While the experiment hasn’t always gone smoothly, Russell Westbrook is more than carrying his weight for the Houston Rockets since 2020 began.
The Houston Rockets have never been known to attack a problem half-heartedly. When Version 2.0 of the James Harden and Chris Paul pairing fell flat, Daryl Morey wasted no time working a deal for a younger superstar in Russell Westbrook.
The move was certainly a gamble, as something was going to have to give in regards to how ball-dominant both superstars were used to being for several years. As expected, Westbrook had some struggles early on when it came to finding his most efficient role within the Rockets’ offense. With Mike D’Antoni having such a complex offensive scheme, it only made sense.
The Rockets particularly struggled in the first few months of the season when Russell was on the court without Harden, which cost them some games against lesser teams. Unlike everything else so far in 2020, however, something started to go right for Westbrook once the new decade began.
Longtime ESPN analyst Zach Lowe took notice of Russ’s efforts on his latest episode of The Lowe Post: “Hats off to Russell Westbrook,” said Lowe. “Since January 1st — 32 points, eight rebounds, seven assists [per game] on 55 percent shooting on twos. He’s been an absolute destroyer since they cleared the lane.”
Russell Westbrook’s averages vs west playoff teams this season:
LAL: 38.0 PPG|8.5 RPG|6.0 APG
LAC: 27.0 PPG|8.0 RPG|4.5 APG
DEN: 28.3 PPG|7.0 RPG|6.8 APG
UTA: 36.5 PPG|6.0 RPG|4.0 APG
OKC: 29.0 PPG|8.3 RPG|8.7 APG
DAL: 29.5 PPG|5.5 RPG|7.5 APG
MEM: 33.0 PPG|9.0 RPG|8.0 APG pic.twitter.com/4oOSs2bgen
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) July 5, 2020
Lowe’s last point is key here. Westbrook has been the biggest beneficiary of the Rockets’ decision to trade away Clint Capela for Robert Covington and go full micro. His strength and bully-ball style of play has been unleashed to the point where even the best of the best are having problems stopping him.
Russell Westbrook has been unstoppable this season ? pic.twitter.com/PsBLPymhWA
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 2, 2020
“Those Westbrook, non-Harden minutes which were such a disaster to start the season, have been very good for Houston since around Christmas,” continued Lowe. “He’s done what they have asked of him.”
There’s no doubt that Russell has been the best player on the Houston Rockets and one of the best players in the NBA since 2020 began. A fully-rested Westbrook is going to be one of the most dangerous weapons in the Orlando bubble when the season resumes later this month, and that bodes well for Houston’s championship hopes.