The International Blogtable: Without Westbrook, West Gets Wild

Every week, the International Blogtable brings together some of the best basketball minds from around the world, posing a burning question to writers and editors from the NBA's fleet of international web destinations. It's a BIG world, after all.

OKC star Russell Westbrook will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. What does that mean for the Western Conference Playoffs?
Pawel Weszka
Editor, NBA Africa

The San Antonio Spurs, if they stay healthy, look like the favorites to win the West. That said, the unexpected is still very possible: any of the teams left in the Playoffs are capable of shaking the final standings. Oklahoma City is still a great and dangerous unit, with Kevin Durant rising to the occasion in the past two games. However, their first loss in Houston showed some worrying signs with too many turnovers as the team tried to find ways of replacing Westbrook’s 23 points in each game, while Game 5 furthered the dread. If the Thunder make it to the second round, Memphis or the Clippers will want to give their all to take advantage of this opportunity.
Adriano Albuquerque
Blogger, NBA Brasil

It allows opposing teams to double more often on Kevin Durant and spread their defense in a different manner. It also saves a great deal of energy for opposing guards who would previously have to guard the explosive Westbrook. The Thunder are not the favorites to win the West anymore, but they will still be a tough out for anybody. Reggie Jackson is no Westbrook -- though he can score -- and Derek Fisher is a veteran presence that can provide stability at that position. Besides, Scott Brooks can get creative, let Durant handle the ball on most of the possessions and gamble on a backcourt with Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Martin to spread the floor for him. Their future will depend on their matchup - an elite defensive team such as the Grizzlies, for instance, might be bad for them, while they still might be deadly enough to overcome the Clippers.
Hanson Guan
Editor, NBA China

Russell Westbrook’s season-ending injury left the Thunder the biggest victim and the Spurs the biggest beneficiary. OKC now misses someone who can contribute 20-5-5 per game and a key man in a win-or-lose situation – now, they have to rely on Kevin Durant alone. Still, it’s very likely they will see off the Rockets, and I firmly believe they will be able to beat Clippers or Grizzlies.

But San Antonio would emerge as the stumbling-block in the Western Conference Final. Who can be trusted to check Tony Parker, who’s been in form? And who can contain Manu Ginobili, who’s shining again? A Thunder without Westbrook is limping on one – and only one – leg and I’m concerned about their chances.
Philipp Dornhegge

Westbrook’s injury changes everything. I had the Thunder advancing to the Finals again, and I don’t think they can do it anymore. That obviously opens the door for San Antonio, who will in my mind make it to the Conference Finals with relative ease. But it also opens the door for the Clippers and Grizzlies, who were both facing a gruesome matchup with the Thunder in Round 2. The team that now gets there will meet an opponent that is beatable all of a sudden, as the Rockets have shown. Spurs, Grizzlies or Clippers: One of those three teams will thus make it to the NBA Finals. These are three very different teams that might have had trouble with the Thunder, but might also be better prepared for the Heat than OKC. For me, things just got that much more interesting.
Eduardo Schell
Editor, NBA España

I'm not a real big fan of Westbrook -- he's a little overrated in my opinion. He can score big points but needs many extra shots. That being said, Oklahoma will miss him much and KD must understand he cant win it all by himself: he should take some of Westbrook's shots, but also needs to involve all other players in offense (Ibaka, Martin even BigFish) and this will allow him to have easier looks without double defense. Lets see how they handle this new situation, but seems like the Spurs' shares are rising in the NBA market... If they manage to stay healthy.
Stefanos Triantafyllos
Editor, NBA Greece

Now that Russell Westbrook is knocked-out, all the stakes have changed in the West. OKC lost a dynamic point-guard, who (1) can make things happen when he handles the ball and (2) makes a powerful 1-2 punch when playing the 2-on-2 game with Kevin Durant. The Thunder lost a lot of their power, as the opponents now recognize only one big threat for their basket. In my eyes, until they prove the opposite, OKC has lost the label of the "No. 1 favorite in the West," as they decreased their level of athleticism --the only aspect of the game they could use to push around the Spurs.
Karan Madhok
Blogger, NBA India

Compared to the East, where the Miami Heat finished 12 games ahead of the next best side and are odds-on favorites to make the Finals for the third consecutive year, there was definitely more competition for any team aspiring to win the West. Before Russell Westbrook’s injury, the Thunder were perhaps the favorites to come out of the Conference, with the Spurs a close second and teams like the Grizzlies and the Clippers also playing as major threats. Now with Westbrook gone, the West becomes even more unpredictable than before. That said, the Thunder are still good enough to at least make the Conference Finals with or without Westbrook: this guy named Kevin Durant has enough skill to see off OKC's first round opponent (Rockets) and whoever they play in the next round (Clippers/Grizzlies). The real test will come in the Conference Finals rematch against the Spurs. Without Westbrook, I fear that Durant’s burden may be a little too heavy against the well-coached and experienced San Antonio side, who could use this opportunity to make their first trip to the Finals since 2007.
Davide Chinellato
Editor, NBA Italia

I think Westbrook’s injury means the Thunder are no more the favorite to win the West. They are still very competitive and I think they will easily defeat the Rockets. But I think either the Clippers and the Rockets will have a shot at them in the Western Conference semifinals, and the Spurs are now better than them. Kevin Durant scored 38 points against the Rockets in Game 4 and it wasn’t enough to win. Ibaka, Martin and other players have to step up to get the Thunder to the West Finals. To go back to the NBA Finals without Westbrook would be absolutely huge.
Aldo Avinante

It certainly boosts the chances of the other Western Conference contenders, especially the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs. Older teams always have trouble against the hyper-athletic Westbrook, and his absence gives a boost to an aging Spurs squad.

There is also a big chance that whoever gets to face OKC in the second round -- whether the Clippers or Grizzlies -- will advance to the Western Conference Finals.

But we can't count them out as long because they still have the most dominant perimeter scorer, Kevin Durant, on their team. They still have a capable core of Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin plus battle-hardened veteran Derek Fisher will be asked to do more and will certainly be up to task.
Selçuk Aytekin
Editor, NBA Turkiye

Oklahoma City plays with only two guys and one of them is done for the Playoffs. Kevin Durant will be all alone. Sixth man Kevin Martin will struggle to give anything special to win a game. The Grizzlies or Clippers whoever comes to second round will give them very hard time. Probably San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors will be the champ of the Western Conference.