DAR Sports: NBA Player Profile - Russell Westbrook

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Some would say Russell Westbrook could possibly be the best player in basketball today. Some would say he is the toughest point guard in the league. Some would say his fashion choices are suspect and that he doesn't control the game or lead his team to victory enough. That he's not a true leader and while an effective scorer and all around player, he can't lead the Thunder to a championship. There are always going to be varying opinions when you are an elite player, but Westbrook has made a case for being one of the best players in the NBA for the last couple of seasons. His all around game and mechanics are top tier in the NBA these days, and he seems to only get better. He's reaching his prime in recent years and for those of us who've seen his evolution, it's been amazing to watch.

His story starts in Leuzinger High School where Westbrook would not see much success until his senior year. His senior year would see him put up 25.1 points and 8.7 rebounds to lead his team to a 25-4 record. With his senior success, you would expect the recruitment to be high, but it wasn't. He received a scholarship to attend UCLA, but it didn't seem as if his role was intended to be too substantial, and his first season there wasn't, as he was backup to Darren Collison and came off the bench. The following year however, he would end up starting and showed some of what he was capable of. He would win the Pac-10 defensive player of the year award and make the All-Pac 10 Third Team while helping UCLA make the final four. He would declare himself to the NBA Draft and end up going in the first round at the 4th pick overall to the Seattle Supersonics, later known as the Oklahoma City Thunder.

His rookie season was pretty good, as he would average 15.3 points and 5.3 assists on the season, and he would become only the third rookie in Sonics/Thunder history to record a triple double. Westbrook would finish the season 4th in the rookie of the year voting, behind Derrick Rose, O.J. Mayo, and Brook Lopez, but he did manage to get named to the All-Rookie First Team, which was a great feat. Despite his good rookie season, his team still didn't seem to have a winning formula as they were a young and still growing team.

That would change the next season, which ironically would end up as Westbrook's first official year as a starter in the lineup. He averaged 16 points and 8 assists a game, showcasing his ability without a doubt and the Thunder found the formula to win, as they went 50-32 and made the playoffs finally. They would lose to the Lakers, but their presence was definitely felt. Westbrook would play very well in the first round against the Lakers with 20.5 points and 6 rebounds averaged. Westbrook was beginning to grow as a player and the following season the duo of himself and Kevin Durant would set out to have yet another solid season. They would succeed.

This would be the breakout season for Westbrook in many ways, as he would put up a 43 point performance against the Pacers and a 38 point performance against the Nets during this season. He would be selected to his first All Star Game, get named to the All NBA Second Team for the first time in his career, and finished the season nearly averaging 22 points a game and 8.2 assists. It was truly a breakout season for Westbrook, and to make it even better, the Thunder boasted a record of 55-27 and made it to the playoffs, almost tasting the NBA Finals before taking an eventual loss to the future NBA Champions that year, the Dallas Mavericks in the Conference Finals. Westbrook would average 23.8 points and 6.4 assists in the playoffs, staking his claim without a doubt as one of the best in the league at that point.

The next season would be vital for Westbrook. After a lockout shortened the season, the Thunder would finish the short season by making the playoffs and eventually the NBA Finals. With a shortened season that still saw Westbrook get voted in to the All Star Game, he was truly becoming one of the elite in the NBA and despite a 5 game series loss in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat, Westbrook had some amazing performances in the series, including his 43 point performance in a game 4 loss. The duo of Westbrook and Durant seemed poised to win a title and despite coming up short to the Heat, with this loss and experience, they would come back even tougher the next season one would assume. Westbrook's play in the shortened season would see him put up 23.6 points and 5.5 assists, keeping his numbers consistent yet again.

The 2012-2013 season would be a great one for the Thunder as they cruised to the no. 1 seed in the Western Conference and all signs were pointing to a big victory and possible championship for them if they could manage to stay healthy. After Westbrook put up solid season numbers of 23.2 points and 7.4 assists, the challenge came to defeat the Houston Rockets in the first round and move on. Durant and Westbrook together had an advantage on the league and it seemed like it was their year. Unfortunately, the worst would happen, as Westbrook got injured with a torn meniscus in game 2 of the first round and would have to miss the rest of the playoffs for surgery. Without one of their two leaders, the Thunder would end up getting defeated in the 2nd round by the Memphis Grizzlies and their hope for a championship would be gone this season.

Those injuries would prove to be an issue for Westbrook during the next season as he would miss some time during the middle of the season. However, the Thunder would not falter, as Durant managed to keep the team afloat and led them to the 2nd seed in the West with a solid 59-23 record. Westbrook had taken a backseat during this season unfortunately, but would show signs of life yet again when he reached the playoffs. The Thunder seemed to be back full fledged and would make yet another push to the Finals. Westbrook and the Thunder would unfortunately lose to the Spurs in 6 games in the Western Conference Finals, but he would put up stellar numbers in the postseason, averaging 26.7 points, 8.1 assists, and 7.3 rebounds, becoming the first player since 1964 to average 26/8/7 in the playoffs. Westbrook at this point would be making his case as the no. 1 alpha for the Thunder, especially after Durant would end up winning the MVP award for the 2013-2014 season.

Unfortunately, injuries plagued the 2014-2015 season in the beginning, as both Durant and Westbrook missed significant time. The Thunder would start off miserably, but Westbrook and Durant would will them back into playoff contention. Unfortunately, Durant would suffer from more injury complications, and Westbrook would have to take over for the team, and that's exactly what he did. In this season, this was the year Westbrook established himself as a leader for the Thunder. He carried the team on his back and put on amazing performances, including a 45 point performance against the Pelicans, 48 points against the Pelicans again, 40 points(with 13 rebounds and 11 assists) against the Blazers, as well as his career high 54 points against the Pacers. Westbrook was absolutely on a mission and though he got the Thunder to a 45-37 record, it still wasn't enough, as they just missed the playoffs. Westbrook would get voted into the All Star game that season yet again and this time he would electrify with a 41 point performance that earned him All Star MVP, another first for his career. He would also win his first scoring title ever finishing with 28.1 points per game on the season. Westbrook was seen as one of the top 4 candidates to win MVP despite not making the playoffs, though James Harden, Lebron James, and eventual winner Steph Curry had greater cases to be made. Regardless, Westbrook had his most dominant season and it looked like he had officially entered into his prime.

That brings us to today. This season.

He is in many ways a triple-double machine, as he currently has three straight and 8 on the season so far. He's been likely the most well rounded player this year, averaging 24 points per game, 10 assists, 2.4 steals, and 7.6 rebounds, which is an absolute amazing stat line for any player. His year so far has been slept on in many ways, but he continues to put on great performances regularly and along with Durant, they've led the Thunder to be the surefire no. 3 seed in the West and one of the only true title contenders this year. Their record sits at 38-13, and they have a true chance at finally get a championship this year. One thing is certain however, Westbrook will continue to shine and if he is just now hitting his prime, one can only wonder what his greatness will be like going forward in future seasons. There is talk of him leaving the Thunder when his contract is up, and if that is true, I think the real test will come when he's the no. 1 on a team and their star player. That's going to be interesting if he leaves for the Lakers or any other team for that matter. Regardless, time will tell. For now, Russell Westbrook could be very well on his way to becoming one of the greatest players of all time when it's all said and done.



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