Pros and Cons of Oklahoma City Thunder Guard Russell Westbrook
There’s no doubt that Russell Westbrook is the point guard of one of the most powerful teams in the NBA. Currently, the Oklahoma City Thunder are second in the Western Conference with 52 wins and only 19 losses, just behind the San Antonio Spurs.
In the spirit of Oklahoma City’s dominance, let’s take a look at the reasons why Westbrook is successful and examine the things that may be holding him back.
Pro: He Can Shoot, Assist and Rebound
Westbrook’s season statistics say it all; for 2012-13, he is averaging an impressive 23.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 35.5 minutes per game. He had a tremendous game during OKC’s 107-101 win over the Dallas Mavericks on March 17, totaling 35 points, six rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes.
Moreover, Westbrook is extremely athletic and fast on both offense and defense. In fact, as Royce Young reported on CBSSports.com, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade praised Westbrook for his athleticism, saying, “I always say this is a very good team, but Russell Westbrook is what makes them very special, because there’s no one else like him in the NBA.”
Wade continued, “I think he’s personally I think he’s the most athletic guy in the NBA for what he does and how he does it and how quick he does it.”
Con: He Can Be Overly Emotional
Passion is good, but sometimes Westbrook’s passion gets in the way. For example, on January 31, during the Thunder’s 106-89 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, Westbrook was called for a five-second violation and preceded to lose his cool. The problem was, though, that his frustration affected his game after the call.
Ben Golliver wrote of the incident on The Point Forward, “[Westbrook] appeared to carry on the conversation with the Thunder’s bench at the beginning of the ensuing defensive possession before badly missing a wild runner on Oklahoma City’s next offensive possession and, later, allowing Bayless to leak out behind him for a dunk after a Kevin Durant turnover.”
He continued, “At that point, Thunder coach Scott Brooks called timeout and Westbrook was removed from the game, well before his usual rotation.” Moreover, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said of Westbrook’s emotions following the call, “Russell’s an emotional guy. He plays hard. He plays every night. He plays for his team every night…There’s no question he was frustrated.”
There’s no doubt that all players get frustrated, but Westbrook needs to learn to control his emotions and stay focused.
Pro: He's Durable
Michael Lee of The Washington Post called Westbrook “the league’s reigning iron man.” Whereas other NBA point guards seem to be dropping like flies, Russell Westbrook is as strong as ever. Currently, he has played an NBA-best 384 consecutive games, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul has battled injury; Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo is out for the season; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker has also faced physical setbacks. When it comes down to it, a team needs a point guard it can count on to play in as many games as possible. Russell Westbrook is without a doubt the most dependable point guard in the league.
Con: Sometimes, He Takes Questionable Shots
During OKC’s 105-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on March 11, Westbrook heaved up a 45-foot three-pointer to try and draw a foul with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. The referees didn’t call one, which rendered the outrageous play utterly useless.
Kelly Dwyer said of the shot on Yahoo! Sports, “Even if Westbrook was given the free throws, it was a bum move. It’s a heady, cerebral play to reach for when the clock turns red and the last few seconds are ticking down. Not with 18 seconds left on a shot clock, though, and the ability to run a play for the league’s top-ranked offense still in place.”
Westbrook is a solid shooter, but he sometimes has questionable shot selection. This is evidenced by his season statistics; his field-goal percentage is 46.2 percent in wins, yet it’s much lower in losses, at 37.8. This means that, in losses, Westbrook takes more shots that don't go in. When Westbrook gets flustered, he needs to learn to think more before he shoots.
Pro: He's Showing Improvement
Despite the occasional wild shot, Westbrook does seem to be showing improvement in the area of shot selection. He is averaging about two more assists this season than last season, meaning he’s editing his shot choices considerably.
OKC power forward Nick Collison said of Westbrook, “He’s seeing the game better. He’s maturing and his decision-making has been better.” He continued, “He’s not forcing plays. He’s making the correct reads on when to attack, draw guys and get it to someone else, and also when to attack and look for shots himself.”
With such improvement, Westbrook is sure to grow into even more of a threat than he is at present. The guard will surely showcase his skills to the utmost degree in the upcoming playoffs.