eRussell Westbrook is likely the most polarizing player in the NBA today. People either love him or hate him, with little in between. The only things which people do not disagree on is that he is a great player.
Even with that acknowledgement, I have seen many myths being spread about Westbrook, with the same comments being said over and over in forums. What is most amusing is the statements are almost verbatim in each forum. Almost as if the lemmings who are spouting the misinformation are all citing from the one source book and hoping if they repeat it enough times, the world will take it as truth.
Today I wish to dispel some of those myths.
Myth 1: KD led OKC to the playoffs without Russ, but Russ couldn’t lead OKC to the playoffs without KD.
Fact: The season KD played “without Russ”, KD had the 3rd best player of the team, being Serge Ibaka, beside him the entire year. He also had 2 veteran scorers on the team in Caron Butler and Derek Fisher who played the year. Finally, he didn’t play “without Westbrook” at all. In fact, Russ only missed 27 games in the first half of the season. KD had Westbrook beside him for 67% of the season.
The season Russ played without KD however, Ibaka missed the last 22% of the season with a knee injury. KD missed 67% of the season with his foot injury. Multiple players missed 60% of the season each. Russ also missed 20% of that season himself with a broken hand as well as a broken cheekbone. OKC had traded away the 2 veterans before the season had started and were left with a cobbled together group of D-League and 10-day contract players just so they had enough players to play, without forfeiting games.
Hardly an apple for apples comparison at all, is it?
Of note, is that the games which Russ did play in, he carried the team to 40 wins, 27 losses during which he amassed 31 Double Doubles and 11 Triple Doubles and ended the season averaging 28.1ppg to win that year’s scoring title. The team ended the season equal to the Pelicans for 8th and lost out only on the head to head matches. Even with the worst injury riddled season in OKC Thunder history, which included himself missing 20% of the season, Russ still managed to get his team to finish with a winning % at 4 games over 500, which incidentally, would have placed OKC comfortably in the 8th position in any other year, including this one.
Myth 2: Russell Westbrook is a ball hog. He holds the ball in his hands longer than any other player on the team
Fact: This one makes me laugh all the time. I am doubtful whether even the lemmings themselves, believe this myth or if they have a dubious smirk on their face while they troll the forums with this comment.
How can a Point Guard who averages 10.4apg for an entire season, be considered a ball hog? A PG who for 49 out of 78 games had more than 10apg and of those 49 games, 22 of them was over 12apg. A man who still holds the current season record with 22 assists in a game, with one 19 assist game, two 17 assist games, three 16 assist games, three 15 assist games, six 14 assist games and six 13 assist games and you consider him a ball hog? Seriously?
To put it into perspective, of the 30 starting PG’s in the league who average more than 26mpg, the average assists per PG is 6apg. It used to be if a PG averaged 7apg, he would be considered a pass first Point Guard. I still remember when Rondo had a 14-assist game when he played with the Celtics and thinking he was one of the best playmakers in the league. Russ has 16 games of out 78 where he has had MORE than 14apg.
In the 14 seasons in which John Stockton averaged 30mpg or more, he averaged 11.6apg. In the 14 seasons in which Steve Nash averaged 30mpg or more, he averaged 9.3apg. These two point guards are commonly referred to as the two best Pure, Pass First PG’s in the modern era and Westbrook is sitting right in the middle of the two, averaging 10.4apg this season.
I think this fact alone negates the myth, but to elaborate on the second part of this myth, of course he holds the ball in his hands more than any other player on the team. He is the Point Guard. He is the best ball handler on the team. He is the most experienced player on the floor. He holds on to the ball and gives it up to his team mates when they are open for easy buckets. You know who else used to hold onto the ball more than any other player in the league? You guessed it. The two best Pure, Pass First PG’s in the modern era; John Stockton and Steve Nash. You could also have thrown in Rajon Rondo into that mix as well, when he was in his prime and considered the best Pass First PG in the game.
Myth 3: Russ is selfish. He is only out for himself. KD left OKC because Russ was too selfish.
You commonly see one, often two and sometimes even all three of these comments on forums, for those trolls who just must go for the trifecta.
Fact: I could simply answer this one by saying, “See Fact 2”, but I feel this requires a bit more of a response.
These comments are obviously made by people who are not OKC fans and most definitely, not by people who watched every game of last season.
