By Ryan McNeill
The sublime play of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook so far this season has put him in the discussion as one the best point guards in the NBA.
He currently ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring (24.4 points per gam) and eighth in assists per game (8.5) while helping his team start the season with a solid 13-7 record.
Even though Westbrook’s posting stats any point guard would die for, you won’t be able to get the humble Westbrook to admit as much.
While trying to talk with him while he was in Toronto, he tried to downplay the success he has enjoyed so far this season.
“It’s been a learning process for me,” a humble Westbrook admitted to HOOPSADDICT.com. “I’m just trying to go out there, not think about it and make the right play. I’ve just been trying to make the easier play and guys are doing a great job of knocking their shots down.”
Westbrook, in only his third NBA season, has raised his game to another level over the five games leading up to a recent loss in Toronto, averaging 28.4 points and 9.6 assists in 39.8 minutes of action.
During that recent stretch of dominance, Westbrook scored 43 points in a win at Indiana then scored 38 points in a triple-overtime win over New Jersey while snagging 15 boards and dishing out 9 assists.
Even in the loss to Toronto those averages didn’t dip too much as he scored 20 points while dishing out seven assists.
As great as those stats are, what is even more impressive is the fact Westbrook has started to show that he has a bit of a “Jordan complex” where he eats up big moments and is able to throw daggers into the hearts of opponents by making key baskets. This was on full display on Wednesday when Westbrook scored all 13 of the Thunder’s points in the third overtime to give his team a 123-120 win over the Nets.
Westbrook has also improved his defense this season and currently ranks seventh in the league in steals with 2.2 swipes per game.
Besides posting eye-popping stats, he’s also doing a great job of leaving fans and teammates in awe in what he’s able to do on the court.
“It’s always like a show,” Durant told HOOPSADDICT.com while grinning. “It’s always like you’re watching a movie or video game because every time he drives to the rim or he has the ball on a fastbreak you’re wondering what he is going to do next. When he makes a big play like a block or a dunk everyone gets excited so it’s fun playing like a guy like that.”
Because of the combination of stats and the sense of awe he brings on a nightly basis, some members of the media and fans believe Westbrook is one of the top point guards in the NBA, alongside Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, and Derek Rose.
Besides the gaudy scoring and assist averages and flash he brings to the Thunder, the main reason he is in the discussion as being one of the top point guards is because he has been involved in 321 of the 681 field goals Oklahoma City has so far this season.
Basically, he’s either scored or assisted on nearly half of the field goals the Thunder have so far this season.
“He has a competitive spirit that we love to see and it’s displayed every night,” his head coach, Scott Brooks, boasted to HOOPSADDICT.com. “Every night he puts his will into the game and he challenges other teams. He’s done a great job of finding the right balance between scoring and passing. His leadership skills have improved each year – it’s tough to lead as a rookie or a second-year player – and this is his third year and he’s done a great job of really focusing in during practice and games of leading the team.”
While Durant is the household name and was trendy pick as MVP entering this season, Westbrook is quickly becoming the engine that drives the Thunder.
“He has averaged eight assists since he started starting games for us in his rookie season, so the assists are nothing different, but now he’s scoring the basketball for us,” Kevin Durant told HOOPSADDICT.com. “He’s getting good looks and making those shots. He’s been consistent for us and efficient as well. Now he’s just got to continue to keep it up.”
According to Brooks, the development of Westbrook as a great all-around player gives him the perfect complimentary piece alongside Durant. Besides, you could easily make the argument Westbrook has been the Thunder’s best and most consistent threat this season without being met with too much objection from people who cover or follow the team on a regular basis.
It’s a shame so many basketball fans only associate the Oklahoma City Thunder with Durant and in the process are sleeping on the season Westbrook’s enjoying.