Oklahoma City Thunder Have To Let Russell Westbrook Be Himself

By Reed Hunnicutt

Russell Westbrook is criticized about his game daily, but people’s perceptions of the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar can be attributed to the fact that he is vastly misunderstood as a player and person.

From the start of his career, Westbrook has been criticized for being a selfish player who shoots too much for a point guard. All of these intended knocks are just misinterpreted observations. What people need to understand is that his mid-range pull-ups are bad shots for 99 percent of the NBA, but good shots for him. On two-point pull-ups, Steph Curry shot 56.7 percent in the regular season while Westbrook was narrowly behind at 56.2 percent. No one bats an eye when Curry shoots a contested pull-up from 30-feet, and the percentages say they shouldn’t. Likewise, Westbrook shoots well on pull-ups, so we shouldn’t shame him for a few ill-advised shots that don’t fall.

For his first few years in the league, I’ll admit that he was an athlete trying to play point guard. He still makes some questionable decisions, but he has made monumental strides as a floor general. It frustrates me when people say he needs to pass more because “that’s what point guards are supposed to do”. If we’re going to define the position purely by the pass-first mentality, then Mason Plumlee should be starting at point over Damian Lillard. The real reason why Westbrook needs to pass more is because the role players need touches to stay engaged. Westbrook is still learning how to be a better point guard, but he’s willing to learn.

On the other hand, people shouldn’t marginalize Westbrook by trying to fit him into the mold of a “true” point guard. He’s the most explosive athlete in the league, finished fifth in steals, second in assists and averaged 7.8 rebounds. To say that Westbrook is inadequate because he doesn’t fit the prototype of a point guard is absurd. Westbrook transcends the position. The fact that he plays the position better than everyone not named Steph Curry or Chris Paul speaks for itself.

The main reason why people dislike Westbrook is because they think he’s a self-centered superstar who only cares about putting up numbers. Anyone who believes that he values numbers over winning is just wrong. He’s the most tenacious, cold-blooded assassin in the NBA. Westbrook comes to work with a hard hat, lunch pail, and switchblade, because he’s not just coming to outwork you, he’s coming for your throat. It’s that unmatched passion that is often misconstrued as arrogance or selfishness.

Don’t get it confused, though; Westbrook would do anything to help his team win. When the house is burning down, sometimes he’s the extinguisher and sometimes he adds fuel to the fire. His teammates accept that because they know he’s just trying to win. Spectators need to stop overanalyzing his game, and let Russ be Russ.

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