By Glen Chenoweth
In the season that Kevin Durant was out due to a foot injury, Russell Westbrook put the team on his back to elevate the Oklahoma City team. Westbrook had 11 double-doubles in the 2014-2015 season for the Thunder. This season Westbrook has averaged a triple-double for the first three games of the season.
Russell Westbrook is the superstar Oklahoma City needs. He plays with a certain amount of energy and passion every night. Let’s think about the rebounds that he has so far this season. The Thunder have three big men who are known for getting rebounds either in college or in the league: Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Domantas Sabonis.
Westbrook is competing to get rebounds with players on his own team as well as the other team the Thunder play against each night. At 6 feet 3 inches, Westbrook is out-rebounding his teammates who are at least 7 inches taller than him. Westbrook does not care that his energy and athleticism help him get this many rebounds each night.
The next question is, are there any other point guards in the NBA who come close to this many rebounds per game? Through seven games, Westbrook is averaging 8.4 rebounds per game in 33.1 minutes per game. Westbrook is 24th overall in the league in rebounds per game. There are only two other players in the league who play the small forward, shooting guard or point guard position that rank higher than Westbrook in rebounds per game.
One of the players that rank higher than Westbrook in rebounds is four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion LeBron James who averages half a rebound more than Westbrook per game.
The other player that averages more rebounds per game than Westbrook is an inch shorter than he and, on average, plays 3.9 minutes more per game than Westbrook. The player who averages point three more rebounds than Westbrook per game is Avery Bradley.
James and Bradley average less offensive rebounds per game than Westbrook, which makes the fact that Westbrook out rebounds his own team super human. Rebounds make up only one-third of a triple-double stat line, but the rebounds are truly impressive for another reason entirely.
By getting more rebounds than his whole team, Westbrook is effectively taking the outlet pass out of the Thunder’s offensive playbook. He is getting a rebound and dribbling up the court to set up the offense himself. The big men for the Thunder are not waiting to find the point guard, make the outlet pass, and running up the court. Instead Westbrook is grabbing the rebound and going, the big men are able to run up the court once the rebound is secured, the offense can start sooner and catch defenses off guard.
In terms of assists, Westbrook is averaging 9.9 per game and is tied for second overall in the league. Assists are not rare for a point guard since they are the ones generally starting the offense and they take the ball up the floor. Still the other two players who are either tied with Westbrook or above him in assists per game are playing more minutes per game and are the playmakers for their team.
The player who ranks No. 1 overall in assists per game is a shooting guard, but as far as roles go, he is the offensive starter for their team. James Harden averages 12.7 assists per game while playing four more minutes per game than Westbrook.
LeBron James, who along with averaging more rebounds per game than Westbrook, averages the same amount of assists per game than Westbrook. James plays 3.3 more minutes per game than Westbrook.
Harden and James are elite players. As stated earlier, James is a three-time NBA champion and Harden was the runner-up in the MVP vote just two years ago. Like Westbrook, Harden is a perennial All-Star, who is the best player on his team. Assists is another category where Westbrook ranks among the best in the league while playing three minutes per game less than those who rank above him.
Scoring is the third category in triple-doubles, and again Westbrook is in the elite ranks. Westbrook is fifth overall in scoring at 30.4 points per game. Only one other point guard scores more points per game than Westbrook – Damian Lillard. Lillard scores more than Westbrook per game but the Portland Trailblazer averages 5.6 rebounds per game and 4.6 assists per game. Not in the same realm as Westbrook. Lillard also plays more minutes per game than Westbrook.
This is another category where Westbrook plays fewer minutes than the players who rank above him. DeMar DeRozan scores 33.7 points per game, the most in the league. Like Lillard, DeRozan plays more minutes per game.
Overall Westbrook ranks as one of the best in the NBA in terms of rebounds, assists, and points per game, while still playing fewer minutes than those who rank above him.
The one statistic that Westbrook dominates is usage percentage. Usage percentage is how a player performs per possession amongst their teammates. Westbrook has a usage percentage of 41.7, which is higher than anyone else in the league by more than three points. This shows just how valuable Westbrook is to his team.
Westbrook is the only player on his team who is an All-Star, which means he has the pressure to play at such a high level to win games. Westbrook is arguably the best player on his team, which is what matters when it comes to the MVP trophy. Adam Silver can just drop off the 2016-2017 MVP trophy in Oklahoma City. Westbrook is planning out his acceptance speech. All he has to do is keep up his production level and dust off the sheet the first week of May.