Monday, December 1, 2008

The potential impact of Russell Westbrook

There's no way we'll know for sure if Sam Presti made the right move with Russell Westbrook for a few years. He's hasn't had the immediate, no-doubt-he-was-the-right-choice impact one Chris Paul had with the Hornets in 2005.

But after 18 games, I'm thinking Presti feels pretty good. In fact, I'm thinking he's feeling really good. I've been a Russell Westbrook fan since the first preseason game. I saw insane athleticism and a freakish ability to get to the rim. No doubt he's still raw, but we have to remember he's played 18 professional games and started his first last Saturday night. As for me, I'm sold. I know he's not there yet, but he will get there. He was drafted for his lockdown defensive ability, but I think he can improve this team even more with his scoring and slashing skills.

Let's pause for an incredible Westbrook dunk:

Experts are digging for comparisons and frankly, are either coming up empty or are all over the place. Some are saying Deron Williams without the polished jumper. Some are saying Jason Kidd because of his rebounding ability. Some are even saying Tony Parker with hops. I can see a little of all three, but Westbrook is a player in his own right. I've never seen a 6-3 point guard out-jump and outrebound fours and fives. Kidd got his triple doubles by playing smart - reading caroms, being in the right spot and getting a body on someone. Westbrook is a triple-double threat because he crashes the glass with reckless abandon and skies for boards like Dwight Howard. He goes up and over people. And he's gotten a good amount of points out of it.

I've said it before, but once a jumper comes along, look out. Like seriously, look out. There's a limited few players than can keep up with Westbrook. His cross is lightning quick and he can get in the lane in a blink. Sometimes he's a little weak with the rock and gets caught in the air with no where to go, but those are clear signs of inexperience. In three years, he'll have learned and will be making smart plays.

I remember back in June nobody was thrilled about picking Westbrook. Everybody was very ho-hum after the pick. There was a lot of pining for Jerryd Bayless, D.J. Augustin or Kevin Love. So almost a quarter of the season in, how does Westbrook stack up to the guys some wanted more? (I realize some numbers are inflated or should I say, deflated, because of their role on the team. Bayless is playing on a contender while Westbrook is on a team where playing time is more important than wins and losses.)

6.1 minutes per game
1.3 points per game
1.1 rebounds per game
0.7 assists per game
0.1 steals per game

29.4 mpg
12.9 ppg
2.2 rpg
4.3 apg
0.5 spg

22.9 mpg
8.6 ppg
6.3 rpg
1.0 apg

26.9 mpg
12.3 ppg
3.3 rpg
4.1 apg
1.78 spg

Now let's just toss in rookie superstud Derrick Rose to compare. But since Rose is averaging about 12 more minutes per game, let's use per 48.

23.3 ppg
5.2 rpg
7.6 apg
1.26 spg


21.9 ppg
6.0 rpg
7.2 apg
3.17 spg

Interesting, eh? As I was writing this and looking at other players, I think I found my comparison. Russell Westbrook reminds me most of Derrick Rose - as crazy as that is. Rose is clearly on track to superstardom, but Westbrook really isn't getting the pub. And he's having a darn fine rookie campaign. The biggest tick on Westbrook is field goal percentage. He shoots just 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from three whereas Rose hits almost 49 percent from the field and almost 37 percent from three. But like I said, let that jumper come and Westbrook is an All-Star waiting to happen. Mark it.

One more dunking interlude:

The thing about Westbrook is that he didn't specifically fill a need. He's not exactly a point guard and he's not exactly a two guard. That's why there was the outcry when he was picked. And I think that's why he hasn't really made an incredible impact in the win-loss column. He will absolutely make a difference down the line, but he's not a game changer... yet. As Dr. Lawyer Indianchief of FreeDarko said, "Westbrook just has insane Dwyane-Wade-like upside and is fast becoming my favorite player in the league. Now if the Thunder could only dump their supporting cast for better three-point shooters, we would have a serious team on our hands. Westbrook can get in the lane with the best of them, and Durant is JUST STARTING HIS CAREER NOW. In an email to Shoals and the Recluse last night, I officially proclaimed him "freed." Screw Glenn Robinson and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. This is the bizarro-KG-Dirk-assassin that we all were watching at Texas. It will take a year still for that player to emerge, but I could finally see the remnants last night, beginning to be reassembled."

