Russell Westbrook is invaluable to the Thunder's title chances this year and in the future
It seems the early season consensus is that the Thunder must trade Westbrook to win a title. That's because he struggles at the point guard position and has clashed with star Kevin Durant.
The disagreements between the two stars shouldn’t be alarming. It isn’t rare for two competitive players to have disputes through the course of an 82- or 66-game season. For the Thunder to be a mainstay in the west, its future includes Westbrook.
Westbrook skeptics are quick to forget he was named to the All-NBA second team last year (in just his third season). At 23 years old, Westbrook averaged just under 22 points a game and eight assists per game last season.
Much of the hype at the point guard position is focused on Derrick Rose and Chris Paul in Los Angeles. But Westbrook posted a better player efficiency rating (PER) than Rose last year, according to ESPN’s John Hollinger.
His estimated wins added (17.9) trailed just Rose (19) and Paul (18.3). He added more than five wins than the next best, Deron Williams (12.5).
These stats are a much greater sample size to use than the 12 games played this season.
Yes, Scott Brooks would like his starting point guard to average more than five assists a game. But an overlooked aspect of Westbrook is that he’s still learning the position after playing shooting guard in high school and at UCLA.
With talking heads on television and Twitterverse erupting with potential trades, here is a look at two potential trade rumors using ESPN’s Trade Machine. Both include Westbrook and neither one makes sense.
The Rondo-for-Westbrook deal is one that is heard the most often. Rondo seems like a perfect fit to give Durant the ball in positions to thrive while Westbrook becomes the next rebuilding piece as Boston’s "Big Three" continues to age.
However, Westbrook provides a scoring punch that Rondo simply cannot replace. Rondo has the luxury of playing with three future Hall of Famers and hasn’t been leaned on offensively the way Westbrook has.
Rondo frequently cannot finish games because he becomes a liability offensively and is a poor free-throw shooter.
Rondo’s scoring is up five points from his career average, but he is too inconsistent as a fourth scoring option to depend on for a large role.
A starting lineup featuring Rondo, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka and Perkins has just one true threat. Putting the ball in the basket has been a problem for the Thunder early in playoff games. This causes them to play catch-up much too often.
Warriors trade Stephen Curry to Thunder for Westbrook
ESPN’s J.A. Adande brings up this possibility in a recent column, bringing the sharp-shooting Curry into the backcourt feeding Durant.
While Curry is a much better shooter than Westbrook, Curry is not the defender that Westbrook is and has shown difficulties recently staying on the floor. He has reoccurring ankle injuries.