For all of the NBA fanatics, like myself, the NBA top 500 player rankings have been something for us to all indulge in and debate about. It enlivens this lockout eclipsed basketball atmosphere. We have something to write about that isn’t so overcast and weary.
Recently, with a few friends and some NBA minds over twitter, I’ve debated whether or not Russell Westbrook is a top 15 NBA player or not. This is a big achievement for him. He has put in so much work throughout his basketball career; he wasn’t highly regarded going into college and he also wasn’t even considered the best player on his UCLA team. Now some poeple say he is more important than Durant on the Thunder (not that I believe that).
Getting back to the question at hand, is Rus a top 15 guy? Would you take him over at least 485 other players, maybe even more? Some say no, some say its just right, some say its higher, and one said that James Harden is better. With all of that being said, I have no real position on this. I’ve bounced back and fourth between no, its just about right, and he should be higher. I can make valid arguments for each stance but I want to have a solidified basis and position. That’s what I’m here to figure out today; I’ve come to my conclusion and I would like to share it with you all. By the end of this article you’ll know where I stand.
I started by taking a look at Russells stats on NBA.com. After all, I am a firm beleiver that stats make up 70% of a players value. Why not start here. At 22 years old, Russell is putting up gaudy numbers. He drops 21.9 points per game, 8.2 assists per game, and 4.6 rebounds which leads all point guards and comes in at 4th in all guards including the 2 position players. Not to mention his 2 steals per game. Also, he shot 33 percent from the 3 point line this season. Even though he doesn’t take many 3’s that’s still kind of impressive.
Only 3 years into his career Rus made the All NBA 2nd team at the point guard position. He took that spot over the likes of Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Rajon Rondo. The only guard that was better at his position than him, according to the official vote, was Derrick Rose. Rose made first team all NBA and also won the MVP award as we all know. However, Westbrook was right on board with Derrick statistically. Derrick’s PER was 23.62 and Westbrook’s PER was 23.63. PER can be essential when grading player value and Westbrook is right up there among the stars.
The problem that I have with Westbrook that puts him under some of his peers, to me, is his decision making and his shot taking. I think that will come with experience, however he doesn’t have that yet. Westbrook takes 17 shots per game which is 3 more than Chris Paul, 4 more than Deron Williams, 8 more than Rondo, and 7 more than Steve Nash. Westbrook was also ranked 33rd in assist to turnover ratioaccording to hoopdata.com. That’s probably the biggest part of the point guard position. Russell takes shots that he doesn’t need too, especially playing with the 2 time scoring champion in Kevin Durant and a talented Thunder team, he takes shots in the wrong spots which leads to his 42 FG percentage, and he turns the ball over way to much for only getting 8 assits per game. He needs to become more of a team player because that’s what the point guard position is about. Derrick Rose couldn’t do that because he doesn’t have the talent that Westbrook has on his team. He was clearly the team’s best scorer and best chance to win games. He needed to take 20 shots a night for his team to win. Westbrook doesn’t need to do that because the Thunder have so much talent.
Now, comparing him to his peers is the key. I think Westbrook is a top 5 point guard, but he’s the last one. I’ve got Paul, Rondo, Williams, and Rose ranked ahead of Westbrook. He just barley beats out Nash but he doesn so because of his defensive ability. Nash can’t guard anyone, lets be real. Paul is the cream of the crop, Rondo does everything outstanding except shoot a jumpshot, Williams is a statistical monster, and Rose is the MVP. Westbrook cost his OKC team a playoff championship run in my opinion. He took 20 shots a game in the playoffs. We saw good Westbrook and we saw bad Westbrook. The good Westbrook can have him in the top 5 in no time, however, the bad one will have John Wall or Steph Curry taking his spot in the top 5 point guards sooner than later.
Looking at players over him, I’d take him over Amare, Carmelo, Nash, and Griffin. Behind him, I’d take him over Love but I wouldn’t take Rus over Rondo and maybe even Zach Randolph. I don’t think Westbrook is a top 15 player, does he have the potential to be? Yes. But he isn’t there right now. With experience in the game it could come, but if he doesn’t learn then it never will. Its a wait and see thing for now. What do you all think? Top 15 or no?
Michael Sykes is a writer for the Sports Blog Movement. Follow us on twitter, search the hashtag #SportsBlogMovement. I’m @Mike_Nasty11 on twitter. Thank you for your time.