Appreciate the Present Day Greatness

(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

(AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Russell Westbrook causes a great divide amongst NBA watchers everywhere around the world. Half of the NBA fanbase sees him as a ballhogging stat stuffing machine that does not actually make his team better and an overall low IQ player. Then there is the side that thinks he is better than Kevin Durant and in the conversation of best player in the world. I would like to believe I fall somewhere down the middle. Russell Westbrook is not a perfect player and with his skill set I wish his playstyle reminded me more of LeBron than it does Kobe, but despite that preference I am not blinded to seeing the greatness that he is displaying.

First major thing Westbrook is harped on for is his efficiency. His true shooting percentage is higher this season than his career percentage so if you have an issue with that in particular you will never support Westbrook, but the fact that he has raised his efficiency when he is by far the only thing the defense is truly worried about defending is impressive. His usage rate is at a 41.6 which is 6.3 points higher than the next highest player. If anything happens on offense Westbrook is a part of it and the defense knows it. Despite the defense and every fan knowing that if you can limit Westbrook you can effectively stop the Thunder’s offense entirely, the Thunder with Westbrook on the floor have an offensive rating of 111.0 which is good enough to be the 6th best offense in the league. The fact that he is having this effect on his team and rising in his own efficiency with all of this attention on him is truly amazing.

Many bring up the turnovers which I will admit are insanely high, but context should go along with it as he is the only reliable playmaker on the team and the only other person we should be okay with running anything off the dribble is Oladipo. Like it was said previously his usage rate is historically high. His team asks him to do everything for them on offense, so you can expect the bulk of turnovers to go his way.

Everyone is trying to undervalue the triple doubles he gets specifically the rebounding aspect, but if you watch Westbrook every single time he gets a defensive rebound his head immediately goes up to look for the leak out man for an easy score. This kind of pass takes a great amount of touch and high IQ to get his head up to even see that guy open.

Also I mean really are you guys going to knock something like this?

Just more crazy numbers to put into perspective just how effective he is by per 100 possession numbers which has been recorded since the 1979-80 season the list of players to put up at least 30 points and 14 assists a game with at least 20 games played in a season.

  • Magic Johnson 1986-87
  • Chris Paul 2008-09
  • Russell Westbrook 2015-16
  • James Harden this year
  • Russell Westbrook this year

Chris Paul, Magic Johnson, and Westbrook last year all did not surpass the 33.9 point mark per 100. Harden and Westbrook this year are at 37.8 and 42.4 respectively. If you take Westbrook’s rebounding out of the equation only one person since 1979 is even in the same conversation as him on production by possession basis. But no, it gets even more insane. Even if you take away his passing ability let’s look at how his production stands up against all time greats. Per 100 possession the list of guys to average at least 40 points, 14 rebounds, and at least 20 games played are,

  • Karl Malone 1989-90
  • Shaquille O’Neal 1997-98

If you take away the passing aspect of Russell’s game the only people in the past 37 years is a top 5 power forward and top 5 center of all time. So in total the only people to match up with Westbrook’s combination of scoring and passing ability in the past 37 years is himself, Magic, Chris Paul, (which he honestly blows all three out), and James Harden this year. The only players in history to match Westbrook’s scoring and rebounding ability since 1979 is Karl Malone and Shaq. Combine all of his production together and you get nobody.

(Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

(Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

We keep trying to overlook his historical significance, but let’s be honest. Oscar Robertson was an absolutely outstanding player in his time. Great at everything he did, but it was a lower class of basketball. The NBA is the best it has ever been in terms of talent pool and along with the strides in health concerns guys in general do not play as many minutes as they did back then. In the 1961-62 season in which Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double, the league average for possessions in a 48 minute game was 126.2. The league average today is 96.6. The Thunder specifically are running at a pace of 98.7. Oscar Robertson played 44.3 minutes a game compared to Westbrook’s 35.7. Oscar’s statline despite playing almost 10 minutes more a game are almost identical. 1961-62 Oscar averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. Westbrook this year 31.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 11.3 assists. Westbrook is putting up what people thought as impossible in almost 10 less minutes a game and in a league that gets almost 30 less possessions a game. That is just absolute insanity.

Oscar Robertson for the most part is a consensus top 12 player of all time. What Westbrook is doing today is more impressive that what Oscar did back then. The guard play is at it’s prime right now. Many will say things like, “You cannot win that way,” and ” That is not the right way to play basketball.” I think both are true in today’s age, but with the team he currently has, which is not a bad team, is best suited for this type of playstyle. Oscar failed to get past the 2nd round until Kareem came into his career and even without that championship Oscar by the consensus of the NBA community is still probably a top 20 player ever and what Westbrook is doing now is more than Oscar ever did before. I am not saying Westbrook is going to be that high up once his career ends, but let’s realistically look at his production compared to the all time greats. There are not many on this guy’s level plain and simple. Let’s stop denying this guy’s greatness because he does not fit the current NBA norm. What he is doing is absolutely incredible and we should really appreciate the history happening before our very eyes.


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