From a risky experiment to arguably the best player on the Houston Rockets, Russell Westbrook has exceeded his high expectations this season.
27.5 PTS, 8.0 REB, 7.0 AST per gameEye-opening Stat: 51.8 percent shooting (career high)
When the Houston Rockets parted ways with the experienced 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul in favor of the younger, more explosive Russell Westbrook, few in the media believed it was a good decision. “There’s only one ball” and “they both will want to be the top dog” was just some of the rhetoric about what would happen between Russ and James Harden.
When Harden and company started the season just 3-3 following a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat, criticism grew louder in NBA circles. Westbrook was not shooting the ball well and turning the ball over too often. Harden was dominating but still having rough shooting nights from the outside.
The loss against Miami seemed to be a wakeup call, however, as the Rockets immediately reeled off eight straight games in early November to push them up in the Western Conference. While Harden undoubtedly led the team through the end of December, Houston became more of the double-headed monster they were expecting to be when 2020 came around.
Russell’s 358 total points in January led the team, while his 2.1 steals and 8.2 assists per game were first on the Rockets as well. While that was a turning point for Russ and the Rockets, February was even better.
Westbrook made what should’ve been an open-and-shut case for Western Conference Player of the Month, averaging 33.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game on 54.9 percent shooting and 40 percent accuracy from downtown.
Houston went 9-2 in February behind Russell’s exceptional month, giving the team some cushion for what became a brutal month of March.
When looking at the numbers between his time in Oklahoma City and Houston, he’s been better in almost every aspect.
Thunder: 23 PTS, 8.4 AST, 7.0 REB per game, 43.4 percent shootingRockets: 27.5 PTS, 7.0 AST, 8.0 REB per game, 47.4 percent shooting
Everything the nine-time All-Star developed with the Thunder, from his relentless attacks to the basket to his second-to-none pace, has translated to Mike D’Antoni‘s offense increasingly as the season has gone on.
The Brodie’s 15.2 points in the paint are third in the league behind only reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and rookie phenom Zion Williamson. Considering his 6-3, 200-pound frame, that’s quite a feat.
Westbrook is also ninth in the league in pace among those who have played 50 or more games, easily first on the Rockets and the reason they’re fourth in the NBA when it comes to pushing the ball.
Grade: A –
Overall, the Westbrook experiment in H-Town has been a success this season. He’s carrying the team often, rebounding at a strong rate and competing harder than anyone on the court at all times.
Russ sometimes can get carried away with his shot attempts, taking too many ill-advised shots and forcing the issue, but he’s improved in that area since the beginning of the season. His turnover rate of 4.5 per game, which is tied with Harden for the second-most in the league, also needs some work.
All things considered, though, Russell is doing more than his part for the Rockets and is certainly playing well enough to be a main component in a potential championship run.
As the league still determines how to handle the remaining schedule amid the league’s shutdown, let’s hope we get to see what Westbrook can do in a postseason with one of the most wide-open fields in years.