Anyone else have to change their shorts after reading that? Kevin Durant's shooting percentage is starting to soar and I think a lot of that is directly relative to the difference Westbrook is making. Westbrook leaped (pun intentional) to the "Royce's favorite player" spot after I caught a glimpse of his awesome ability. And like the good doctor said, Oklahoma City could have a serious thing going in a year or two if a few precise pieces are added. I can't wait.


Anonymous said...

Did you really mention this Westbrook and Paul in the same sentence? You Okies get dumber by the minute.

AD said...

I agree on Westbrook...

given time and experience he is going to be a good one for years... haters can hate all they want... but he has all the talent it takes plus the one thing you cant coach and thats passion. Presti scored big with Westbrook... now we just sit back and watch him improve and mature... and enjoy the ride.

Anonymous said...

Another thing you can't coach... a team in Seattle.

Anonymous said...

What the fuck is your problem? Does it make you happy that your asshole owner stole my fucking childhood? Go to hell you piece of shit.

Anonymous said...

You stay classy, Seattle.

Steve H said...

This is why trolls need to use names. Comments so far read like a potty mouthed schizophrenic arguing with himself. How can we help you sort out your issues if we can't keep the identities straight? I have enjoyed Wilcox's play this season, but expect to see him traded by the February deadline. I kinda like the idea of shopping him to New Orleans for Butler to give us some moderately priced perimiter shooting. Hornets could use some front court help for their stretch run. Presti- are you reading this?

Anonymous said...

Rather than say Westbrook is a composite of people he's been compared to on teh internets, you should really go out on a limb and actually say who YOU think he reminds you of.

That is, if you've actually followed the NBA pre-2005.

Honestly, why have a blog if you're not willing to give your own opinion??! Step it up, bro...I'm willing to follow you if you can show some leadership. Good luck!

Royce said...

I thought I did... I said he really reminds me of Derrick Rose. Weird, but I see similarities in their game. But I didn't say he was a composite, I said he really seems to be a player in his own right. I said SOME are comparing the Deron Williams, Tony Parker, etc.

He has a little Leandro Barbosa in him because of the speed, but Westbrook is a better finisher.

Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

Westbrook is nothing like Derrick Rose. Rose is a far better ball-handler, finisher, shooter and penetrator. Most importantly, Rose is a pure PG. He is an incredible passer with a natural gift for court vision. I have not seen that from Westbrook.

I do like the Barbosa comparison. I would say Westbrook's offensive ceiling is Barbosa.

Crow said...

One of the best things about Westbrook is that he is a combo guard who can not only guard SGs he can shut a good % of them down.

Another potentially good thing is he goes inside more than any other guard in the league besides Tony Allen and Stuckey. But he is a very poor finisher right now, just shooting 43% on inside shots.

I have no problem referencing the flavor of other players but a stat follow-up on one of them:
Kidd's rebounding is about 45% higher than Westbrook's. That is a pretty big difference.

RogersPark Kris said...

If it makes you guys feel any better, one of the players Derrick Rose specifically mentions as being one of the other top point guard rookies in the draft was Russel Westbrook.

Ritchie said...

Did you really just write off that near-15% difference in field goal percentage between Rose and Westbrook? That's insane. I'll admit I haven't seen much of Westbrook this season but I saw a lot of him at UCLA and at no point did he remind me of Derrick Rose. And I do like Westbrook, but that comparison is horribly off base going off both their styles of play and their results in the NBA thus far.

ChrisH said...

improving his shooting is a big if. Rose has done it already, if it lasts. But combo guards without a jumper aren't impact players.

That said, he looks nice.

Anonymous said...

I think the rose comparison is coming from the 2 players getting most of their points on lay-ups and drives, and from both of them being insanely explosive.(Both of them could use a more consistent jumper also)

That being said, if the offense ran through Westbrook nearly much as it did through Rose, maybe he would get into a better groove offensively and as a result have a better FG%.

