‘Leaving Russell Westbrook Has Been The Best Thing For Just About Everyone’s Career’

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‘Leaving Russell Westbrook Has Been The Best Thing For Just About Everyone’s Career’

 

In the latest ‘Back to Back’ podcast, NBA analyst Tom Haberstroh went off on Russell Westrook, saying that ‘leaving Russell Westbrook has been the best thing for just about everyone’s career’.

 

“Leaving Russell Westbrook has been the best thing for just about everyone’s career. Kevin Durant left and immediately won the title and Finals MVP. James Harden got traded, and since then nobody has scored more points in the NBA than Harden. He won 65 games this season, he will win an MVP in a year that Russ averaged a triple double. Victor Oladipo! He left, got traded and had a career year, averaged 23 points a game, and is about to win most improved player. Right now, he has two wins against LeBron in his first year as the guy.

Reggie Jackson! He left and voila, career year. Averaged 19 points per game and earned an $80 million contract. Dion Waiters! He left and…. BOOOM, career year, got a $52 million payday from Pat Riley, as soon as he left OKC. Serge Ibaka got traded, earned a $64 million contract, the same that Waiters got 52. Enes Kanter left and magically averaged almost twice as many rebounds per game, while notching career highs in assist rate and shooting percentage. He led the NBA in the offensive rebounds rate this season. Where did all these rebounds come from? Where were they last year. Domantas Sabonis! Saw his PER jump by over 10 points while doubling just about every cartegory on the stat sheet, except for minutes, he averaged only three more minutes than last year in OKC. Another career year!”

 

 

While the narrative in Haberstroh’s monologue is not completly true and a little bit taken out of context, I do agree that playing with Westbrook can indeed be harmful for a player. I said it last year, and I’ll say it again. No team will ever win the Championship with Russell Westbrook as their number one (scoring) option. I hate to say this, but Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double again this season illustrates how wildly overrated his MVP season was. Don’t get it twisted, I love Westbrook’s desire, competitive nature and putting everything on the line to win, but his achievement outlines how media driven his MVP season really was.

Averaging a triple-double was all we heard about, and the if he ended last season averaging 9.9 rebounds per game the award would have been given to James Harden. Looking back now, it’s as silly as it sounds, the NBA world and media were obsessed with that 10.0 figure in order for them to hand him the award. Yes, we are not ignoring the fact that he was excellent also, and carried mostly nobodies into the playoffs, but hindsight now provides us with a different perspective.

He’s already averaged a triple-double for a season so for the wider NBA general public the feeling of amazement is largely gone. He knew he needed 16 rebounds in his last game, and you could bet your house on him doing everything in his power to grab those 16 rebounds.

The interesting thing is his name has not been mentioned in the MVP discussions and rightly so, yet still managed to average a triple-double for an entire season the same feat just 12 months later. It goes to show how the media can really shape an MVP race or single season by any superstar purely on how they report or drive a headline which gains momentum.

Before anyone says what they always say: “But when Westbrook gets a triple-double, they more often than not win the game” let’s really dissect this. His triple-doubles have not actually led to considerably more wins at all if you think about it. The Thunder finished 47-35 last season, and guess what, they only have exactly one more win this season despite boasting one of the most talented rosters in the association. Not to mention winning was largely ignored with their seeding (6th) whilst it’s all of a sudden a factor now in James Harden likely winning the award over LeBron James and other candidates who have a lesser record. Another thing that isn’t considered is that the Thunder are one of, if not, the ONLY contender to remain the healthiest and even so were still scratching and clawing to make the playoffs.

It saddens me to say, but the nature in which Westbrook has achieved this feat has also been underwhelming for a lot of fans. There has been an ongoing discussion about him padding his rebounding stats and even footage to back it up, and although I don’t really have a problem with him chasing rebounds, sacrificing his defense in order to do so is the thing that doesn’t sit well with me.

Last season, Westbrook was ranked dead last in the entire league among guards for defending the three-point line which was more evidence of his desire to grab boards, often at the expense of his big men. Again, I don’t hate that he was looking for those rebounds, but it’s something to consider when looking back on his MVP season and this season from an objective standpoint. It’s also a little disappointing considering how good he can be as an on-ball defender and he’s shown this, recently against James Harden and the Houston Rockets when he lockdowned Harden for the entire fourth quarter enabling the Thunder to pick up a massive victory.

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