blatche (22.2)||46.6|
The tiebreaker, then, comes down to which combination means how much to its respective team. The top tandems in term of estimated wins added (EWA) are shown below:
So Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are no doubt one of the best tandems in the NBA right now and are at least in the conversation to become one of the best combinations in league history.
But the kids have to wait their turn—LeBron James and Dwyane Wade still hold the tandem crown.