Thunder: Russell Westbrook's paycheck might mirror his development as a player

Thunder point guard rates as one of NBA's top tier players
BY DARNELL MAYBERRY, Staff Writer, dmayberry@opubco.com Published: December 7, 2011

Westbrook, who made the All-NBA Second Team last year, would only need to make one of the All-NBA teams this season to qualify. Rose and Thunder forward Kevin Durant are the only other two players who have qualified, which partially speaks to Westbrook's worth.

If you evaluated Westbrook over his first three seasons, examining him solely on his statistical production alongside other young elite guards like Paul, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo, you'll find that Westbrook's first three seasons have been on par with the game's best. These numbers, no doubt, will be used as a bargaining chip by Westbrook's camp when negotiations begin in earnest.

Between Paul, Williams, Rondo, Rose, Mike Conley, Raymond Felton and Devin Harris, Westbrook tallied the third highest point and assists average after their first three seasons. Only Paul and Rose's points were higher, while only Paul and Williams' assists were ahead of Westbrook's. Both Paul and Williams signed max contracts in 2008.

Westbrook also owns the highest rebounding average and the most games played among that group over that same span, though his field-goal and 3-point percentages are the second lowest.

Nobody can deny, though, that at age 23 the best is yet to come for Westbrook — and the financial reward that comes with elite status is not far away.

“I think he's shown each year his ability to improve; get better,” Presti said.

“We're excited about where he can go from here.”

Westbrook a better shooter?

Has Russell Westbrook become a better shooter?

His off-season trainer says he has.

According to a report by SI.com, the Thunder's fourth-year guard made shooting a point of emphasis this off-season and could now impress with his improved shooting touch.

Westbrook, according to the report, underwent a series of daily shooting drills with renowned trainer Rob McClanaghan, who Westbrook works out with alongside Chicago guard Derrick Rose each summer. The drills would start at the opposite baseline before gradually moving to the three-quarter court mark and then half court. When Westbrook reached the foul line, he would pull up and shoot to complete each repetition.

“Michael Jordan had a great pull-up shot,” McClanaghan told SI.com. “All the great guards did. Before, Russell would drift sideways when he took that shot. He has corrected that.”

McClanaghan also said Westbrook has worked on developing a floater, a tear-drop type shot guards can use to keep defenders off balance when driving the lane. Post moves, power moves and turnaround shots were other areas of focus.

“He's so strong that he can bump a defender and create space for his shot,” McClanaghan said. “And if he doesn't, he can hang in the air longer than pretty much any guard out there.”

Westbrook connected on career highs of 44.2 percent from the field and 33.0 percent from beyond the 3-point arc last season.



POINT GUARD COMPARISON

A look at the production of the NBA's top young point guards after their third seasons.

Derrick Rose

Age: 22; Games: 240; Games started: 239

Points per game: 20.9; Rebounds per game: 3.9; Assists per game: 6.7

Field-goal percentage: 46.8; 3-point percentage: 30.9; free-throw percentage: 81.5; minutes per game: 37.1

Contract status: Entering the fourth year of his rookie scale contract and is now eligible for an extension.

Chris Paul

Age: 22; Games: 222; Games started: 222

Points per game: 18.2; Rebounds per game: 4.5; Assists per game: 9.5

Field-goal %: 45.6; 3-point %: 33.7; free-throw %: 84.0; minutes per game: 36.8

Contract status: Signed a three-year deal in 2008 with an option for a fourth. The three-year total was for $44.8 million. The fourth year would bring the total to $62.6 million.

Russell Westbrook

Age: 22; Games: 246; Games started: 229

Points per game: 17.8; Rebounds per game: 4.8; Assists per game: 7.1

Field-goal %: 42.1; 3-point %: 27.4; free-throw %: 81.6; minutes per game: 33.9

Contract status: Entering the fourth year of his rookie scale contract and is now eligible for an extension.

Deron Williams

Age: 23; games played: 242; games started: 209

Points per game: 15.3; Rebounds per game: 2.9; Assists per game: 8.1

Field-goal %: 46.6; 3-point %: 37.4; free-throw %: 77.4; minutes per game: 34.4

Contract status: Signed a three-year deal in 2008 with an option for a fourth. The three-year total was for $44.8 million. The fourth year would bring the total to $62.6 million.

Raymond Felton

Age: 23; games played: 237; games started: 208

Points per game: 13.4; Rebounds per game: 3.2; Assists per game: 6.6

Field-goal %: 39.6; 3-point %: 32.7; free-throw %: 77.8; minutes per game: 34.6

Contract status: Signed a two-year, $15 million contract with New York as an unrestricted free agent after playing his last season in Charlotte on the qualifying offer from his original rookie scale contract.

Mike Conley

Age: 22; Games played: 215; games started: 187

Points per game: 10.9; Rebound per game: 2.8; Assists per game: 4.7

Field-goal %: 44.0; 3-point %: 38.5; free-throw %: 76.9; minutes per game: 30.0

Contract status: Signed a five-year, $40 million extension in 2010.

Rajon Rondo

Age: 22; games played: 235; games started: 182

Points per game: 9.7; Rebounds per game: 4.4; Assists per game: 5.7

Field-goal %: 48.0; 3-point %: 27.1; free-throw %: 63.5; minutes per game: 28.8

Contract status: Signed a five-year deal for $55 million in 2009.

Devin Harris

Age: 23; games played: 212; games started: 84

Points per game: 8.5; Rebounds per game: 2.0; Assists per game: 3.0

Field-goal %: 46.8; 3-point %: 31.2; free-throw %: 77.0; minutes per game: 21.4

Contract status: Signed a five-year, $43 million in 2007.

Source: Basketball-reference.com, media reports

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