Royce said...

Exactly. I realize that Russell Westbrook does not equal Derrick Rose. But I see similarities between the two. They both have great slashing ability and get the rim with ease. Rose is clearly more talented, but just at this point, I think Russell's game is a lot like Rose's.

Jonathan said...

Rose and Westbrook have similar per-minute aggregate stats, but efficiency-oriented stats are where you can really tell them apart. As you note, Rose has a FG% almost 14% higher than Westbrook's. He also makes his free throws at a 5% higher clip. This adds up to a nearly 10% gap in TS%. So Westbrook is a far less efficient scorer -- the reason his per-minute stats are similar to Rose's is simply that Westbrook uses more possessions. After all, shooting 5-10 in 10 minutes nets the same per-minute result as shooting 5-20 in 10 minutes. And so predictably, Westbrook's Usage rate is 3.5 points higher than Rose's. So the argument really cannot be made that Rose's numbers are superior because the Bulls' offense runs through him more than the Thunders' offense runs through Westbrook.

Jonathan said...

Following up on the idea that the Thunder offense is not run through Westbrook, it's worth noting that Westbrook's usage rate of 25.5 puts him in the top 20, leaguewide. That means Westbrook uses more of his team's possessions than established stars like Baron Davis, Kevin Martin, Al Jefferson, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay, and Stephen Jackson.

This makes it hard for me to buy into the argument that Westbrook and Rose are similarly productive. They put up similar per-minute stats, to be sure, but they do it in very different ways. Rose scores at a fairly efficient rate; Westbrook is far less efficient, but matches him on a per-minute basis simply because he uses more of his team's possessions.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? What are you, twelve? Clearly you OKC folks are in over your head when it comes to evaluating the NBA and its talent. Westbrook is fast... end of story. He can defend because of his athleticism... and of point.

Comparing him to D.Rose is like comparing Harold Miner to Jordan.

Get real. Your team stinks and they drafted Westbrook waaaaay to high. You should have picked up Love and traded for OJ Mayo. Now you are stuck with a guy who will NEVER be a true PG.

Anonymous said...

The massive difference in field goal % and the fact that Westbrook is more likely to collect "garbage points", being on OKC, make a huge difference between him and Rose.

Anonymous said...

per 48 stats are way over rated. if these stats were true leon powe and carl landy would be all stars. westbrook will be good but come on, find a new method to prove a point.

Jonathan said...

"Get real. Your team stinks and they drafted Westbrook waaaaay to high."

To be fair, an 18 game sample is probably too small to use to make this kind of sweeping statement.

These are 20 year old kids. Let's at least wait until they're old enough to drink before we pass judgment on their careers.

SKE said...

The Rose-Westbrook comparisons only take into account one side of the ledger. It is not just what one does that is important. It is also what one doesn't. Per-forty minutes, Westbrook turns the ball over at a rate that is 25% higher and fouls more than twice as much.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you forgot a pesky little thing called field goal percentage! Good god, Westbrook couldn't hit the broadside of a barn.

the_capital_t said...

From what I saw at UCLA and the little bit I've seen in the first month of Westbrook's rookie campaign, I'd say the D Rose comparison is WAY off base.

Their physicality and per 48 numbers might lend to a natural comparison, but their instincts for the game are VERY different.

Rose is very clearly a floor general while Westbrook is best described as a playmaker.

If you want to do young Russell some favors, burn him some DVDs of Dennis Johnson and tell him to take detailed notes. 'Cause that's the guy he should start mirroring.

Anonymous said...

think rajon rondo!

i had this exact conversation with my homey a few times since pre-draft ...

westbrook will be official ... he's a better athlete than all the guards that came out except rose ... a better defender as well ... & rebounder ...

once he gets accustomed to running a squad, its lights out ...

as freedarko said he will be the dwill to rose's cp3 ...

NNN said...

I'm a huge Blazers fan, but really like Westbrook! Too bad he couldn't slip to #11 like Bayless.

