Will Russell Westbrook's Mental Focus Ever Catch Up with His Enormous Talent?

Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IJune 20, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder directs the offense in the second half against the Miami Heat in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The enormous talent of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard has never come into question. Very few guards in the NBA possess the pure ability that Westbrook does, as the Miami Heat found out Tuesday night when the UCLA product scored 43 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.

However to be truly great, you need more than just the physical tools. You have to master the mental part of the game as well.

That’s something worth debating if Westbrook will ever figure out or not. By the looks of things, his mental understanding of the game will never catch up with his physical talents on the court.

Some will try and make the excuse that Westbrook is young, but the reality is that while he’s only 23, he’s been in the league four years now.

Westbrook has started 336 of his career 354 games (including playoffs). How much more time does he really need to fully understand how the game is played.

He delivered a masterful performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but the most maligned player of these NBA Finals is that for a reason.

There have been countless late-game turnovers , including two costly ones in the fourth quarter Tuesday night. In addition bad shot selection has been a Westbrook trademark late in games.

However his defensive blunder proved costly in what ultimately was a Game 4 loss.

Mental mistakes kill teams and there wasn’t a worse time for Westbrook to allow his mind to slip. There’s really no excuse for not understanding that the shot clock reset to five seconds.

Quite simply that’s a player who’s not mentally focused.

As the quarterback of the team, it’s Westbrook’s job to run the Thunder. It’s his job to make the smart and high percentage play when the game is on the line. That doesn’t always mean putting the team on his back, although there are times for that as he showed Tuesday night.

But a great point guard has to mentally understand the situation. Westbrook is far from that.

To use a football analogy, it’s similar to a quarterback having to understand down and distance. Keeping the chains moving is sometimes more effective than trying to throw the ball down field every play.

Westbrook must understand (at both ends of the floor) that he doesn’t have to make the big play every time down the floor.

Sometimes keeping it simple works the best.

He doesn’t need to swing for the fences all the time. Late in games, he’s a guy that tries to hit the home run when a simple sacrifice fly will win you the game.

There are very few guards in the NBA that have the talent that Westbrook has. But there are a ton that understand the game and have mastered the mental aspect of playing winning basketball.

Until Westbrook figures that part of the game out, he will never be as good as his pure talent says he should be.