SportsWhat’s the Deal With Russell Westbrook?

What’s the Deal With Russell Westbrook?

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Russell Westbrook is a Most Beneficial Participant Award winner. He’s usually an All-Star (9 instances in 12 seasons) and can nearly assuredly be a first-ballot Corridor of Famer when his profession ends. He has led the league in scoring twice and as soon as scored 43 factors in an N.B.A. finals sport. He simply turned 32 final month and if all goes nicely, he ought to have a number of All-Star seasons left in him.

It’s a basketball résumé that many gamers dream of however solely a tiny handful attain.

So why is Westbrook, who was traded this week from Houston to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a draft decide, about to be on his third group in three years? That is just about unheard-of for a former M.V.P. It occurred to Derrick Rose (the 2011 M.V.P.) too, however his on-court productiveness was significantly hampered by accidents. Shaquille O’Neal (2000) and Moses Malone (the M.V.P. in 1979, 1982 and 1983) additionally performed on three completely different groups in three years, however it was within the waning years of their careers, not at their heights.

Westbrook, nonetheless in his prime and remarkably sturdy, is without doubt one of the most divisive N.B.A. stars in current many years, much more so after final season’s up-and-down 12 months with the Rockets. He’s the newest in a protracted line of stars the place analysts and followers have questioned whether or not his fashion of play is conducive to successful a championship, very similar to Allen Iverson (who received the M.V.P. in 2001).

Westbrook’s conventional statistics and accolades are eye-popping. However as statistics have developed in recent times, a few of the superior numbers haven’t been pleasant to him. Maybe no star participant has been extra of a lightning rod than Westbrook. Is he a bona fide celebrity? Or does he accumulate stats on the expense of wins and his teammates? Certain, his counting stats (sometimes referring to factors, rebounds and assists) are elite. However why isn’t that mirrored in superior analytics?

Here’s a have a look at a few of these numbers and the debates surrounding them.

Table of Contents

  • 2016-2017: 31.6 factors, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists; 42 triple-doubles

  • 2017-2018: 25.4 factors, 10.1 rebounds, 10.3 assists; 25 triple-doubles

  • 2018-2019: 22.9 factors, 11.1 rebounds, 10.7 assists; 34 triple-doubles

No statistic is extra generally related to Westbrook than triple-doubles (video games by which a participant reaches double digits in three classes; sometimes factors, rebounds and assists).

When a participant has certainly one of these, it’s thought-about a noteworthy accomplishment. That Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the whole 2016-17 season was outstanding, provided that the one different participant to perform the feat in N.B.A. historical past was Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals, who did it in 1961-62. After matching Robertson’s feat, Westbrook put an exclamation level on the accomplishment by doing it in every of the following two seasons as nicely.

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That three-season stretch with the Thunder is — on paper — one of many best runs by a participant in N.B.A. historical past. Individuals assumed Robertson’s accomplishment can be unimaginable to match within the trendy sport, however Westbrook made it look simple.

Critics contended that the scheme that Coach Billy Donovan employed, which known as for Westbrook’s teammates to surrender rebounds for Westbrook, inflated Westbrook’s numbers. Westbrook was accused of being a “stat-padder” who chased triple-doubles over wins. The critics pointed to the Thunder being eradicated within the first spherical of the playoffs in all three seasons by which Westbrook averaged a triple-double as proof. They’ve additionally famous that the triple-double is an arbitrary statistic: Somebody may rating 35 factors, seize 9 rebounds and have 19 assists and it could not be thought-about a triple-double.

It’s really extra sophisticated than that, at the least from a numbers perspective.

Throughout the common season, the Thunder had a considerably greater successful proportion when Westbrook attained a triple-double than when he didn’t.