I think a good comparison would be a young Devin Harris. Westbrook can't shoot, but nobody can stop him from getting to the lane (and finishing) a la Harris a few yrs ago...

what do you think?

ruth said...

As a recent UCLA alum, I completely agree w/ your assessment of Westbrook's potential. I've watched a few OKC games this year just to watch Westbrook, and he looks a lot like how he did his freshman year (which was ONLY TWO YEARS AGO). He was wild and crazy and sometimes brilliant, and we never knew what to expect when he came off the bench. Last year, his improvement was pretty much meteoric. I personally saw how much he improved within one season, and there's no reason to think he won't do it again.

I was surprised that OKC took him so high, but it should turn out to be a great long term investment. In my opinion, Mayo's already at his full potential. He's a great but inconsistent scorer that struggles w/ lock-down defense (like when he played against Westbrook in college). I haven't gotten a chance to watch Rose in the NBA, but Rose and Westbrook played completely different roles in college, so I'm not sure I agree w/ the comparison...

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyable article, seriously though thanks for the laugh.

Westbrook=rose?!? really? Oh man thats funny stuff.

For one, Westbrook is shooting 34% buddy and natural defenders who aren't that skilled offensively don't usually turn into offensive threats.

OKC=team of rollplayers. Have fun watching Durant, he'll be on his way out soon.

Anonymous said...

This website is great. Lots of laughs. Maybe you should consider doing basketball.

Anonymous said...

You know whats great??? Seeing a city a fraction of the size of seattle able support a team beyond anything seattle could of dreamed of. Im hoping they notice the trend and bring one to my city.

Anonymous said...

This is very misleading. I think Westbrook clearly has potential and he certainly has not been shy about creating shots for himself, no matter how crappy they are. He turns the ball over at a higher rate than Rose and shoots a much lower percentage, and that's without being the central focus of his team. He could be good down the road, but he's clearly one of the culprits for the Thunder's historically bad offense so far. He has looked better after the coaching change, though.

Anonymous said...

The ONLY comparison you can accurately make between Westbrook and Rose is speed, and Rose still has him beat on that. Rose is a way better passer and shooter than Westbrook; and teams know Rose is the best player on the Bulls so they always have their eyes on him and he still scores more while shooting more effectively than Westbrook. Rose scores during the whole game and is the reason for most of the wins the Bulls have this year. Most of Westbrooks points are "garbage points" once the other team has a big lead and become lethargic on defense (And someone like Kwame Brown can score 12 ppg in 26 mpg if he was taking a shot every time he touched the ball). Also, you really can't use the argument that Rose gets more playing time and scores more because the Bulls offense runs through Rose and not through Westbrook, because there is a reason for that... Westbrook is NOT THAT GOOD. So if you will please never compare Westbrook to Rose again, it's like comparing Kirk Hinrich to Steve Nash because they are both white and are 6'3". The state of Oklahoma knows its college football but has a long way to go when it comes to basketball.
Thanks for the laugh

Anonymous said...

First of all, stop all the hating. No one ever said they were clones for god's sake - Royce just mentioned that he could see similarities.

With his high rates of rebounds and steals it's clear that Westbrook has the ability to play in this league.

Also, the turnover rate is a good indicator. John Hollinger has pointed out the trend that young players with high turnover rates tend to improve more than players who don't turn the ball over.

Westbrook has suspect outside shooting but he can dish, rebound, drive and create FTs. Sounds like some Miami Heat guard to me.

The signs are all there, he just has to keep firing away and figuring out the NBA. He just turned 20.

Chris Young said...

