It’s a feeling.
One that you try to bury with the rest of your thoughts, and quickly replace with positive ones.
These are the things that you automatically shift your mindset to when you have that inevitable question that arises in your head.
Is Russell Westbrook really that guy?
The one who can successfully lead a team to a championship, or at least to a Western Conference Finals with a decent to good cast?
What if...the answer is no?
It’s not entirely his fault, because the landscape of the Western Conference is nearly impossible for anyone to win outside of Golden State, Houston, and potentially Los Angeles if the right free agents come to the Lakers.
But at the same time, my people, we have got to come to the inevitable yet incisive conclusion that the Oklahoma City Thunder will not win a title with Westbrook in his prime.
And that sentiment goes both ways because Westbrook, who will be 30 by the beginning of the upcoming season, has to carefully consider this as well.
He is a powerfully built athlete, a machine that surges down the lane, dunking ferociously on anyone that dares to stand in his way. With an impervious mentality to daunting tasks and challenges, no one competes the way Westbrook does every night, playing with reckless abandon, athletically like no guard ever has in the NBA.
But how long will that last?
If you look at the great players that Westbrook is often compared to in Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant, history shows that there is typically a large drop off in the number of dunks made per season as one eases into the ages of 31-32. This is about the time that age forces athletically dominant players to play below the rim, outwit foes, and trick their way to the basket. Bryant and Wade aged pretty gracefully (at least for a time), but I’m not so sure that Westbrook will be able to make that transition so easily.
Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant-Ages, Percentage of field goals attributed to dunks and dunks made during that season
Per Basketball Reference, Westbrook shot 29% from the three-point line this season, which is abysmal considering the season league average was 36% and is on an upward trend, as incoming players modify their game to adjust to the shooters league we have today. His shot selection has never been what you could call “smart.” And yet, he continues to jack up three-pointers and contested long two’s at an alarming rate.
In addition, Russ hasn’t quite learned to play off of the ball, which is something that absolutely should have been rectified this past season considering the crew that he was playing with. Per second spectrum sports, Westbrook set 24 ball screens in 86 games this past season. This translates to the fact that he is ball dominant, and truly alludes to how predictable the Thunder offense has remained, which is a gift for opposing defenses (even some of the league’s worst).
Throw in the possibility of playing long term with a struggling Carmelo Anthony, conflated with the prospect that Paul George may not resign with the Thunder, and the outcome is unequivocal. (See: 2016-2017 Triple-Double Season with 1st round playoff exit)
Even if George re-signs this off-season for one more year — as some are speculating that he will — there is still the narrative that Westbrook is unable to elevate the play of others around him, even as he led the league in assists last season.
As human beings, we have the proclivity of often holding on to people and things that aren’t necessarily good for us.
This sentiment goes both ways, because in the next two years, the one powerful attribute that Westbrook has will inevitably and unforgivably diminish and likely with no championship to show for it, and it’s not fair to either party.
Westbrook is a phenomenal, loyal player, and deserves a great coach and an actual system that he can fit in, instead of forcing every malleable thing to assimilate around his tendencies. It actually makes sense to trade him now while his value is still extremely high so that OKC can get back some really nice pieces to build around.
Given the current state of the Thunder, do you honestly give Russ much of a chance to lead OKC to a championship?
You know the answer to that.
It’s time to move on.
Do you think the Thunder should trade Russell Westbrook?
This poll is closed