I don't think there's any question that Russell Westbrook is playing much, much better and his selection at No. 4 in last year's draft is beginning to look pretty darn solid. He's skyrocketing up every rookie watch column and is actually catching a little steam in the Rookie of the Year talk.
I wrote about a month ago about the potential impact he could have on the team. I made the assertion that if he could develop a semi-consistent jump shot and make better decisions in traffic with the ball, he could one day be All-Star material. I took a little heat from one basketball genius, David Berri, about it but I still felt I was right. Russell Westbrook has the ability to be a great basketball player. We all needed to remember he's a 20-year-old rookie playing a new position. He has a lot to learn but with a little work, he could get there.
And guess what -- he's come a long way just in that time.
Since I wrote that column December 1st, Westbrook has taken over the starting spot and has played at an extremely high level.
Since December 1:
- Averaging 15.5 points per game (up from 12.2)
- Averaging 5.1 assists per game (up from 4.1)
- Averaging 5.1 rebounds per game (up from 3.3)
- His field goal percentage has gone from 34.5 percent in November to 46.2 in December (now shooting 40 percent on the year). He's shoot 40 percent from three in December, up from 24 percent in November.
- He is averaging 1.5 more turnovers per game (4.0), but his minutes are also way up (from 27.2 to 33.1) and he's also playing pretty much full-time point guard.
- He's had two career nights, scoring 30 in Miami and then topping that with 31 against Phoenix. He's shown the defensive skills he was drafted for and his decision making is getting better and better.
Look at the player Westbrook is most often compared to in that same span. Rajon Rondo averaged 13.2 ppg, 8.3 apg, 5.9 rpg, shot 53.8 percent from the field averaged three turns per game in December. And that was a career month. Plus, Rondo has the advantage of passing to three future Hall of Famers, while Westbrook sets up Damien Wilkins and Robert Swift. The early consensus ROY, Derrick Rose put up 16.3 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.1 rpg, shot 46 percent from the floor and turned it over three times a game.
If Westbrook has shown that much improvement in just ONE MONTH, imagine what he could look like at the end of January, at the end of March... at the end of the season. Heck, imagine what he could look like after a solid off-season and at the start of next year.
Westbrook has come a long way in just a short amount of time. A lot of it has to do with the coaching change and Scott Brooks opening up his world, but more of it is just Russell's hard work and his insane ability.
I feel slightly vindicated. Now keep playing well Russell so I can keep feeling smart.
UPDATE: Russell was just named Rookie of the Month along with Derrick Rose.