Russell Westbrook and the Thunder were thumped at home by the Rockets Tuesday, a game that was never close and felt like a death knell on OKC’s season.
Westbrook got his – as usual – 32 points on 27 shots, more turnovers (9) than assists (7) and shooting 0-for-4 on three-pointers – but the Thunder fell to 8-9 since defensive specialist Andre Roberson was lost for the season. More importantly, against teams currently in the playoffs, OKC is 1-7 since Roberson went down.
Let’s briefly focus on Westbrook, who fans finally seem to be turning on. Last year he went scorched earth on the league after getting dumped by Kevin Durant, averaging a triple double (31.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 10.4 apg).
The media voted Westbrook MVP even though the Thunder only won 47 games; then Westbrook was a chucking disaster (38% FG shooting; 26% 3FG shooting) in a 1st round playoff loss to the Rockets. He averaged a triple double in that series loss, too. It was then that the media began to realize: Is this guy stat-padding? He doesn’t make anyone better.
I always felt like the media loved to defend Westbrook because of his highlight reel plays, and because he got dumped by Durant. They overlooked his sub 30 percent shooting from deep.
But they can’t do it anymore. Westbrook is shooting just 28 percent on 3-pointers this season, and after getting a superstar (Paul George) and a fading superstar (Carmelo Anthony) … the Thunder aren’t any better than they were last year.
Toss in the continued rise of Victor Oladipo in Indiana (24 ppg on 47/37 shooting after posting just 15 ppg on 42/36 last year in just one fewer minute per game in OKC), and the media’s got to look itself in the mirror: So what, exactly, is Russell Westbrook?
He’s a 29-year old who still hasn’t developed a 3-point shot. Like I’ve said about Blake Griffin, superstars who rely on athleticism in their 20s and don’t develop a reliable 3-pointer, are going to quickly see their game deteriorate as they hit 30. You might not have noticed the dropoff, but his play is down considerably this year. His Win Shares per 48 Minutes is at its lowest level since he was 21 years old, and his total Win Shares is also going to be the lowest since then other than two seasons he missed significant time to injury.
Russell Westbrook doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who can change his game to accommodate others. Maybe for a couple weeks or a couple months, but over the long haul, he’s going to revert to being a guy who wants the ball a lot, who wants all the shots, and who doesn’t make teammates better.
There’s no way Paul George is staying in OKC. And even more importantly – Carmelo Anthony has a player option for $27.9 million next year. He’s not going to get money near that from anyone else, but one has to wonder: Could he be so unhappy playing with Westbrook he leaves that money on the table to play elsewhere?