Tremendous Tandems: Kevin Durant And Russell Westbrook Aim To Make A Baker’s Dozen

Through 52 games the prodigious pair of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have scored 2,711 points this NBA season, a shade more than half of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s entire point total. Both lead not only at their position in points-per-game, but have been mainstays in the top five on the PPG leaderboard all year long.

Twenty two times this season has this potent pair of assassins posted at least 25 points in the same game, 42% of the entire OKC schedule. Any given night you have to pick your poison, choose which to tie up hoping your roulette gamble pays off and you don’t get torched by the other. Should RussWest, averaging 24.5 PPG as I write this a few hours before the Thunder will square off with the Memphis Grizzlies, go on one more tear and manage to bump up his scoring average to 25.0, he and Durant will become just the thirteenth tandem in NBA history to post 25 PPG for the same team.

The feat has been accomplished only 15 times previously in NBA history by a dozen sets of twosomes.

• Accounting for 57% of their team’s 100.6 average scoring in 2000-01, Shaquille O’Neal put up 28.7 PPG while Kobe Bryant chipped in 28.5 PPG. The Los Angeles Lakers would take the title in dominating fashion.

• Accounting for 57% of the Lakers’ scoring once again in 2002-03, 100.4 PPG, Kobe would knock back 30.0 PPG while Shaq played an increasingly disgruntled second-fiddle to Bryant putting up 27.5 PPG. The Lakers would lose to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs.

• Accounting for 52% of the Lakers’ 101.3 points-per-game in 2001-02, Shaq continued his prime with 27.2 PPG to Kobe’s up-and-coming 25.2 PPG en route to the last three-peat seen in the NBA.

One other tandem, also of Royal Blue and Gold, decorates the annals of prolific pointdom with three appearances on this list of copious scoring in combos.

• Accounting for 52% of the 1964-65 Lakers’ 111.9 points, the logo himself, Jerry West, dropped 31.0 PPG to Elgin Baylor’s 27.1 PPG. The team would lose their third trip to the Finals since moving from Minneapolis to LA to the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics. You will see these super-twins again shortly.

• Accounting for 51% of last season’s superteam Miami Heat 102.1 scoring on average, LeBron James threw down 26.7 PPG while Dwyane Wade followed closely with 25.5 PPG. Still fresh in the memory is their Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

• Our current tandem chimes in here currently accounting for 50% of the Thunder’s 103.7 PPG offensive output, Kevin Durant in a heated scoring champ battle with Kobe knocking down 27.7 PPG as of April 1 to Russell Westbrook’s much-improved efficiency leading to 24.5 PPG. Postseason fate: TBD

• Dipping under the majority mark for the first time on this list with 49% of the total 109.7 PPG we find the 1963-64 Lakers led by Jerry West’s 28.7 PPG and Elgin Baylor’s 25.4 PPG. They would be bounced by the St. Louis Hawks in what was then the first of three rounds of playoffs, who would in turn be bounced by the eventual Finals-bounds San Francisco Warriors led by Wilt Chamberlain.

This season’s Heat also finds 49% of their 101.3 PPG led by LeBron’s 26.5 PPG and D Wade, although Wade is not near enough the 25 PPG highlighted here with 23.0 PPG. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Dominating your team’s scoring in tandem is by no means a guarantee of a title. Only three on this list have managed to reel one in — all Lakers squads — and only three others even have a Finals appearance the year of making this list.

I can’t be the only one to be at least a little surprised that the Boston Celtics, in all their historical glory, only give us one fleeting glimpse in this group. Without looking I’d wager they do appear on more passing lists though. Nevertheless, I present to you…

• Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, accounting for 48% of the 1986-87 Celtics’ 112.6 PPG, Bird hitting at 28.1 PPG, McHale at 26.1 PPG. However, Magic Johnson and the Lakers would take the playoff cake. Sadly, this would be Larry Bird’s last Finals appearance.