First off let me tel lyou who I am. I was Russell assistant
high school coach. So I've known him since he was 14. This is the reason why Russell will be a 10 year all star. When Russell finally came into his own in high school. It was clear he was the best player around. But you could see his body and game was still growing. With most super star high school players. They become the best player as a junior. And as a senior they tear it up. But Russell didn't have that chance. He became the best player in Los Angeles 15 games left in his his school career. So now it's off to college. Where he spends most of his freshman year on the bench. Now comes his second year in college. And anyone around LA would tell you. From what he was doing that summer. He was a pro the minute practice started in 07. But with the system at UCLA. Nobody thought he would get a chance to shine. And if Howland had it his way. The kid wouldn't have shinned. And he would still be in school. So once again Russell hard work. Has put in a position to prove folks wrong. But his body and game still needs work. Once again its about 15 or so gmaes left in his second season. And now everyone is saying he might be a lottery pick. And as we all know he was. But again, his body and game still needs work. This is the Russell you guys see today. And he is still holding his own big time. Now the reason he will start to really kill guys on the court. i sbecause now he can see where he will be for the next 15 or so years. So his body and game will adapt to the NBA game. And once that happens. The sky in the limit. Trust me, playoffs, all star and NBA defensive player of the year in his 3rd season.

Crow said...

Westbrook top 40 in league right on adjusted +/- among those playing a modest amount of minutes at +9.5.

Too early to give it much weight but if you are looking positive signs this is one.

Rose for what it is worth at -4.

Collison in bottom 50, a bit worse than Mason.

Anonymous said...

Beware of the garbage time All-stars. Rose is putting his numbers up in meaningful minutes leading a close to .500 team. Westbrook isn't. There's a big difference.

Anonymous said...

Chris Young, do you really expect us to believe you were his assistant coach? I would be willing to bet my house that Westbrook will not take the Bobcats to the playoffs (If they do make it will be because of Durant.) Westbrook will not be an all-star in the next decade and will never be NBA defensive player of the year. Furthermore, if you really are a coach then you would know what "garbage points" are, and realize those are the kind of points Westbrook is scoring.

Anonymous said...

Couple things...

How many of you people actually think the OKC fans are going show up every game if they keep losing? The thunder were actually being booed the other night by their own fans! Same stuff that happened to Memphis will happen.

And Chris Young that comment you made was completely unbiased. Wait. No. I lied. Lets say I trained Westbrook, wouldn't it be a given that I would say he is going to be an allstar?

He's not that tight man. I mean hes going to be a guy that hustles every night and he's got hops and athletic ability, but does he have "it"? Im not even close to being convinced.

Last, come on with the rose comparisons please. From one RW doesn't have a target on his back like rose does, he has such a dreadful shot, and for such limited time he plays he's a turnover machine.

I hope whoever wrote that article has a computer malfunction next time he/she (probably she with all that irrational thinking) has another brilliant topic to talk about.


Anonymous said...

"Exactly. I realize that Russell Westbrook does not equal Derrick Rose. But I see similarities between the two. They both have great slashing ability and get the rim with ease. Rose is clearly more talented, but just at this point, I think Russell's game is a lot like Rose's."

- I see the similarities too. They are both black. They both have the letters R O S E in their last name.

The biggest mistake you are making (and everyone makes) is you are automatically assuming improvement. I can play tha game too.

Chris Wilcox reminds me of Kevin Garnett. They are both incredible athletes and Wilcox is still relatively young and has just entered into his peak years.

Robert Swift reminds me of Andrew Bynum. They were both drafted at the same point in the draft right out of high school. Unfortunately, Swift got hurt a few times so he is right now just at the point of figuring it all out.

Rose is a potentiall 10 time all-star. If Westbrook is out of the league in 6 years I dont think anyone wuold be terribly surprised.

Its great to get excited for a new young player. Especially when you have so little to look forward to night in and night out. But please...have at least base your opinions in a world that actually exists.

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty funny how many people are talking trash, and yet, Westbrook continues to perform, proving you haters wrong. He's an incredible athlete, and right now, he's already one of the top defenders in the league.

He's got ridiculous potential, and all of you people who don't think he has the skills to become an all-star are fucking retarded. He's got all the physical tools that Rose has, he just needs to learn the NBA game a bit more. I promise you, once he really starts to get a hang of playing at the NBA level, he will join Rose, Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Devin Harris as one of a new breed of point guards who will revolutionize the position over the next 5-10 years. Defensively, he has the skills to easily win the Defensive Player of the year award during his career, and possibly even in the next 3 years.

This kid's going places, you can count on it.