LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard had just paired off in the summer of 2015; Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins would join forces in New Orleans (via trade). The Warriors Big 3 recruited Kevin Durant. And James Harden and Chris Paul – who had a pre-existing Olympic relationship – teamed up in Houston.
Then there’s Westbrook. I’ve joked that he’s Kobe post-Shaq, and this photo is further evidence of that. The problem, of course, was Kobe was in his Final season; Westbrook is 29, in his prime.
At what point does Westbrook look inward and say I can’t do it myself, I need help and I’ve got to change my game to make it work. Players are adjusting their games to work with other stars so they can win titles. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins both changed their games, developing 3-pointers.
Kevin Durant was cool playing fewer minutes and getting fewer shots in Golden State. (Result: MVP of the Finals.) The Warriors Big 3 was fine taking fewer shots as well. James Harden – who has just shifted from shooting guard to point guard and had an MVP season … was now going to have to share point guard duties with Chris Paul. Consider LaMarcus Aldridge – he averaged 20.6 shots per game in 2014, then 19.9 in 2015 … and in San Antonio, his attempts went down to 14 alongside Kawhi Leonard in Gregg Popovich’s system.
And not that shockingly, all the pairings have worked. Anthony Davis finally won a round in the playoffs (yes, Cousins is out injured). The Rockets are poised to finally get CP3 to the conference finals. The Warriors won the title last year with a 16-1 postseason run. The Spurs were in the Conference Finals last year, but have been hampered by injuries ever since.
Russell Westbrook has lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2017 and 2018.