Four different dynamic duos accounted for 47% of their team’s scoring, listed here in order of team PPG. Two would fail to reach the postseason, two others would get relatively early vacations, losing at the conclusion of round one.

• In 1960-61 the Cincinnati Royals would put up an astounding 117.9 PPG behind Oscar Robertson’s 30.5 PPG and Jack Twyman’s 25.3 PPG. But it would be in vain as Cinci would finish the season dead last in the Western Division, then the Western Conference, failing to make the playoffs.

The Big O and Jack Twyman

• Before Willis Reed and Walt Frazier there was Rich Guerin and Willie Naulls who, in the 1961-62 season, led the New York Knicks and their 114.8 PPG with 29.5 and 25.0 PPG, respectively. Despite leading the NBA in attendance in the famed Madison Square Garden that year the Knicks would finish ahead of only the expansion Chicago Packers in the regular season standings, missing the spring season.

• When you think Pistol Pete Maravich you think… Lou Hudson and the Atlanta Hawks?! Putting up a third-best-in-the-NBA 112.4 PPG in 1972-73, Lou Hudson would lead the Hawks with 27.1 PPG with Maravich a free throw behind at 26.1 PPG. Although his most prolific scoring years would be with the New Orleans Jazz, Maravich would never see the playoffs there. This particular year the “Hudson Hawks” would lose to the Boston Celtics in the “first round.”

• The Knicks and Amar’e Stoudemire isn’t the first time someone tried to build a super-core around Carmelo Anthony. In 2007-08 the Denver Nuggets acquired Allen Iverson to pair with Melo and put up an NBA second-best 110.7 PPG, AI dropping 26.7 to Melo’s 25.7 PPG. Hopes were high coming in.

But the Nuggets would fizzle rather than sizzle, getting swept in their first round playoff series with the LA Lakers. Denver is the only other team on this list aside from the Lakers that can boast more than one dynamic duo. Read on to find out who.

• For the third time in four years, in the 1966-67 season, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor would be most prolific on offense, leading the Lakers’ 120.5 PPG with 28.7 and 26.6 PPG each. Yet that elusive ring continued to evade The Logo, and would for a few seasons more as LA would fail to reach the Finals for the only time in a six-year span this year (they lost all five Finals visits between 1964-65 and 1969-70). But West isn’t done yet…

Our other Denver Duo checks in twice in the space of three years here:

• Accounting for 45% of the Nuggets’ 1981-82 point total of 126.5 PPG, Alex English at 28.4 PPG, and Kiki Vandeweghe at 26.7 PPG, terrorized teams with a fast-paced attack in Doug Moe’s first year in charge in Denver.  And then…

• …in the 1983-84 season the tandem would flip-flop, English leading with 28.4 PPG to Kiki’s 26.4 PPG accounting for 44% of the Nuggets’ 123.7 PPG. But like Carmelo Anthony they would be plagued by first and second round playoff exits.

• Battered but not broken, Jerry West would finally break through and get off the schnide in the NBA Finals, albeit it not with Elgin Baylor carrying the bulk of the load of sidekick scoring duties. West is the only player to appear four times on this list of monumental immortality, and the only one to lead the points punch for every tandem appearing more than once. But his partner in crime this time would be Gail Goodrich. In 1971-72 the Lakers would put up 121.0 PPG, West and Goodrich accounting for 43% of the total output, 26.6 and 25.9 PPG apiece.

• Russell Westbrook needs to average 26 PPG over the Thunder’s final 14 games to solidify his and Durant’s standing on this list of scintillating scoreboardery.

A Final Note, Taking It To A Trio

Last season, the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all scored at least 25 points in a game four times, although two of those times were after the 66 game mark. This season they have done so only once thus far with the 66-game season quickly winding down.

This season, the trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden have scored at least 25 points each in a game two times. Don’t be too surprised if they do so a lot more often in the near future.

Seth Carstens