This NBA season the Oklahoma City Thunder have defied their youth and inexperience, and displayed a rare brand of chemistry and maturity while mounting a serious charge up the standings in the Western Conference.
Much of the Thunder's success has centered around the brilliance of Kevin Durant, and rightfully so, as he may be one of the most skilled and versatile players to enter the league in quite some time.
It's easy to get lost in the glare of Durant's shine even if you are a player like Russell Westbrook, who has been putting up some pretty impressive numbers of his own while directing the Thunder's attack.
The second-year point guard from UCLA averages 16.7 points per game, 7.9 assists, and 5.1 rebounds—pretty good numbers for someone who is somewhat unfamiliar with the point guard position.
Westbrook had ball-handling responsibilities while attending UCLA, but Darren Collison was the point guard and primary director of the Bruins' offense, which thrived with Collison and Westbrook on the floor together.
Westbrook had the ability to play the point guard position, and OKC management must have felt the same, because they left little doubt about their intentions when they surprisingly drafted Westbrook fourth in 2008.
It was a shrewd move on the part of the team formerly known as the Seattle Sonics, and it followed a pattern which has led to the Thunder being one of the more talented teams in the NBA.
Oklahoma City drafted Durant third overall in 2007, and then traded Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics for the rights to the fifth pick, which ended up being Jeff Green.
Durant, Green, and Westbrook are the decided nucleus of the Thunder, despite their relative youth, and if the trio is this good now, imagine what they may look like in three or four years?
Durant is definitely the superstar and Green is the glue of the team, but Westbrook is the one that makes them go, and evidence of this can be found in Tuesday night's game versus the Sacramento Kings.
Durant once again received top billing with 39 points but Westbrook's stat line was just as impressive, and his 30 points, 13 assists, and five rebounds were felt all over the court.
Games like that are becoming more common for Westbrook, and his comfort with the point guard position is allowing him to think less and let his considerable skills take center stage.
And they are vast, because Westbrook has a rare combination of size, speed, and strength which enables him to get to the rim at will, and cause opponents headaches on the defensive end.
To be honest, there are areas of Westbrook's game which could see improvement, as his shooting percentage is atrocious for a point guard at 41 percent, but this is something that will be corrected with time.
Westbrook's upside is tremendous and he deserves equal credit for the Thunder's 36-23 record and subsequent status as serious threats for the Western Conference throne.
The only real question about Westbrook is: Will he develop into the star player his talent suggests he will be, or will he remain content to thrive in Durant's shadow and his team's success?
Westbrook seems like he is the perfect teammate, so I'm sure he would be fine as long as his team continues to win, but he may be reaching a point in his career where his game can no longer be shielded in obscurity.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!