But after 18 games, I’m thinking Presti feels pretty good. In fact, I’m thinking he’s feeling really good. I’ve been a Russell Westbrook fan since the first preseason game. I saw insane athleticism and a freakish ability to get to the rim. No doubt he’s still raw, but we have to remember he’s played 18 professional games and started his first last Saturday night. As for me, I’m sold. I know he’s not there yet, but he will get there. He was drafted for his lockdown defensive ability, but I think he can improve this team even more with his scoring and slashing skills.
Let’s pause for an incredible Westbrook dunk:
Experts are digging for comparisons and frankly, are either coming up empty or are all over the place. Some are saying Deron Williams without the polished jumper. Some are saying Jason Kidd because of his rebounding ability. Some are even saying Tony Parker with hops. I can see a little of all three, but Westbrook is a player in his own right. I’ve never seen a 6-3 point guard out-jump and outrebound fours and fives. Kidd got his triple doubles by playing smart – reading caroms, being in the right spot and getting a body on someone. Westbrook is a triple-double threat because he crashes the glass with reckless abandon and skies for boards like Dwight Howard. He goes up and over people. And he’s gotten a good amount of points out of it.
I’ve said it before, but once a jumper comes along, look out. Like seriously, look out. There’s a limited few players than can keep up with Westbrook. His cross is lightning quick and he can get in the lane in a blink. Sometimes he’s a little weak with the rock and gets caught in the air with no where to go, but those are clear signs of inexperience. In three years, he’ll have learned and will be making smart plays.
I remember back in June nobody was thrilled about picking Westbrook. Everybody was very ho-hum after the pick. There was a lot of pining for Jerryd Bayless, D.J. Augustin or Kevin Love. So almost a quarter of the season in, how does Westbrook stack up to the guys some wanted more? (I realize some numbers are inflated or should I say, deflated, because of their role on the team. Bayless is playing on a contender while Westbrook is on a team where playing time is more important than wins and losses.)
6.1 minutes per game
1.3 points per game
1.1 rebounds per game
0.7 assists per game
0.1 steals per game
Now let’s just toss in rookie superstud Derrick Rose to compare. But since Rose is averaging about 12 more minutes per game, let’s use per 48.
Interesting, eh? As I was writing this and looking at other players, I think I found my comparison. Russell Westbrook reminds me most of Derrick Rose – as crazy as that is. Rose is clearly on track to superstardom, but Westbrook really isn’t getting the pub. And he’s having a darn fine rookie campaign. The biggest tick on Westbrook is field goal percentage. He shoots just 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from three whereas Rose hits almost 49 percent from the field and almost 37 percent from three. But like I said, let that jumper come and Westbrook is an All-Star waiting to happen. Mark it.
One more dunking interlude:
The thing about Westbrook is that he didn’t specifically fill a need. He’s not exactly a point guard and he’s not exactly a two guard. That’s why there was the outcry when he was picked. And I think that’s why he hasn’t really made an incredible impact in the win-loss column. He will absolutely make a difference down the line, but he’s not a game changer… yet. As Dr. Lawyer Indianchief of FreeDarko said, “Westbrook just has insane Dwyane-Wade-like upside and is fast becoming my favorite player in the league. Now if the Thunder could only dump their supporting cast for better three-point shooters, we would have a serious team on our hands. Westbrook can get in the lane with the best of them, and Durant is JUST STARTING HIS CAREER NOW. In an email to Shoals and the Recluse last night, I officially proclaimed him “freed.” Screw Glenn Robinson and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. This is the bizarro-KG-Dirk-assassin that we all were watching at Texas. It will take a year still for that player to emerge, but I could finally see the remnants last night, beginning to be reassembled.”
Anyone else have to change their shorts after reading that? Kevin Durant’s shooting percentage is starting to soar and I think a lot of that is directly relative to the difference Westbrook is making. Westbrook leaped (pun intentional) to the “Royce’s favorite player” spot after I caught a glimpse of his awesome ability. And like the good doctor said, Oklahoma City could have a serious thing going in a year or two if a few precise pieces are added. I can’t wait.