2. Russell Westbrook
Throughout his career, Russell Westbrook has been celebrated for his incredible durability on a nightly basis, in addition to his spectacular play on the court. Since entering the league in the 2008-2009 season, Westbrook had never missed a game until last year's postseason, when Rockets guard Patrick Beverley's infamous maneuver tore Westbrook's right meniscus, sidelining him for the remainder of the 2013 NBA Playoffs.
From a health standpoint, this year has not been the most encouraging for the Long Beach native, as a string of injuries to his lower extremities have only allowed him to participate in 45 games. Some may ponder how can Westbrook qualify as an "active" point guard if he's played under 50 games. Westbrook has played more than half the season, and his activity when he has played has been remarkable. To me, that's active enough.
On the season, the former UCLA Bruin is averaging 21.8 PPG, 6.9 APG, 5.7 RPG and is shooting 44% from the floor. If Westbrook qualified for major statistics among point guards, he'd be 2nd in scoring, 10th in assists, and 2nd in rebounds. He's only played in 45 games and has 11 double-double's which is 12th best among point guards, and he's registered 2 triple-double's on the year.
Westbrook's efficiency isn't the greatest, but he shoots a better percentage than John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. Westbrook's shooting percentage suffers due to the number of 3 pointers he takes per game. Oklahoma City is primarily a jumpshooting team, and their offense lacks complexity due to the fact that scorers such as Durant and Westbrook just need to put the ball in the hoop and generate offense. Durant has proven he may be the best in the league at that, and Westbrook thrives in doing so also. Not saying that OKC is unstructured and or sloppy on the offensive end, but their sets aren't as multiplexed as some of the other top notch offenses in the league.
When fully healthy, Westbrook sends stern reminders on why he's the second best point guard in the NBA. His energy is contagious, his game oozes dedication and fierceness. His intensity drips all over the court, at times overwhelming the opposition. Westbrook's presence boosts OKC's title aspirations even higher, regardless of what the naysayers murmur.
Yes, Russell has found difficulty composing a season with an abundance of health, but when he was able to do so last year, the results were fantastic. In the 2012-13 season, Westbrook's defensive win shares was 4.0, his offensive win shares was a 7.7, and his overall win shares was an 11.6. All of these were career highs for the 3 time all-star. This season, due to health related issues, Westbrook has struggled to mimic those figures.
His DWS is a 2.2 (2nd lowest of career,) his OWS is a 2.9 (3rd lowest of career,) and his total WS is a 5.1 (2nd lowest of career.) This simply highlights how the various injuries have hindered Westbrook, restraining him from truly asserting himself this year.
As the playoffs stroll around, Westbrook enters with a renewed anger. His postseason campaign last year was cut short due to unfortunate circumstances, but with his confidence refreshed, Westbrook looks to wreck havoc on all western conference foes. From a health standpoint, no longer do doubts linger. Russell has looked explosive, spry and downright dominant in recent weeks. Westbrook has been sitting out back to back contests, but there are no back to backs in the playoffs, so rest in some capacity is ensured.
Westbrook has shown flashes this season of why he's deserving of this ranking. Often, those flashes have refrained from turning into a beautifully illustrated picture due to injury soiling the photo. Now, as the season concludes and the postseason is soon to commence, Westbrook is playing promising basketball that is beginning to paralyze the opposition with fear.
In April, Russell Westbrook is averaging 27 PPG on 46% shooting, along with 6.8 APG and 6 RPG a game. His mojo is no longer absent, and if this remains the case, Oklahoma City may no longer find themselves absent from the championship round in June. Russell Westbrook is unlike any point guard in the NBA. He's still learning the point guard position, and with each flick of the wrist and passing of the ball he's garnering that experience. His court vision has improved and he's starting to become a more reliable jump shooter.
Oklahoma City hopes Westbrook's steady improvement, paired with Durant's MVP season is enough to propel them to the NBA Finals. This time, they hope the result is them hoisting that trophy above their heads, and for this vision to come to fruition, Westbrook needs to be healthy and dominant. With a talent like him, it's not unrealistic to have this occur. Maybe then, people will refrain from claiming OKC is better without Russell Westbrook and maybe then he will be the recipient of the respect he deserves.
Is Russell Westbrook the 2nd best point guard in the NBA? Should he be ranked lower? Share thoughts and opinions with me on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and remember to continue to support The Basketball Society.