Russell Westbrook is a straight up freak of nature. This much is true. Some people are almost alien in nature just based upon their physical attributes and abilities. Kevin Durant, for example, has the outward appearance of an oversized sea spider with the agility of a jungle cat, while Shaquille O’Neal’s girth was akin to placing two normal sized 7-footers side-by-side and gluing them together at the shoulders. Yet, in his prime, was as graceful and agile as a man half his size. An incredible combination of speed and power to be certain.
Then there were the big game hunting attributes of PG Kevin Johnson when he was with the Phoenix Suns. He dunked on some of the best centers in the history of the NBA. In fact, it appeared as if he preferred to hunt for the most intimidating, physically-imposing specimens he could find. Ask Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets and Mark Eaton of the Utah Jazz what we’re talking about here. Or maybe you recall the uncanny athleticism of Spud Webb when he won the Slam Dunk Contest against fellow Atlanta Hawk Dominique Wilkins in Dallas back in 1986.
These are just a few of the herculean efforts that I’ve seen handed down over the years. As is often the case when someone transcendent comes along, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was met with a lot of resistance throughout his career. As a matter of fact, his entire career up until this season has been filled with much discussion over his decision-making abilities, his shot-selection, his inability to run a team and his refusal to accept his role as second fiddle to former MVP and league-leading scorer Kevin Durant.
Durant AKA Durantula AKA The Slim Reaper AKA KD, scores easier than just about any player to come into the league in the past 15 years. So, when I say that Westbrook just might be the best player in the league someday please don’t wish death upon me. Just take a look at some recent revelations and see if you can dig where I’m coming from.
When I first sat down to write this story it was for the purpose of deciding whether Westbrook was the best point guard in the league, which is actually an idea that would have been laughable not long ago. Over the past two seasons in which was averaging 7.4 and 6.9 assists per game on a team that included KD, whose going to give any point guard worth his weight in salt at least three assists per game his damn self. Additionally, he was lambasted for allegedly looking off Kevin Durant in several critical situations during the Thunder’s first round match up against eventually NBA Champions San Antonio Spurs last season, and during their NBA Finals matchup versus the Miami Heat in 2012.
Then there was all the speculation that he and Durant weren’t getting along, to which the duo bristled at the very notion almost immediately. But many of us do recall multiple stories circulating about the two being involved in altercations several years ago, the most notable of which was floated by Skip Bayless of ESPN. But it is easy to see how two highly-competitive individuals could find themselves at one another’s throats in the midst of a heated practice or after a tough loss. These things happen. The old adage “steel sharpens steel” does apply here.
From a distance so far that it can only be measured by the time in which the TV signal is beamed into my cable box, it would appears as though Russell Westbrook has taken all those slights and crystalized them into some sort of intergalactic fuel the likes of which no point guard has ever conceived before let alone utilized
Currently in his 7th season in the NBA, Russell Westbrook offensive aggressiveness, strength and athleticism led many to believe that he had been miscast in the role of an NBA point guard and was actually a shooting guard instead. After all, there was no need to have such an explosive, demonstratively aggressive, sometimes scowling point guard when you had a 7-foot small forward with the shooting and ball handling ability of a guard. KD was averaging 25 points per game when Westbrook came into the league and went on to lead the league in scoring four times afterwards. It is no wonder that people were so concerned that the two would not mesh. When you have such a proficient scorer as Durant on your team it is usually a good idea to make sure he gets as many touches as he wants, wherever he wants, and whenever he wants. The fact that Westbrook clearly was not a pass first point guard at first was part of the reason why some preferred Westbrook be allowed to leave instead of SG James Harden.
However, the 2014-2015 season has witnessed Westbrook become more of a playmaker than he ever was before, albeit in the absence of Durant for much of the season. Russell is currently averaging nearly 9 assists per game and has racked up 10 triple-doubles this season, eight of which have come after the All-Star break. He’s also averaging 7.4 rebounds, as many rebounds per game as LeBron James, and more than Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert, and a slew of other players who dwarf him in stature. Lest we forget to mention his 27 points per game are coming on .422 field goal percentage. The percentage isn’t great, dragged down by his .292 three-point shooting percentage, he’s still north of 40 percent-the line of demarcation for efficient shooting for high-volume chuckers.
He’s currently tied for the league lead in scoring while carrying the Oklahoma City Thunder into playoff contention. In addition, Russell Westbrook is responsible for nearly 45 percent of his teams’ total assists per game. That places him third in the league in that category.
Still a bulldog on defense, he has singlehandedly changed the narrative from disgruntled gunner to MVP candidate in a matter of two seasons after his injury-plagued running mate’s season had been cut short by foot ailments. He’s a better passer than he has ever been, a better rebounder than many big men and he has successfully honed his considerable explosiveness into an energy source to fuel his team rather than a bomb to destroy it. Though he’s taking more three-point shots than he ever has before it’s still a considerable weakness. With the work ethic he purportedly has it’s only a matter of time before that weakness becomes a strength.
Westbrook is an anomaly of athleticism and strength at the point guard position. So much so that the discussion should no longer be whether or not he’s the best point guard in the league, but the best player. They say he shoots too much, but they said the same thing about Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as well, and we all know how those Hall of Fame situations worked out. Uniqueness is often threatening to the status quo. Though he still falls into some of his old habits, such as looking off a red-hot Anthony Morrow to take an ill-advised and contested three-pointer with time waning against the Dallas Mavericks just yesterday, his considerable pros far outweigh the cons. LeBron James is still the very best player in the NBA, and Kevin Durant was the heir apparent by all measures. However, if Durant fails to regain his form, there’s no other player as dynamic and unstoppable as Russell Westbrook. If this arc continues he’s the odds on favorite to become the best player in the NBA in two or three years.