3 min read

Letting Russ be Russ

Letting Russ be Russ
AP Photo
AP Photo

Russell Westbrook has been an absolute monster in the Thunder’s first three games. Many people thought we might see a more subdued Westbrook, more of a leader and facilitator. That Russ from the end of the 2014-15 season was just a necessity of the moment, and maybe more of a Scott Brooks problem. That may have been overthinking it. Scorched Earth Russ has returned, and he’s better than before.

The Thunder are letting Russ be Russ.

He’s going to destroy you with his speed, strength and grit.

116 points, 37 rebounds and 35 assists…


Here are his numbers in the first three games (I know small sample) compared to his numbers after the All Star break in 2015.

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Westbrook is defying some of the trendy theories and just being himself. His usage rate is over 40, which is absolutely insane. Believe it or not Russ is not currently leading the league in that stat. Joel Embiid (rightly so) and DeMar DeRozen currently lead the league in usage rate (small sample size, I KNOW). If you were to guess who would have the highest usage rate after a couple months, Westbrook would be the safest bet.

Westbrook’s massive usage rate hasn’t killed the Thunder yet for two reasons.

  1. OKC’s competition has been really bad.
  1. Westbrook’s efficiency has been better than usual

Both of those reasons are unsustainable. There will be games that Russ is using 40% of OKC’s possession is a bad thing. Hitting 5 of 6 from three is an anomaly. Also a big thing… the Clippers and Warriors are up next for the Thunder. Both teams will put Westbrook’s usage and efficiency to the test.

Many thought Westbrook’s rebounding average would go down. He’s playing with elite level rebounding big men, so it would only make sense for that stat to suffer.

Nope. At 12.3 boards a game, he is dominating the glass like no other point guard ever has. One underrated fact in him crashing the boards is his ability to create fast break points after a rebound. If the Thunder are going to have an above average offense, fast breaks are going to be a huge part of that formula. The half court is going to have issues with spacing, shooting, and creation. But the fast break is dominant with this squad. Russ may need to rebound at this rate in order to produce a solid offense.

Westbrook’s assist rate is a league leading 59.3%. That means that 59.3% of his teammates field goals are off assists from Russ. That’s pretty insane. He also leads the league in assists at 11.7. He is truly controlling everything on the offensive end for the Thunder. This is where the fit with Oladipo is a little tough. Mr. Feathery thrives with the ball in his hands. He is also not a prolific shooter. I want a Westbrook-Oladipo backcourt to work because of the dominant athleticism, but you have to wonder if he’d be better as a 6th man on this team.

The biggest difference between the 14-15 season and today is clearly the defensive rating. A 93.5 Defensive rating is probably not sustainable for Russ, but if he can maintain around 100 that would be huge progress. The 108.9 defensive rating he posted during the 14-15 season was one of the big reasons OKC suffered on the court.

The Thunder will need to hang their hats on the defensive end in order to be a 4 or 5 seed in the West. Russ will have to be to be focused on that end in order for this team to have that kind of success. I was initially skeptical of them being a top level defense because of the bench. But with the number of minutes Adams, Roberson, Oladipo and Westbrook are getting, it seems like they could be well on their way to near elite status. They currently sit in the top 5 in defensive efficiency. We will see if that maintains after playing the Clippers and the Warriors.

Westbrook is the most explosive, frustrating, exhilarating, maddening, dominant player in the NBA, but be sure you do one thing through all of that:

Enjoy Russell Westbrook.