Last season was the most selfish season I had ever seen by a star player. Fact! The problem is, the lemmings chose the wrong star. KD was the most selfish player I have ever seen on a team last year, bar none.
In his comeback, contract year KD wanted stats and he went after it with a passion. With the rookie coach Donovan on board and everyone given a mandate of, “Keep KD Happy”, KD told the coach he wanted to play the entire first and third quarters. Michael Cage, TV announcer for the Thunder, confirmed it in one of the games. Even though it threw out the player rotations, with periods where both Russ and KD were sitting at the same time, while opposition teams would go on a burst to close the gap or increase the lead, he would still play the entire first and third quarters.
I recall both announcers saying KD needs to lift that request because it was hurting the team, until finally after many losses or months, did he relent. I would see games where KD would be screaming at Adams and Kanter, while they ran up the court if they took an uncontested rebound from him on the defensive end. If he missed a defensive assignment, he would blame the youngest person, or the person next to him. You would commonly see Ibaka and KD arguing coming off the court at time outs, at times looking like it was about to come to blows. When he tried blaming Westbrook or Waiters, they would say a few choice words to him, then turn their back and ignore him and continue playing.
From the start of the season at holding the team to ransom (If he wanted to leave and loved OKC so much, why not ask Presti for a trade?), to demanding the ball in his hands at the end of quarters, even if he was double and triple teamed, to playing ISO nearly every play, to sulk on plays until he was given the role of Point Forward to ensure the ball was in his hands, even though most of the time of he was pressured by guards at half court it would result in a turnover, to not being man enough to tell Collison and Westbrook of his decision to leave, to holding off on making “His Decision” until all the free agents worth going after were taken, I cannot think of a more selfish star player on any team.
This might seem like sour grapes at losing KD, but I can honestly say I was delighted when he didn’t re-sign with the team. I thought the team had much better team chemistry the year before and definitely so this year, there was and is better ball movement without him and the bench players are actually able to develop their game. If anything, the only person I was upset with, was Sam Presti, for allowing KD the entire season without committing to the team, without trading him.
Truth be told, KD lost the team to Russ the year he was out. Russ followed Coach Donovan’s direction and ensured everybody touched the ball. He made Adams and Kanter better players, giving them passes at just the right moment for them to get easy baskets. He encouraged the team. He led from the front. He put his body on the line every single game to help the team to win and the team loved him for it. When KD came back, you could just see the tension on the court between his selfishness and lack of respect of his teammates, not named Westbrook.
Don’t believe me? When GSW played OKC, KD could be seen taunting the bench, his old players; players who he was the leader of, when GSW was up and you could see the bench respond accordingly, spitting vitriol back at him. When KD thought, he could still push around Andre Roberson and diminish him as a player and Roberson going nose to nose with him at mid court to prove that he wasn’t their leader or had their respect. When Russell Westbrook would scream “I am coming for you!” with pure venom in his eyes, towards KD and KD slink away back to the bench.
Put those examples against other ex-OKC players of last year. Serge Ibaka got a standing ovation when he was announced at Chesapeake Arena. Every single player, including Russ who doesn’t usually even associate with his own players at the beginning of games, he is so focused, went up to give him a hug. Again, at the end of the game, where every single player who had played with Ibaka, went over to give him a hug and have a laugh. The exact same thing happened when Dion Waiters came to play at Chesapeake. The exact same reception, from not only the crowd, but also the players. Heck, Jeremy Lamb who averaged about 2mpg for the Thunder and has been removed from the team for at least 3 years now, still gets a cheer from the crowd as soon he comes into the game.
Now tell me the players loved KD and they were sad when he left.
Myth 4: Russ is only out for triple doubles. PG’s shouldn’t rebound. Russ is hurting the team with his triple doubles.
Again, you will commonly see one, two or the trifecta of these inane comments floating around the forums.
Fact: As far as a triple double goes, you would think by its definition, being double digit points, rebounds and assists, that this was not a selfish stat at all, as the player is helping the team in a number of different ways.
As far as points and assists go, I don’t even think the lemmings could argue that those stats are in any way hurting the team. Not seriously anyway. So, that just leaves me with the rebounding argument.
