Russell Westbrook is a polarizing player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. One minute you’re high-fiving your buddies and saying how much you love him and that you can’t believe he just did that. The next minute you’re enraged with anger and discussing that if they just had a different point guard they could get over that hump. The plays you hate him for are the same plays you love him for. It can be a roller coaster ride.
In several of his postseason outings last year Westbrook’s passing game really started to come on in a strong way. Westbrook averaged just over eight assists per game (APG) in the 2013-2014 NBA Playoffs, in which he only trailed Chris Paul (10 APG) and Stephen Curry (8.4 APG). In games where he had eight or more assists the Thunder had a win-loss record of 5-4. In games where he had less than eight assists, that number fell just slightly to 5-5. So the numbers here were nominally better, but it’s hardly enough to be a real difference maker.
Though the Thunder were one of the worst passing teams as a whole in the playoffs, one player can’t shoulder all of that blame. Westbrook actually averaged over three APG more than San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, who also possessed an even worse assist to turnover ratio than Westbrook. If you happened to forget already, the Spurs won the 2013-2014 NBA title and it wasn’t because of their point guard. The Spurs won because of the system that they have in place to create a ton of great, open looks for their players. Many times I think Westbrook and Kevin Durant are forced into what they do in the half court as a result of the system that they are in, and the results certainly reflect poorly on them at times.
It would be nice to see the turnovers cut down but to an extent that comes with the territory when talking about Westbrook. For a player with a gear higher than anyone else’s in the league you want to be careful when telling him to slow it down. That’s what makes him who he is. That’s what makes him great. He’s fiery and borderline out of control at times but he showed in this last postseason that he can channel that in when he needs to. You can call him a point guard or not, it doesn’t really matter. He has shown he can run the offense by getting other guys involved and trusting in his teammates to capitalize on the opportunities created for them. Between his freakish athleticism, fearlessness, and his vision, Westbrook is a three-headed monster that is impossible for opponents to plan for.
Old school point guards aren’t necessarily the recipe for success anymore. Just take a look at the point guards from last year’s playoff teams. All the top guys were taking 15-17 shots per game and that even includes Paul & Parker. For a guy who is much more of a weapon to score than either of those two, I don’t see where the harm is in him taking four or five more shots in a game than those guys.
Westbrook will never break the persona that has been built around him. He’ll never be the point guard that you grew up watching as a kid, but he’ll definitely be one that you’ll never forget. From his style and his attitude, to his emphatic dunks, everything is just louder when it comes to Westbrook.