  • 2016-17 Thunder: 33-9; .785 win proportion

  • 2017-18 Thunder: 20-5; .800

  • 2018-19 Thunder: 23-11; .676

  • 2019-20 Rockets: 5-3; .625 win proportion

Within the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, the Thunder went 53-14 (a .791 successful proportion) when Westbrook attained a triple-double; roughly a 65-win tempo in an 82-game common season. In each of these years, the Thunder had a shedding document when Westbrook performed however didn’t get one. Within the 2016-17 season, Westbrook’s M.V.P. 12 months, the Thunder have been 13-26 in these video games.

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For the 2018-19 season, Westbrook’s ultimate season in Oklahoma Metropolis, the Thunder went 23-11 (a .676 win proportion) when Westbrook had a triple-double, and 21-18 in video games Westbrook performed however didn’t get one (.538 win proportion). They have been solely 5-4 when Westbrook didn’t play.

However Westbrook’s strategy didn’t precisely make for excellent offense in Oklahoma Metropolis. In two of the three seasons by which he averaged a triple-double, the Thunder had a under common offense, and have been tied for eighth within the different one.

The place Westbrook is hounded most by his critics is for his inefficiency as a scorer. He’s a horrible exterior shooter for a guard, with a profession mark from 3-point vary of simply 30.5 %. In his lone season with Houston, he shot 25.8 %. In right now’s pace-and-space N.B.A., not being a satisfactory shooter generally is a hindrance to offenses.

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Past that, Westbrook wants numerous pictures to attain the factors that he does. His true taking pictures proportion — a measure of effectivity that takes under consideration 3-pointers and free throws — has been under common for many of his profession. It’s at 53 %, whereas final 12 months’s league common, for instance, was 56.5 %.

There additionally seems to be a niche between how conventional numbers and a few superior statistics view Westbrook.

For instance, final 12 months, Westbrook averaged 27.2 factors, 7.9 rebounds and seven assists per sport and shot 47.2 % from the sector. It was sufficient to make him an All-Star and All-N.B.A. third group.

Nonetheless, Westbrook’s win shares per 48 minutes — a statistic that makes an attempt to indicate how a lot worth a participant brings to their group per minute, extrapolated to a regulation N.B.A. sport — paints a distinct image. At .098, Westbrook was ranked one hundred and first within the league. For his profession, Westbrook has been within the high 10 on this measure simply 4 instances, and not since his M.V.P. season.

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Westbrook has performed with a number of A-list N.B.A. stars: Paul George, James Harden and Kevin Durant. He’ll now be a part of Bradley Beal, who completed second within the N.B.A. in factors per sport final season. Westbrook, although, can seemingly solely achieve success if he controls the offense with the ball in his palms. His profession utilization price — a measure of what proportion of a group’s performs a participant is concerned in — is 32.7 %, the second highest in N.B.A. historical past. The optimum trendy celebrity can present manufacturing as effectively as attainable. Westbrook has by no means been accused of effectivity.

But it surely ought to be famous: George, Harden and Durant have all thrived enjoying subsequent to Westbrook. Final 12 months, Harden led the N.B.A. in scoring and put collectively among the best N.B.A. common seasons in historical past. In 2018-19, George, as Westbrook’s companion in Oklahoma Metropolis, had by far his finest 12 months (28 factors per sport) and completed third in M.V.P. voting. Durant received 4 scoring titles as Westbrook’s teammate and the pair led the Thunder to an N.B.A. finals. Durant additionally received the 2013-14 M.V.P. with Westbrook as his teammate, with the caveat that Westbrook missed 36 video games that season and had a better utilization price than Durant within the video games he performed.

Westbrook actually got here alive within the second half of final season, earlier than faltering within the playoffs. After the All-Star break, Westbrook averaged 27.5 factors, 7.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 27 video games on 55.7 true taking pictures. He even shot 37.5 % on 3-point makes an attempt.

He can clearly nonetheless play at an elite stage and pairing him with Bradley Beal will make for an intriguing mixture. The Wizards went 25-47 final season in a weaker convention. Including Westbrook ought to, at the least, put the Wizards in playoff competition. However can they make precise noise within the playoffs? Westbrook’s current historical past suggests no.

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