Other than LeBron James, was there a more scrutinized player in the NBA last season than Russell Westbrook? The criticism was warranted at times, but Westbrook is a dynamic athlete with a nose for the basket and can score at will when he's in the right frame of mind.
Westbrook earned his reputation as a gunner during the 2012 playoffs, where he viewed himself as a one-man wrecking crew—bringing the ball up the floor, dribbling out most of the shot clock and hoisting up questionable jumpers, many of which were contested.
The Thunder are clearly at their best when there's a comfortable equilibrium between Kevin Durant and Westbrook, but make no mistake about it: Westbrook doesn't see himself as a second option. If Durant is option No. 1, than Westbrook is option No. 1A.
Westbrook has a propensity to dominate the ball, but his elite combination of athleticism, quickness and fearlessness are matched by few in today's game. The fifth-year point guard will be under an intense microscope, and while many will clamor for Westbrook to change his reckless ways, don't count on it happening.
Asking Westbrook to scale back his intensity is like asking J.R. Smith to cut back on contested threes. It's not plausible.
Let's not forget that Westbrook is one of the league's dominant two-way players, and if he can harness his energy to produce any bit of the prototypical point guard play many want to see out of him, we'll have a beast on our hands.