2. Russell Westbrook
Current narrative: Is not a winning a player, only advanced in the playoffs because of KD
Russell Westbrook has suffered similar criticisms to Harden, especially for the last few years. Westbrook-led teams have been bounced out of the first round for three straight years, including once by the Rockets in 2017.
The narrative surrounding Westbrook has been that he can’t win without Kevin Durant and when the playoffs start, his shot disappears. While it’s true he’s been eliminated three straight years in the first round, let’s look at those teams.
In the last three years, Westbrook’s team was the favorite in just one of those years and even that was a close four-versus-five matchup against the Utah Jazz. In that elimination game, Westbrook put up 46 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
Westbrook has not had a bona fide contending team around him since Durant left OKC. Even last year in the midst of the 4-1 series loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Westbrook put up a triple-double in the famous Game 5 that was clinched by Damian Lillard‘s insane buzzer-beater.
Russ has done everything he can for years but simply just hasn’t had the talent around him to make successful runs in the playoffs. Triple-doubles and regular-season MVPs year will only get him so much respect, but his true legacy would be cemented if the Rockets can win a championship.
A ring for Westbrook will show that he can succeed without Durant and is more than a one-man-band.
Next: No. 3