As you might remember, we here at WTLC have had a history with Coach Nick. He was one of the analysts on the internet that led the charge against Russell Westbrook, declaring that he wasn't a championship point guard. Though I didn't agree with his assessment, I could see where he was coming from and he made a very reasonable argument. (Unlike Skip Bayless, who will just shout at you that Westbrook shoots too much until he's blue in the face.)
Coach Nick continues his analysis this year, accentuating it with the fact that Russell Westbrook has now played in the NBA Finals, and should know how to make these types of decisions. Now, while his previous video mainly highlighted Westbrook's poor decision making on offense, today's vid actually focuses on Westbrook's poor defense, and how he can get easily distracted. I'd highly recommend you watch it above.
I still disagree with the opinion that Westbrook isn't a championship point guard, especially given the fact that there were much bigger problems against the Heat in the NBA Finals. And I still don't agree with Coach Nick's hate on Westbrook's out of control drives, because I think he has the ability to make some of the shots that were highlighted in this video.
But I have to wholeheartedly agree with Coach Nick when it comes to Russell Westbrook's defense. It's like this guy has zero peripheral vision. He does a good job of playing passing lanes and keeping track of the ball, but it seems that's all he does. He's just concerned about getting the steal by trapping another guy or stopping his man. Why in the name of Sam Hill does Westbrook always forget about his assignment when he's off the ball? This doesn't affect him so much against other teams with point guards who like to create for themselves, but against a well-rehearsed passing team like the Spurs, it sticks out like a sore thumb. You can say what you want about Kevin Martin getting beat on defense, but at least he doesn't forget where he is.
What would be more interesting to me is an analysis of how well Russell Westbrook plays when he's off the ball on offense. He's bigger than most of his matchups, so he could be a fantastic cutter or shooter working off of the wings. But when he's not creating his own offense or diving for a board, it's like the guy isn't even there. He might even be standing in the back court, far away from the play. It's almost as if he's begging for the ball back, silently. But I'd just like to be clear on this one. Westbrook could work well off the ball sometimes, as long as he was playing point guard. If he had to switch to shooting guard, he'd have bigger guys working on him defensively, limiting his effectiveness.
Can the Thunder win a championship with Westbrook having these defensive and offensive lapses of judgement? I believe they can, because in 90% of his games, regardless of the opponent, Westbrook's positives far outweigh his negatives. (This wasn't one of them.) But the irritating thing about the problems is that they seem to be utterly fixable, and I think this is where Coach Nick's frustration lies. Westbrook's not struggling from a lack of ability, he's struggling from a lack of concentration. You have to wonder how he would fare under one of the NBA's stricter coaches, like Gregg Popovich, Scott Skiles, or Byron Scott. He might tune them out....or he could become a much scarier force in today's NBA.
What do you think about the arguments made by Coach Nick or myself? Is there something we're both missing? Let us know in the comments!