The five Houston Rockets included on SI’s top 100 players of 2019-20

By Lachard Binkley
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images) /

No. 12: Russell Westbrook (7 last year)

After averaging a triple-double for three straight years, you would think the former NBA MVP would at least crack SI’s top 10. After another first-round exit though, it seems that some experts may be a bit down on Russell Westbrook.

The trade that brought Russell Westbrook to the Rockets shipped away a nine-time NBA All-Star in Chris Paul. With such big shoes to fill, Russell Westbrook will be looking to use his athletic abilities to help get him past the first round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Perhaps an effect of having minor arthroscopic surgery on his right knee going into last season, Russell’s 3-point accuracy was likely his biggest weakness. Although his outside shooting percentage did increase later in the season and in the playoffs (from 29 percent to 32.4 percent), it still remains a cause for concern going into the 2019-20 season. Now with more shooters around him and less of an offensive burden to carry in Houston, his overall efficiency should improve.

Related Story. Westbrook talks Rockets, seat dancing, beards on Fallon

Coming out of college, Westbrook was known as a defensive stopper, even winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. If he can get back to that level of defense, he could become one of the best two-way guards in the league.

Russ is still a top-tier talent, and considering he’ll be playing with another former MVP in James Harden this season, Westbrook may be primed to have his most efficient season ever.

Next: James Harden