Russell Westbrook Dismisses Perception That He Stat-Pads, Hunts Rebounds

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2018

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 9:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder handles the ball against the Miami Heat on April 9, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook hit back against suggestions he goes out of his way at the expense of his teammates to pad his box score with more rebounds.

"I take pride in what I do," Westbrook said to reporters Wednesday. "I come out and play, I get the ball faster than someone else can get to it. That's just what it is. If you don't want it, I'm [gonna] get it."

ESPN.com's Royce Young shared Westbrook's full comments (warning: video contains profanity):

Royce Young @royceyoung

Russell Westbrook went off a bit on the idea he stat-pads rebounds: “If you don’t want it, I’m gonna get it. Simple as that.” https://t.co/z7BstM154p

Westbrook is averaging 9.9 rebounds this season, which ranks 11th in the NBA and is certainly an eye-popping number for a point guard. Philadelphia 76ers rookie Ben Simmons (8.2 rebounds) is the next closest at the position, and he's basically a point guard with a frame of a power forward (6'10", 230 pounds).

Some, however, have contended Westbrook inflates his numbers by hoarding rebounds late in games or stealing boards his teammates would otherwise be in position for.

Austin Tymins of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective looked at Westbrook's production from his MVP season in 2016-17, when he averaged a triple-double. Tymins found Westbrook's pursuit of rebounds didn't change significantly in blowouts, but his time between his rebounds became smaller when he got closer to his 10th board.

In effect, Westbrook appeared to prioritize hitting double-digits in rebounds but didn't go out of his way in garbage time to pad his stats. Tymins' analysis didn't account for whether there was any sort of opportunity cost to Westbrook's dogged work on the boards for the rest of the Thunder.

According to NBA.com, Oklahoma City has a 53.2 percent rebounding rate with Westbrook on the court. That number falls to 47.2 percent when he goes to the bench.


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