Kevin Love: Russell Westbrook Is 'Top 5 in the World'

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJune 1, 2014

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Russell Westbrook has been an easy target for criticism during his career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but don't count Kevin Love among those who think the dynamic point guard should change the way he plays.

During overtime of OKC's season-ending Game 6 loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Love took to Twitter to declare something pretty bold about his former UCLA teammate:

Obviously, it's tough to make an objective argument over who the top five players in the world are, but most numbers would suggest Westbrook isn't in that very top tier.

Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal recently produced an exhaustive series called "NBA 200" which evaluated players based on nine categories, with "each category weighted to account for its importance at each position."

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 29:  Russell Westbrook #7 of United States high-fives Kevin Love #11 of United States after a play against France during their Men's Basketball Game on Day 2 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Basketball Arena on July 29, 2012
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In the final rankings, Westbrook finished at No. 16, although playoffs weren't included. That may seem a bit low, but Fromal explained that injuries impacted his overall score:

It's unfortunate for the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard that only the 2013-14 campaign is being accounted for; while he'd never missed a game during the first five seasons of his career, multiple knee surgeries have limited his amount of time on the court this year. 

He also lost points for his poor decision-making. In 2013-14, there were four other players who appeared in as many games as Westbrook and had a usage rate over 30 percent. Westbrook led the group in turnover percentage:

 Per GameShootingAdvanced
1Russell Westbrook5.
2DeMarcus Cousins11.
3LeBron James6.
4Kevin Durant7.
5Carmelo Anthony8.
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/31/2014.

The other side of the argument has its share of points too, though.

Prior to the season, ESPN's popular NBA Rank series had Westbrook at No. 5, and in many ways, he backed up the ranking.

No other player in the league averaged at least 21.8 points, 6.9 assists and 5.7 rebounds this season. He's an incredibly dynamic athlete who can put up numbers in bunches.

Based on Westbrook's natural physical ability alone, Love may have a pretty strong argument for calling him a top-five player.

If OKC's electrifying playmaker could just figure out the mental aspect of the game, he'd be about as close to unstoppable as it gets.

As a point guard, he needs to focus first and foremost on making his teammates better. That doesn't mean he should abandon scoring, as that's perhaps his biggest strength.

He just needs more balance to truly be in the top five.


Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewDBailey.