The Double Edged Sword That is Russell Westbrook
I used to think that the Bronsexuals who defend Lebron James at every twist and turn, were the most delusional people on earth… boy was I wrong. Right after the NBA regular season ended, I tweeted out that I would rather have Chris Paul on my team than Russell Westbrook and needless to say I got ridiculed for it. It was at that moment I realized that the Bronsexuals who I have dispised over the years have nothing on the Russell Westbrook cheerleaders who pay more attention to his boxscore numbers than the actual game.
Now don’t get me wrong, averaging a triple double for a whole season is unbelievable and one of the most impressive accomplishments that a professional basketball player can achieve. For that, as well as carrying the OKC Thunder on his back to a 6th seed and hitting numerous game winners down the stretch of the season, I believe he is the MVP this year. However, there have been many players in the history of the NBA to win an MVP, but never win a championship. Unfortunately, that is a path that Westbrook is currently on.
By having Russ on your team, you are always going to be in a lose-lose situation…
Surrounding Westbrook With Help
You can surround him with all the help one could ask for in Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and James Harden, just to name a few and it still won’t be enough. Granted Harden was not the player that he is now, but he was still a force to be reckon with, winning 6th man of the year in his final year with OKC. Even excluding Harden, Westbrook was paired up with another top 3 player in the world in Durant, along with solid role players, and that still was not enough to win a championship. While they never won a title, they did go to numerous conference finals and even made a Finals appearance, so there was always the illusion they could win any given year as long as Russ and KD were on the same team. That is until Westbrook drove Durant out of town. Durant can try to sell us anything he wants, but playing along side the ball dominant, hero-style play of Westbrook is a huge reason why he left. He just never truly believed he could win a championship with Russ as his point guard. And can you blame him? Westbrook was famous for poor 4th quarter decisions, not getting Durant the ball enough, erratic turnovers, and not playing within the flow of the game. Now tell me which free agent all-star caliber players are begging to play along side a “point-guard” like that? And if they are, they will quickly realize why Durant left. It is in Russell’s DNA to feel like he has to do everything for a team, which often leads him to forcing the issue, not condusive for a fluid offence like you see from teams like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. There is a reason a team that was once so full of talent, is down to only the solo act that is Russell Westbrook.
Surrounding Westbrook With “No Help”
This is the situation that Westbrook is currently in, according not only to media experts, but to the general public. Outside of an inconsistent Oladipo, there is no one on the Thunder that can create their own shot. This is a huge problem for when Westbrook needs a rest, as the team was -58 when he rested which was a grand total of only 46 minutes in 5 games. This proves that Westbrook can be as great as he wants to be when he’s on the court, but in today’s “super team” era in the NBA, , you NEED help. This is something LeBron learned after getting swept in his first finals appearance with Cleveland, leaving him to go team up with Wade and Bosh in Miami. The key difference between LeBron and Westbrook or even Chris Paul and Westbrook, that was made obvious this year, is that Russ doesn’t make his teammates better. There is not one player on the OKC Thunder right now that has raised their game playing with Russell, or seemed to take a step forward in their development. Meanwhile in LA, DeAndre Jordan should give at least $20million of his $87million to CP3, considering how much better he has made DeAndre “cant shoot a free throw-ass” Jordan look. Out of Jordan’s 441 made field goals this year, only 31 of those field goals were not a dunk or a lay-up, demonstrating how truly limited he is offensively if he does not get the ball right at the rim. Yet somehow, in the 2015 free agency, teams were treating him like he was Hakeem Olajuwon in his prime. Westbrook for all the skill and athletic ability he possesses, has been unable to uplift any of his teammates to their full potential nor give them the confidence needed to make plays when he is off the court. Unfortunately, unless OKC can find a way to trade or draft some talent in the upcoming years, there may not many free agents eager to come play alongside Westbrook, limiting the bright future OKC hopes to have with him as their alpha.
What I find laughable is all the things that Westbrook is getting praised for doing now, are all the things that he was getting crucified for in previous years, and ultimately pushing Durant out of town. We are now willing to overlook him shooting the basketball 18 times in one quarter, turning the ball over in key moments in the 4th, and coming down the court and firing up shots without anyone else touching the ball. I get it, his teammates are something to be desired, but they are good enough where if Russ put some effort into trying to make them better, they could at least get past the first round. Instead, he actually makes his teammates worse because of how ball-centric he is and how unwilling he is to let them do anything other than shoot after he drives down the lane. It almost seems like his teammates don’t have the confidence or will to do anything because of how obvious it is that Westbrook doesn’t trust anyone else but himself to get the job done. So yes, you can use the “no help” excuse in defending Westbrook, but I’ll ask again, which other star player wants to play with him? Because so far, everyone has left him.
Back to the Chris Paul argument… yes, it is true he has never got past the 2nd round in the playoffs, while Westbrook has made it to the finals. Fair. But has Paul ever played alongside a talent like Kevin Durant? Blake Griffin is a good player, sometimes very good, but he is no Kevin Durant. Not to mention, he has not been able to stay healthy in recent years, leaving Chris Paul having to the man the offence with Deandre Jordan’s limited ability, JJ Redick and Austin Rivers (the Coach/GM’s son I may add) as his main offensive weapons, very similar to the talent Westbrook has right now.
That is where the lose-lose situation I mentioned earlier is evident. When he has star players with him, they eventually get frustrated with him and leave. When he has “no help”, the players around him are simply not good enough, or don’t have a chance to be good enough, to win a championship. The key word there is championship. Sure, Westbrook is talented enough to lead just about any team to the playoffs, but that’s about the ceiling. What good is having a player that will lead you the playoffs every year, but has virtually no chance to win a championship because nobody else wants to play with him or enjoys playing with him? I’m sure they will be able to improve the roster in the near-future either by throwing money at someone, or through trade, but if history has taught us anything, will it even matter? In order to compete with the Golden-State and Cleveland's of the world, Westbrook needs another star or two in order to have a legitimate chance.
When all is said and done, I do not believe Westbrook finishes his NBA career with a championship. Barring any surprises in free agency, it appears that Golden State, San Antonio, Boston and whatever team Lebron James is on, are the only real competitors for the next couple years. By then, Russ will be on the wrong side of 30, which is especially concerning for a player like himself who relies so heavily on his athletic ability. Refer to players like Allen Iverson and Derrick Rose, and see how drastically less dominant they were once they were out of their athletic prime. So unless Westbrook learns to start playing nicely with others, he will forever be known as another all-time great player, who was never a champion.