Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook draws praise
Russell Westbrook has his share of critics. Charles Barkley and Skip Bayless foremost among them. But before Oklahoma City develops a persecution complex over the media treatment of Westbrook, remember this. Plenty of national pundits also rave about the Thunder and Westbrook. ESPN analyst Chris Mullen gushed about Westbrook and the Thunder, declaring OKC his clear pick to win the West. Magic Johnson raved about Westbrook during the ESPN broadcast Wednesday night. Hubie Brown, as good of a basketball mind as inhabits planet Earth, did the same.
This is what life is like in the fishbowl of the NBA. Nobody much outside the Greater Cleveland is dissecting Kyrie Irving’s game. Deron Williams plays in New Jersey, and no one pays a ton of attention. Get this good, get best-in-the-West, as the Thunder has done, and people will talk. You know as well as I, the more people talk, the more likely you are to hear something that’s not completely flattering.
My advice on how to handle Westbrook has been consistent. If I was Scotty Brooks or Sam Presti, I would bring Westbrook into my office, sit him down and say, Russell, don’t change one thing. Whatever you’ve been doing, keep doing it. Because his progression and improvement have been stunning. He keeps getting better and better. The month of February 2012 has been no different. The last 11 games, Westbrook has averaged 27.3 points a game and shot 51.8 percent from the field.
Westbrook ranks fifth in the NBA in scoring, at 23.6 points a game. He’s shooting 47.4 percent from the field. The top four scorers are Kobe Bryant (28.5), Kevin Durant (27.7), LeBron James (27.6) and Kevin Love (25.0). Of those four, only James (55.0 percent) and Durant (51.2) are shooting higher percentages than Westbrook. Kobe is at 43.9. Love is at 44.6.
Among point guards, only Irving (47.6 percent), Steve Nash (54.2) and Mario Chalmers (51.4) are shooting a higher percentage than Westbrook, and none are scoring at near the clip Westbrook is. Irving is at 18.1, Nash 13.9 and Chalmers 11.2. Counting all guards, only those three plus Landry Fields (48.1) and Brandon Rush (48.6) are shooting a better percentage than Westbrook. Fields is averaging 10.3 points and Rush 8.4.
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