It is commonly said, by non OKC fans and again, by those that don’t watch OKC play, that having a point guard that rebounds, is just stealing rebounds from the bigs and that it slows the game down. Now you must consider the makeup of OKC and what their strengths are.
Rebounding. OKC are the number 1 Rebounding team in the league with 56.1rpg, getting 1.3rpg more than 2nd placed Denver. They are the 3rd best Offensive Rebounding team in the league, just 0.3rpg off top placed Chicago. They are in 6th place on the Defensive boards, exactly 1rpg less than first placed New Orleans.
OKC Rebounds and they rebound well. They rebound well because instead of the bigs jumping automatically to get a board, they do what every coach ever tries to get through their player’s head and that is, find a body, box them out first, then go for the board. OKC bigs take this to heart and they do box out players, which allows Westbrook with his unmatched athleticism, to fly in and get the board. This is not to say that everyone boxes out just so that Russ can get rebounds however. There is a subtle, but quite significant difference between the two sentences.
Everybody doesn’t just wait for Russ to get the board. Everyone on the team, whether it is the bigs, the small forwards, the shooting guards, even the backup PG’s all crash the boards. The 2 big positions and even the SF’s are often in double digit rebounds at the end of the game. There is no giving up of rebounds to Russ, it’s just that Russ’s pure athleticism, twitch reflexes and drive, push him to get a lot of the rebounds. Westbrook also gets a lot of offensive rebounds, 1.7rpg which is interestingly down from the 2.5orpg he had just one month ago. He gets his offensive boards, once again because of his sublime athleticism, his incredible twitch reflexes and most importantly, because when he takes a shot, he isn’t posing for the cameras with his hand raised in the air. He follows his shot and more often than not, is up in the air before the opposing bigs even know which direction the ball is bouncing off the rim
You simply do not get 10.7rpg as a PG because your players let you have them and be ranked 10th in the league. He is only behind 8 Centres and 1 Power Forward in the entire league in rebounds.
Now how does Russ getting rebounds help his team out? Well for one, it means the opposition isn’t getting the rebound. Secondly, it speeds the game up and becomes a near instant fast break, as either the bigs are sprinting down the court to receive and easy layup or dunk from a Westbrook pass, or, they get themselves in deep post position against the opposing teams smaller players, for the easy bucket, most times before the opposing bigs have even got to the 3PT line. Thirdly, it plays to OKC’s strength. OKC is not a good half court scoring team. They are however, the 3rd best fast break scoring team in the league behind only GSW and Phoenix. They are even above the Rockets with D’Antoni’s patented 7 second offence.
Finally, the stats just do not lie. OKC is currently winning 57.6% of the games it plays. When Russ gets a triple double, OKC wins 78% of its games, as opposed to them only winning 35% of the games when he does not have a triple double. If you want to criticise Westbrook, criticize him for having not gone for a triple double every single game this season. If he had, we would be just behind GSW who have won 82% of their games and ahead of Spurs 77%, Rockets 68% and the Cavs at 65%.
Russell Westbrook getting triple doubles is hurting the team? Pfft! That’s just ….
Myth 5: Russell Westbrook doesn’t deserve the MVP because OKC are only in 6th place
This one, I suppose is more opinion than anything else, but let me throw some facts at it anyway.
Fact: The award is for the M.V.P. which stands for the “Most Valuable Player.” The award is not and never has been, nor ever will be for the B.P.O.T.T.I.T.H.P.O.T.L. which stands for the “Best Player On The Team In The Highest Position On The Ladder.” Could you imagine how big the base of the award would be if it read “Russell Westbrook – B.P.O.T.T.I.T.H.P.O.T.L. Winner for 2016-17”? It would just be ludicrous, wouldn’t it? Nearly as ludicrous as the argument against Westbrook.
There are probably 4 players who you could, with a straight face, include in the discussions of MVP this year, being Westbrook, Harden, Lebron and Leonard. It has really come down to a 2-horse race now though, between Westbrook and Harden. So let’s look at the two players and their supporting casts.
Let’s face it, when KD left with his 28.2ppg, with OKC getting nothing in return but an insincere letter to OKC which was more than likely written by his PR people and with KD holding off his “Decision” until all the free agents had been signed, he all but guaranteed he would have no competition from his old team. Every NBA expert around the league, fans around the league and even quite a few OKC diehard fans, thought OKC was heading towards a rebuilding year.
