Blog Entry

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:17 am
Edited on: March 12, 2011 1:28 am
Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook joins an elite club of NBA players who accumulated points, rebounds and assists early in their career. Posted by Ben Golliver. russell-westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is one of the most intriguing players in the NBA because Kevin Durant's presence makes it so easy to overlook him, at least until you watch him play. When that happens, Westbrook inevitably leaves you speechless. I've gone through this process at least 15 or 20 times and yet his name still doesn't come to mind immediately during the "elite point guards" discussion, as he gets left behind guys like Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and others.

The craziest thing about the fact that Westbrook is still overlooked is that he's been doing it for awhile -- a long while -- already. On Friday night, Westbrook joined an elite statistics club alongside some of the biggest names to ever play the game.
Westbrook added 13 points and 11 assists, becoming the fifth player in NBA history to reach 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds during his first three years in the league. The others are Chris Paul, LeBron James, Anfernee Hardaway and Oscar Robertson.
Surveying this list, you see some of the most complete players of the modern era. In James and Paul you have arguably the two best all-around players currently playing in the NBA, in Oscar Robertson you have arguably the best all-around player of all time and in Anfernee Hardaway you have probably the single biggest case of "What could have been if not for injuries" over the last 20 years. Early Penny was just ridiculous; No one could match up with him. 

So how did Westbrook get here? A combination of a few very important factors.

First, it speaks to how much trust was placed in him immediately upon his entry into the NBA. This is a guy who was averaging 32.5 minutes as a 20 year-old-rookie point guard, a feat not often seen, especially these days when coaches are so often afraid to play young players so as not to risk their own jobs. 

Second, it says a lot about his durability: Westbrook didn't miss a single game in either of his first two seasons and hasn't yet missed a game due to injury this season. That's 228 straight games and counting.

But Westbrook hasn't just had the opportunity to play and good luck with health, though. He's also been insanely productive, improving his points per game and assists per game each year that he's been in the league, and being a steady, rock solid rebounder since Day One. His unique skillset -- an insane vertical leap, an explosive first step, a natural ability to put the ball in the basket -- coupled with Durant's presence as a knockdown shooter and all-around scorer have combined to make the three-category accumulation possible. His 22.4 points, 8.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game this season are at video game status.

Three years in, Westbrook stands as a textbook example of how things can go right, and go right quickly, for a young floor general to whom much responsibility is given. He has learned to deal with issues with turnovers and helped turn Durant into the game's single best scorer, he's continued to hit the boards night in and night out and he's improved his vision and decision-making.

Extrapolating Westbrook's statistical progress and accounting for his team's ability to make the post-season and the fact that he earned his first trip to the All-Star Game this season at the age of 22, the sky is quite literally the limit. There's no other way to put this: he's on the Hall of Fame track.

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: March 12, 2011 12:18 pm

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

I'd put Westbrook on the same level as Rose. For one, I think Westbrook is a more complete player. Two, Rose has more opportunities than Westbrook because he doesn't have a Kevin Durant, who takes the shots for the Thunder that Rose takes for the Bulls. Both are fantastic.....I'm not taking anything away from Rose and he probably deserves the MVP this year, but I do think Westbrook is the more complete player.

Since: Sep 8, 2007
Posted on: March 12, 2011 11:42 am

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

I agree with Longhornguy, but I think Westbrook has the misfortune of playing in a small market people still don't see a lot of, although that is starting to change considering the Thunder's success with last year's playoff run last year taking the Lakers to 6, which is why the other PG's get more pub in part in the bigger markets in Rondo's and Rose's case. The Thunder are getting on national tv a LOT more this year than they have in the past, and that should do nothing but continue. Westbrook is a beast. Pure and simple. Sam Presti has yet to make a bad trade. Even when we traded Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, Serge Ibaka has basically filled Jeff Green's shoes as the starter, and James Harden has been fabulous as the 6th man coming off the bench as of late with the more minutes he's getting. Nazr Mohammed has performed well in the few games he's been with the club, and Kendrick Perkins will soon be on the floor. However, Russell Westbrook just continues to tear it up. While the article does point out the good fortune of Westbrook being so healthy and durable (pretty amazing considering how he throws his body around relentlessly), he has seriously lowered his turnover margin from his rookie season, and habitually makes other point guards look amazingly slow, almost sloth-like. I think the World Championships helped him a lot, and he was rewarded with the ASG appearance this year for his efforts, despite being in the small market. Great kid, too. Always smiling and having fun, and that team chemistry the Thunder has is also a credit to Sam Presti not only drafting great basketball players, but great human beings on top of it. Go Thunder!   

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: March 12, 2011 10:21 am

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

Agreed - not on the same level as Rose, but very good at what he does.  Very underrated player and I think it's due to the fact that coming out of college, he was more of a 2 guard and never was thought of to be a point.  Thank God the Thunder saw his potential and picked him up and has held on to him.  Sam Presti - 1; rest of the league - 0. 

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:41 am

Russell Westbrook joins elite stats club

Pretty impressive.  I agree, Westbrook does not get the respect he deserves.  As a biased fan, I don't think he's quite as good as Rose, but he's certainly up there with Williams, and Rondo (although probably not as good of a passer).  Checked Rose's stats, he'll get the assists he needs this year, but fall up short on the rebounds.  Rats.

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