Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook is taking it easy — and that's a good thing

Oklahoma City's young, star point guard is cutting down on bad habits, improving in many other areas
by Darnell Mayberry Published: November 29, 2012

Russell Westbrook is all about winning.

He'll tell you over and over again that when it comes to his performance on a basketball court the victory is all that matters.

Nothing whatsoever wrong with that.

But what's made Westbrook a lightning rod for criticism in the past is his propensity to play out of control, which often raises the question of whether he has any concept of how best to lead his team to wins.

Westbrook's way of winning hinges on playing with nonstop energy while relentlessly attacking defenses every moment he's on the court. It's an erratic style that the Thunder has embraced, choosing to focus on how the positives outweigh the negatives.

More and more, however, Westbrook is showing improved awareness and an ability to play with better pace. In his fifth season, Westbrook's assists are at a career high while his turnovers are down to a career low. He's getting teammates involved with regularity and has led the Thunder's turnaround from the league's worst passing team to one that now ranks sixth.

“I'm doing a good job,” Westbrook said. “I always can do better. But we're winning. That's the most important part.”

Through 16 games, Westbrook is averaging 17.9 shots, down from 19.2 per game last season. After averaging just 5.5 assists a year ago, Westbrook is now dishing 8.6 per game. With five games of at least 10 assists, Westbrook already has surpassed his mark for double-digit assist games from last season, which stood at only four.

Additionally, his assist rate — the percentage of possessions that end in an assist — has shot up from 17.7 last season to 26.8 this year. That's 2 percentage points off his career high, set during his second season.

Equally as impressive as the passing has been Westbrook's ball security. He's averaging just 3.1 turnovers. But even that number fails to illustrate how much better he's been. Half of Westbrook's games have ended with him turning it over no more than two times.

“He's just slowing down. Taking his time,” said Kevin Durant. “As you start to grow in this league, the game starts to slow down for you a little bit. You start to see things earlier than you would the first or second year. So he's just getting everybody involved … He's sacrificing shots for himself to mix it around for the whole team. That's what great point guards do and he's having a helluva season.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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