With the NBA’s announcement of Chicago’s Derrick Rose as the runaway winner of the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year award on Wednesday came another tell-tale sign of just how far under the radar the Thunder flew throughout much of the season. Rose, the No. 1 overall pick, garnered 111 of a possible 120 first-place votes from sports writers and broadcasters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook finished a distant fourth behind Memphis’ O.J. Mayo and New Jersey’s Brook Lopez, receiving only two first-place votes and 73 total points. With five second-place votes and four third-place votes, Rose recorded 574 total points. Mayo, who received five first-place votes, totaled 246 points. Lopez, the only other rookie to receive first-place votes with two, finished with 127 points. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. "He doesn’t mind that he doesn’t get any of the attention, and that’s good,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks of Westbrook in late January. "I think Russell is more focused on getting better, which I like.” Westbrook averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 32.5 minutes per game after the Thunder selected him fourth overall last June. By comparison, Rose ranked second among rookies in scoring (16.8 ppg) and minutes (37.0 mpg) and first in assists (6.8 apg). He averaged 3.9 rebounds while starting 80 of 81 games. Mayo, the third overall pick, led all rookies in scoring (18.5 ppg) and minutes (38.1 mpg) and averaged 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists as one of only two rookies to start all 82 games. Lopez, the 10th overall pick, averaged 13 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocked shots and 30.5 minutes. While the final order for the award certainly can be debated, it’s Westbrook’s distant finish that comes as a bit of a shock considering his production rivaled or bested his competition over the second half of the season. Since February, Westbrook averaged 16.3 points, 5.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds. Over that same span, Rose averaged 16.9 points, 6.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds, while Mayo averaged 17.7 points, 3.7 assists and 3.4 rebounds. Lopez averaged 14.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 blocked shots. Team success does little to explain the wide gap between second and fourth place. Mayo’s Memphis team recorded only one more win than the Thunder’s 23, and Lopez’s Nets finished 34-48. Rose, however, led his Bulls to a 41-41 record and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, something even Westbrook considered a major factor as Chicago began surging last month. "The main thing is winning with your team,” Westbrook said, "and putting your team in the best situation possible and getting better as the season goes along...I just try to get better each month or each week, just trying to improve myself on the court.”
NBA BLOG: Rose wins rookie of the Year
NBA BLOG: Did Thunder blunder PJ's firing?
Berry Tramel's BLOG: Thunder fans reporting in from China