It’s remarkable how often Russell Westbrook is blamed for the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s failures. Even though he continues to make mental mistakes and it’s unimaginable that anyone could ever wave off Kevin Durant,Westbrook has been the most dominant player this postseason.
Westbrook has been an absolute force on the offensive end, scoring 23 or more points in every game except one this postseason. He has struggled shooting the ball at times, especially from 3-point range, but he makes up the difference by relentlessly attacking the paint. However, the reason why Westbrook has taken it to another level this postseason is not because of his scoring.
Westbrook has averaged a ridiculous eight assists per game in the playoffs, which is third to only Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, who average 3.3 and 6.8 fewer points per game. Even if Westbrook is taking some ill-advised shots, he has shown a great ability to distribute and set up the players around him.
He has found a balance between shooting and distributing, and it is best for the Thunder to have the ball in his hands as he is capable of creating the open looks that Kevin Durant will always drain.
Throw in that he’s averaging 8.7 rebounds per game, and it is no surprise that he is only the second player to ever have three triple-doubles in a five-game span. Westbrook is always one of the shortest players on the court, but he shows incredible energy when fighting for the ball, and his unbelievable athleticism allows him to make up for the height difference.
Westbrook has been doing everything all over the court and is doing more for his team than any other player. There is no other player that is in the top five in assists and points. Putting aside all his stats and productivity, and Westbrook still has a huge impact on his team. Even though Durant has been the best player in the league this season, the Thunder’s offense runs through Westbrook. On and off the court, Westbrook is the leader of his team, and he brings more emotion and intensity than anyone else.
As usual, it’s impossible to ignore LeBron James when bringing up the best, and his 30.1 points per game on 57.7 percent shooting have been absolutely ridiculous. He has carried over his unbelievably efficient game from the regular season while increasing his scoring. James has yet to have a bad game.
However, as unfair as it may be to James, the reason why Westbrook has been more valuable this postseason is because of how much harder his competition has been. The Miami Heat were unchallenged in the first round while the Thunder went seven games, and even though the Brooklyn Nets have put up a bit of a fight recently, there is no doubt that the Los Angeles Clippers are a far more talented team.
In the most recent games, Westbrook has also proven to be more clutch than James, who was bailed out after missing a late free throw even though he put up 49 points. Westbrook, on the other hand, is fresh off a huge steal off of Paul and then made three free throws to give the Thunder the one-point win.
Westbrook has had his off-game shooting 10-for-31, but it just so happens he also had a triple-double that game. Even when Westbrook has an off-night shooting, he finds a way to impact the game. His occasional mental lapses are nowhere near close enough to outweigh his incredible athleticism and intensity. Westbrook has shown everyone what he is capable of doing, and it has turned him into the best player this postseason.