To say that Russell Westbrook is having a great season would be like saying that the 80s were a great decade for the US Men’s National Hockey team. 1980 was nice, obviously, but they didn’t win a single Olympic/world championship medal for the remainder of the decade.
Westbrook is in a similar, but vastly different spot. Instead of showing up and being able to rely on other stepped-up teammates for a few games, he is literally the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offense. And, lest ye forget, this is a guy who was out for 14 games at the beginning of the year with a fracture in his right hand.
If you look at his game throughout December and January, they were typical great, but not stratospheric: 28.3/6.1/7.4 in December, 21.1/6.4/7.6 in January. However, that all changed when Kevin Durant continued to go down with various injuries. KD only played 4 games in February, with his last game coming Feb. 19th. And since the game after that – against the Charlotte Hornets on Feb. 21st – Russ has been a man possessed.
We’re talking 33.2/10.7/11.1 in that 9-game stretch. Sure, he had to take a day off in-between to undergo surgery on a fractured right cheek bone, but he returned 4 days after surgery to put on arguably his best performance of the bunch: season-high 49 pts., season-high (tied) 15 boards, and a beyond-respectable 11 assists. This is not human!
But we need stats, and we need comparisons, so let’s see how he stacks up. Big shout-out to Basketball-Reference for the stats; if you’re not familiar, you need to be – not just for basketball, but for most other sports too.
(Also, keep in mind that he has missed 15 games due to injury, or about 18% of a full 82-game season.)
1) Westie has compiled 450 field goals on 1040 attempts, for 1340 points – good for 10th, 6th and 5th respectively in the league. (I mentioned that he will have missed nearly 20% of the season when all is said and done, right?)
2) He’s also attempted and made the 2nd-most FTs in the league, which means not only is he a scoring machine, but he’s a smart scoring machine, drawing fouls and making it count from the charity stripe (hooray points!).
3) Russ is tied for 9th overall in assists, making him one of only 3 guys (Steph Curry and James Harden are the other two) in the top-10 in the league in both points and assists. He’s a selfish man, yet a generous man… a good man, a kind man, and… and he’s precious, and… and he’s beautiful. [daubers “Muppet Treasure Island Reference” on Interrobang Sports bingo card]
4) 12th in steals, because whatever why not.
5) But as you guessed, when you get into the per-game averages, you start to see Westbrook really shine. 1st in PPG, 4th in APG, tied for 1st in SPG… those numbers are nuts, and are unfortunately overshadowing an otherwise amazing season from one Steph Curry in those same categories (5th in PPG, 6th in APG, tied for 1st in SPG). But when you’re playing like Russell is now, you are untouchable by even the best.
6) +/- of 11.7, more than a FG better than #2 on the list (Steph… again… with 9.6). Russ is single-handedly the difference between a double-digit loss and a narrow victory, just by being on the court.
Overall, Russell Westbrook and his Dr. Gero swag will continue to torch the NBA, but the big question will be what happens when KD comes back. Personally, I think he can keep up the same performance with a slightly-lower usage, which will make them a true juggernaut.
Just think about it: Russ in the midst of arguably one of the greatest stretches in the history of the NBA, continuing to ball out of the atmosphere; meanwhile, KD does KD things that KD does. Add in Enes Kanter for a true force down-low (Perk just wasn’t getting it done, which might be why they didn’t hit him up… just sayin’), and you have a title contender. One that will probably come in as an 8-seed.
Steve, Steph, Klay… if you guys were to maybe go a bit easier in the next few games, it might be to your benefit. Not saying “tank” per se, but yeah kinda exactly what I’m saying.