Move over Eric Bledsoe, there’s a new “Mini LeBron” in town.
Two games after becoming the first player since 1986 to put up at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists in a playoff game (source), Russell Westbrook became the first player since 1986 to put up at least 27 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists in a playoff game (source).
Two spectacular triple-doubles in a pressure packed first round series that went the distance versus the Memphis Grizzlies.
He averaged 26 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists over 7 games.
Russell Westbrook is a force of nature.
Now, he’s already considered a top 5 player in the NBA, with his running mate Durant at #2. But could Westbrook be even closer to Durant than that?
“We’re worse when I take more shots (than Westbrook). And traditionally, a point guard is not supposed to take more shots than everybody else on the team. But we’re better when he does do that and he’s aggressive.”
– Kevin Durant
A few key points:
- Westbrook’s scoring ability rivals Durant’s.
Durant is a better shooter, but Westbrook is a better slasher – and both are prone to getting lost in a chucker’s cycle. But even though Westbrook shoots around 44%, he could easily lead the league in scoring if he wasn’t playing with Durant – much in the same way Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant did, i.e. relentlessly.
- Westbrook is more athletic, faster and stronger than Durant.
Durant makes up for his lack in physical ability with good shot selection and pure shooting ability (That’s not to say that Durant isn’t athletic. He is athletic, but not an elite athlete, and certainly lacking in strength). Westbrook makes up for his lesser shot selection with superior athleticism, better court vision and raw energy.
- Westbrook is a much better passer with superior court vision.
This is not even close. Their career assist-to-turnover ratios tells the tale. Russell averages 6.9 assists on 3.5 turnovers, Durant averages 3.5 assists on 3.2 turnovers.
- Westbrook’s rebounding ability equals Durant’s, even though he’s much shorter.
Yes, I know Durant pulls down a few more rebounds a game, but in my estimation that is not due to capability but merely due to the fact that Kevin Durant is nearly 7 feet tall.
- Defensively, they’re about equal.
KD may have an edge there just because he can disturb more avenues with his length – but Westbrook’s superior athleticism allows him to make up for the height difference. Neither have been All-Defensive players in the past and won’t be this year either.
- Both need to figure out how to be more effective in the post.
- While Durant is an all-time-great caliber player, and clearly the Thunder’s franchise player, the onus to pull the Thunder out of a jam is very often claimed by Westbrook with no objection from KD.
That might seem like a small detail, but it speaks to how much more of a floor general Westbrook is compared to Durant. He is the more assertive player.
So, at the very least, Russell Westbrook is the most complete player on the Thunder and more of a natural leader.
Does being the most complete player on the Thunder – with scoring ability to rival Durant’s, and passing ability to rival any other elite scorer – also make him the best player on the Thunder? Does Westbrook’s superior passing ability, energy and athleticism make up for his lack in shooting efficiency…? It absolutely does in certain games and it could overall, theoretically.
So I’m going to have to go with a 1a and 1b set-up; who is A and who is B will probably change on a game-to-game basis.
In any case, Russell Westbrook – often the scapegoat – is better than most of us realize, and closer to Durant than you think.