Hard not to give Russell Westbrook an A in this category. But that would require an unblemished run and, if you’ll remember, it started bumpy. Westbrook was bad at the start of the Memphis series, a key reason OKC was on the brink of early elimination. But he changed his style in Game 6, adjusting to the defense, playing smart and dominant with a controlled energy. From there, he took off, finishing the playoffs averaging 26.3 points, 8.1 assists and 7.3 rebounds.
Maybe his most underrated skill. Westbrook changes the game in this area. Just listen to what Doc Rivers said during the Clippers series: “I don’t think I’ve ever come into a series where my biggest fear is point guard rebounding. I don’t think I’ve ever said that in my life. Yet in this series, the number one thing on the board as far as our team was Westbrook rebounding. He’s a freak of nature. He really is.”
Maintenance program: A
It was softly criticized at the time, as the Thunder remained super cautious with Westbrook down the stretch of the season, sitting him in important games even with seeding on the line. But once the playoffs started, Westbrook’s restrictions were lifted and the rest seemed to help. Unleashed on the Western Conference, he looked as absurdly athletic as ever. A few months ago, there was severe worry across the state about his long-term health. In a few short months, he put that to bed. Some of that credit needs to go to how OKC handled him.