While Kevin Durant can do no wrong in the eyes of many, Russell Westbrook is the complete opposite—the easy scapegoat for most of the Oklahoma City Thunder's shortcomings.
Here's the thing with Westbrook. He's an aggressive offensive player who takes care of most of the Thunder's ball-handling duties.
Because Westbrook does most of the ball-handling and he's 6'3", he's naturally listed as a point guard. Since point guards are supposed to distribute the ball and keep their teammates involved, we demonize Westbrook's aggressive play.
You probably don't want to hear this, but there's really no correct way to play any position.
Instead, there are sort-of guidelines.
Bryant plays shooting guard differently than someone like Doug Christie did. Kevin Love plays power forward differently than Dirk Nowitzki does. Shaquille O'Neal played center differently than Pau Gasol did before Andrew Bynum was in the starting lineup for the Lakers.
Westbrook essentially plays a style similar to Derrick Rose, except Rose doesn't have Durant on his team.
Westbrook plays the way he does because that's what makes him most effective. It must be working too, considering the Thunder just made the NBA Finals and made it to the Western Conference finals the year before that. Durant didn't do it all by himself.
As Westbrook matures as a player, he'll learn to be smarter with the ball and not take as many dumb jump shots. In terms of Westbrook shooting more than Durant in some games, it doesn't bother Durant or any other Thunder players, so why should it bother us? Here's what Durant had to say about it:
Everybody thinks he should be a traditional point guard like a (John) Stockton or (Thunder assistant) Mo Cheeks. There’s a lot of people that can’t be like Russ, either. We need him to play the way he plays. ... You guys don’t see how hard he works and how much he wants it.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks agreed:
We need Russell to score. I know some of you don’t like that, but Russell is a very, very gifted, talented player, and we would not be in this position without Russell.
Last point: Beside Westbrook, Durant and James Harden, who else can the Thunder rely on to score consistently? They really do need Westbrook to play the way he does unless they add more offensive firepower.
The chip on Westbrook's shoulder this season won't just be built up on the unfair criticism he receives from the media, but from losing in the NBA championship as well. Getting that far and losing must burn.
Along with Durant, the two have a lot to prove in the upcoming season. Maybe if the Thunder win an NBA championship, people will get off him for his style of play.