For 2/3rds of the season, OKC had the second youngest roster in the league, only barely ahead of the 76ers and it was only after the All-Star break when Sam Presti traded for old man Gibson (31yrs old), was OKC propelled to the lofty heights of 3rd youngest team in the league.
The team only has 4 players left from the previous season left who play regular minutes. They gained 8 new faces, which includes 3 rookies, who play significant minutes each game, as well as 3 others who only joined after the All-Star break. There are 2 other players from last year who round out the 14-man roster. First is the veteran, 36yr old Nick Collison, who has only played 18 games this season and of those games only averaged 6 minutes a game. The second is Kyle Singler, who has played only 28 games this season and of those games only averaged 10mpg and most seriously, would have been traded this season if any team were foolish enough to pick up his contract; unfortunately, none were. So quite a shuffle of the roster to go with having a 2nd year coach.
The Houston Rockets on the other hand, is a team custom built around James Harden. Of the 10 players Houston regularly play, 6 were there the previous year. 3 of those 6 are veterans with 3 players on their 2nd or 3rd year and are bench player. The 4 newcomers are all veteran players who can score in bunches. Houston basically plugged Harden’s main weaknesses, defence, with three true 2-way players.
Both Westbrook and Harden have a very similar playstyle. They have the ball in their hands 75% of the shot clock, they both like driving hard to the bucket and kicking out to the open player. With that in mind, let’s look at the two teams again, this time in more detail.
In the starting line-up for Rockets, you have a 13yr player in Trevor Ariza, an elite wing defender as well as a 35% 3PT shooter. A 5th year player in Patrick Beverly, another elite wing defender who is a 38% 3PT shooter. A new to the roster, but 15yr veteran, Nene, a great interior defender who is also a solid low post scorer, averaging 12ppg. They also added 9th year player Ryan Anderson, a 40% 3PT shooter, at PF to stretch the floor out even further. On the bench they added 9th year player, Eric Gordon, a 38% 3PT shooter, averaging 17ppg off the bench and 12th year veteran, Lou Williams, a 35% 3PT shooter who is averaging 15.5ppg off the bench to their roster.
The entire Rockets line-up, bar Nene and 3rd year player, Clint Capela, both who are Centres and inside threats, are veteran scorers who are marksmen from range. This line-up suits Harden to a tee. It allows him the room to penetrate for easy buckets at the rim and if the opposition dares to double team him, he kicks it out to one of his 3 marksmen who will about 40% of the time, hit a three. No wonder he is leading the league in apg this year.
Pit those 7 players against the 8 players of Westbrook’s main supporting cast. In the starting 5 you have 4th year player in Victor Oladipo, who is probably the 2nd best player on the team. A great wing defender who is a 37% 3PT Shooter. A 4th year player in Andre Roberson who is an elite defender but only a 25% 3PT shooter, to go with his abysmal 42% FT shooting. Taj Gibson a veteran great defender and a solid inside scorer, but will not take a 3PT shot. A 4th year player in Steven Adams, who is a great interior defender and has this year added a 5-8ft jump hook. From the bench, you have the 4th year player in Kanter, who is a reasonable inside defender, but a great low post scorer. A rookie in Sabonis who is a decent low post defender and shows glimpses of being an inside scorer. He is also a 33% 3PT shooter. A rookie in Abrines who is a reasonable wing defender who is a 37% 3PT shooter. A rookie in Christon, who is a very good wing defender, but shoots an abysmal 17% 3PT shooter to go with his equally abysmal 50% from FT.
In addition to those players, OKC does have 3rd year player, Doug McDermott, who is a reasonable wing defender who is a 36% 3PT shooter and another 3rd year player in Jerami Grant, who is just a great all round defender who is a 37% 3PT shooter. For some reason though, both players struggle to get decent minutes in the rotation.
As you can see, Harden is surrounded by veteran players, nearly all of whom can shoot from range and spread the floor, allowing him to manoeuvre at will in the lane or kick it out to open shooters if they close down on him.
Westbrook on the other hand, is surrounded by a young team who are mostly inside scorers, which not only closes the lane, preventing Westbrook from moving freely, but it also packs the entire paint, making it even more difficult for him to get a pass off to his players. To top it off, two of those players, the starting SF Roberson and the backup PG/SG Christon, both who play significant minutes, are such poor offensive threats, that there man usually drops away from them to close the passing lane or to double Russ.
