In ESPN.com’s massive player ranking project, Russell Westbrook has been put 15th among all active NBA players. That’s pretty darn good. Especially considering he only completed his third season and is just 22 years old.
The question is, too high, too low or just right? Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com makes the point as well as I could: “Statistically, he’s on par with Derrick Rose, right down to their essentially identical player efficiency ratings (23.6 and 23.5, respectively). Westbrook’s decision-making still makes you cringe sometimes, but then again, I made far worse decisions as a 22-year-old.”
I guess the right question to ask might be, who are the 14 players in front of Westbrook and should they be there? We don’t know the exact order, but we know LeBron, Kobe, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash (14th), Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Blake Griffin and Amare Stoudemire.
Would you put Westbrook in front of any of those guys? I would. In front of Nash and Carmelo, and that’s probably it. Melo is overvalued as a scorer — which he’s a very good one, mind you — but he’s a one-dimensional player. He doesn’t pass, he doesn’t defend and he doesn’t create. He scores. So does Monta Ellis and you don’t see us putting him in the top 15.
Nash for really the only reason that I think he’s in the twilight of his prime and besides not being able to guard players like Westbrook much less players like Jose Calderon, he doesn’t have quite the same nightly impact he used to. Still a top 15 player for sure, but behind Westbrook.
The ticks against Westbrook are this:
Beckley Mason says Westbrook’s spot is just right. “His game only lacks the nuance and restraint born of experience.”
Two of the five say he’s too high. Brendan Jackson of Celtics Hub: “And not because of his underwhelming playoff performance. I’m just not ready to put Westbrook in the top 15. He’s freakishly athletic, quick and talented, but until he learns how to be a true floor general he’s just another great player.” I have to disagree with the word “underwhelming.” Westbrook averaged 23.8 points and 6.4 assists per game, notched a Game 7 triple-double and with the Mavericks bracketing KD, almost carried his team into the NBA Finals.
But with Westbrook 15th and KD to be in the top 10, the Thunder are just one of four teams to have a duo in the top 15 of NBA Rank (Lakers, Heat and Knicks are the others). Westbrook has never really gathered the amount of respect he probably deserves, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing. He seems to find a lot of motivation in people doubting him.