It seems like it’s becoming a bit of a monthly deal around here to recap Russell Westbrook’s last month and compare it to other rookie studs. One trend we’re seeing with Russell is that it seems he’s improving statistically every month, which is something you can’t really say about the two other rookie studs he’s in the ROY race with.
November: 12.1 ppg 4.1 apg, 3.3 rpg, 2.5 turnovers per game
December: 15.5 ppg, 5.1 apg, 5.1 rpg, 4.0 tpg
January: 16.5 ppg, 5.5 ap,g 4.9 rpg, 2.7 tpg
February: 20.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 6.1 rpg, 3.9 tpg
November: 18.9 ppg, 6.1 apg, 4.1 rpg, 2.6 tpg
December: 16.3 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.1 rpg, 2.8 tpg
January: 15.3 ppg, 6.8 apg, 3.3 rpg, 2.4 tpg
February:15.8 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 tpg
November: 23.1 ppg, 2.3 apg, 4.5 rpg, 2.5 tpg
December: 17.7 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.6 rpg, 2.9 tpg
January: 17.1 ppg, 2.2 apg, 3.8 rpg, 2.8 tpg
February: 19.7 ppg, 3.6 apg, 4.8 rpg, 3.0 tpg
Rose seems to be leveling off and Mayo improved some in February, but Westbrook is steadily rising – which makes sense because he’s playing a new position so each night he gets better at it. And a game like Monday night’s against Dallas shows how far Russell has come. He made everyone on the floor better that night. Sure he had the attractive triple-double, but he played smart and played really well. That jumpshot is coming and coming. Don’t worry about it. Just think about what it will be like when he starts hitting it consistently. He’s already far better with it than he was in November.
And before you freak over Westbrook’s turnovers, Steve Nash turns it over 3.7 times a game, Chris Paul 3.0 a game and Deron Williams 3.5 a game. Four a night is too much, but again, he’s figuring this whole point guard thing out. His steady increase in assists is probably the most encouraging thing because he needs to work on making others around him better, just like he did against Dallas.
The thing that most definitely hurts Westbrook is shooting percentage. He’s hitting just 40 percent compared to Rose who hits a very nice 47 percent and Mayo who is shooting 44 percent. But that number is coming up as Westbrook’s shot selection begins to improve. Westbrook went from 34 percent in November to 46 percent in December to 44 percent in January to 38 percent in February. His percentage went down some in February but his points were up and he only took two more shots than he did in November when he averaged eight points less. The difference? He got to the line. David Thorpe, who has Westbrook tied with Rose at the top of his rookie rankings, pointed it out in a big way:
Westbrook struggled shooting the ball in February, but he shot 97 free throws in the month (his highest one-month total) and made a season-high 86.6 percent. In comparison, Mayo and Rose shot 88 free throws combined in February. Rose alone took only 67 free throws during the first two months of 2009.
At some point, Westbrook is going to level off and put up relatively consistent numbers. Maybe one month he does really great and the next is slightly sub-par. But obviously, this thing can’t keep going up or he’d be averaging 45 points and 17 assists in 2014. So don’t expect a 24-8-8 month out of him for March. But for OKC to be successful with Westbrook running the show, I think a good consistent line for him would be 15.5 ppg, 7.5 apg and 5.5 rpg with around three turnovers a night. That would be almost a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio which is right around where Nash, Paul and Williams are. We could win with that line.
Just something to keep in mind when Russell frustrates you with a bad jumper or an out-of-control play – he’s a work in progress and he’s making lots of progress. It’s unreal the progress he’s made already and the thought of him with a season to reflect on and a summer to work out make me really excited about next year. Just think about Jeff Green’s improvement from year one to year two. Or heck, even Kevin Durant’s. I’m not saying he should be rookie of the year (though you know what I’m thinking), but Westbrook’s rise has been steady and it looks like he’s not even close to done.