Now tell me, who has the better team built around their play styles? I think any reasonable person would agree, that Harden definitely has the better team built around him, to suit his playstyle. He has veteran players who are used to scoring under pressure. He has the floor stretched out to all him to move where he wants to score and assist.
OKC on the other hand has a roster built, which specifically hampers Westbrook’s playstyle. Opposition teams pack the paint, making it hard for him to score and pass the ball and he has young players who are not used to scoring under pressure situations, which have shown with numerous scoring droughts throughout the season.
Now that we have agreed that Russ has a significantly harder time in achieving success for his team, let’s look at what the individual player themselves, contribute to the team. If Harden was removed from the roster, the Rockets could well still make the top 8. If Russ was removed from the roster, the Thunder would likely be one or two wins above the 76ers.
What if we look at the individual player’s achievements?
Harden is 2nd in the league in scoring at 29.2ppg, is 1st in the league in assists at 11.2apg, is 24th in the league in rebounding at 8.1rpg. He is also shooting 34.5% from 3PT range.
Harden holds no other records that I can find, other than having the most turnovers ever in a season.
Westbrook is 1st in the league with 31.8ppg, is 3rd in the league in assists at 10.4apg and is 10th in the league in rebounding at 10.7rpg. He is shooting 34.7% from 3PT range, 0.2% more than Harden.
NB:// Imagine what Russ’s stats would be if he was playing on the Rockets team with a totally open lane and marksmen all around him? Scary thought, isn’t it?
So what other records has Westbrook set?
- To go with his upcoming 2nd scoring title, Westbrook has the current season record for assists with 22 assists in a game.
- · Westbrook holds the fastest triple double in 62yrs, recording it in 19mins, only 2 mins shy of the fastest which was set in 1955.
- · Westbrook is currently equal first for the most triple doubles in a season, matching Oscar Robertson who set the record in 1962. It is very likely Westbrook will break that record this season and be the number 1 ranked player in history with the most triple doubles in a season.
NB:// It should be noted that 1962 was a totally different game to today which was the same year Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50.4ppg and 25.7rpg for the season. It was the year Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks. He also had the most 40 point games in a season with 63. Numbers never to be seen again in the NBA.
- · Westbrook is currently tied 4th of all time, with Wilt Chamberlain in recording 78 triple doubles for his career, in only 9 years. He is very likely to pass Wilt this year to be in sole 4th place in history. He is only 29 triples doubles behind 3rd placed Jason Kidd, who achieved his 107 in 13 seasons.
- · He is the only player in history to achieve two consecutive All-Star MVP awards by himself.
- · He is the only player in history to achieve 40ppg, 12rpg, 11apg in 5 consecutive games.
- · He is the only player in history to achieve a triple double, while shooting a perfect 100% from 2PT, 3PT and FT range, set this year.
- · He holds the record in history for the most points ever scored with a triple double with 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists set this year.
- · He is the only player in history to record 5 consecutive 30 point, triple doubles.
- · He is only one of two players in NBA history to average 31.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists in a calendar month. The other is Oscar Robertson.
- · He is only one of two players in NBA history to record at least 30 points, 17 assists, 11 rebounds, and 4 steals in a game. The other is Magic Johnson
- · He is only one of two players in NBA history to record at least 120 points, 40 rebounds, and 30 assists over three consecutive games. The other is Wilt Chamberlain.
- · He is only one of two players in NBA history to average at least 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists over a 10-game span. The other is Michael Jordan.
- · He is only one of two players in NBA history to average at least 23 points, 10 assists, and 7 rebounds in a single season.The other is Oscar Robertson.
- · He is only one of three players in NBA history to record at least 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in consecutive games. The other two are Michael Jordan and Pete Maravich.
- · He is only one of three players in NBA history to record at least 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists in a game. The other two are Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor
- · He is only one of four players in NBA history to record five triple-doubles in six games. The other three are Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan.
I believe whether you look at it as who is most important to their team, who has brought their team the furthest off their own back, whether you look at what the player has achieved this season or what records the player has achieved; there should only be one unanimous MVP this year.
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