Russell Westbrook is a Most Beneficial Participant Award winner. He’s often an All-Star (9 instances in 12 seasons) and can nearly assuredly be a first-ballot Corridor of Famer when his profession ends. He has led the league in scoring twice and as soon as scored 43 points in an N.B.A. finals game. He simply turned 32 final month and if all goes effectively, he ought to have a number of All-Star seasons left in him.
It’s a basketball résumé that many gamers dream of however solely a tiny handful attain.
So why is Westbrook, who was traded this week from Houston to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a draft decide, about to be on his third group in three years? That is just about unheard-of for a former M.V.P. It occurred to Derrick Rose (the 2011 M.V.P.) too, however his on-court productiveness was significantly hampered by accidents. Shaquille O’Neal (2000) and Moses Malone (the M.V.P. in 1979, 1982 and 1983) additionally performed on three totally different groups in three years, however it was within the waning years of their careers, not at their heights.
Westbrook, nonetheless in his prime and remarkably sturdy, is likely one of the most divisive N.B.A. stars in current many years, much more so after final season’s up-and-down yr with the Rockets. He’s the newest in a protracted line of stars the place analysts and followers have questioned whether or not his fashion of play is conducive to profitable a championship, very similar to Allen Iverson (who gained the M.V.P. in 2001).
Westbrook’s conventional statistics and accolades are eye-popping. However as statistics have advanced in recent times, among the superior numbers haven’t been pleasant to him. Maybe no star participant has been extra of a lightning rod than Westbrook. Is he a bona fide celebrity? Or does he accumulate stats on the expense of wins and his teammates? Certain, his counting stats (sometimes referring to factors, rebounds and assists) are elite. However why isn’t that mirrored in superior analytics?
Here’s a have a look at a few of these numbers and the debates surrounding them.
The Oklahoma Metropolis Triple-Doubles
2016-2017: 31.6 factors, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists; 42 triple-doubles
2017-2018: 25.4 factors, 10.1 rebounds, 10.3 assists; 25 triple-doubles
2018-2019: 22.9 factors, 11.1 rebounds, 10.7 assists; 34 triple-doubles
No statistic is extra generally related to Westbrook than triple-doubles (video games by which a participant reaches double digits in three classes; sometimes factors, rebounds and assists).
When a participant has one in every of these, it’s thought of a noteworthy accomplishment. That Westbrook averaged a triple-double for the complete 2016-17 season was outstanding, on condition that the one different participant to perform the feat in N.B.A. historical past was Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals, who did it in 1961-62. After matching Robertson’s feat, Westbrook put an exclamation level on the accomplishment by doing it in every of the following two seasons as effectively.
That three-season stretch with the Thunder is — on paper — one of many best runs by a participant in N.B.A. historical past. Individuals assumed Robertson’s accomplishment could be unimaginable to match within the trendy recreation, however Westbrook made it look simple.
Critics contended that the scheme that Coach Billy Donovan employed, which known as for Westbrook’s teammates to surrender rebounds for Westbrook, inflated Westbrook’s numbers. Westbrook was accused of being a “stat-padder” who chased triple-doubles over wins. The critics pointed to the Thunder being eradicated within the first spherical of the playoffs in all three seasons by which Westbrook averaged a triple-double as proof. They’ve additionally famous that the triple-double is an arbitrary statistic: Somebody might rating 35 factors, seize 9 rebounds and have 19 assists and it will not be thought of a triple-double.
Do the Critics Have a Level?
It’s really extra difficult than that, at the very least from a numbers perspective.
Throughout the common season, the Thunder had a considerably larger profitable share when Westbrook attained a triple-double than when he didn’t.
Crew’s Report When Westbrook Will get a Triple-Double
2016-17 Thunder: 33-9; .785 win share
2017-18 Thunder: 20-5; .800
2018-19 Thunder: 23-11; .676
2019-20 Rockets: 5-3; .625 win share
Within the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, the Thunder went 53-14 (a .791 profitable share) when Westbrook attained a triple-double; roughly a 65-win tempo in an 82-game common season. In each of these years, the Thunder had a dropping document when Westbrook performed however didn’t get one. Within the 2016-17 season, Westbrook’s M.V.P. yr, the Thunder had been 13-26 in these video games.
For the 2018-19 season, Westbrook’s ultimate season in Oklahoma Metropolis, the Thunder went 23-11 (a .676 win share) when Westbrook had a triple-double, and 21-18 when Westbrook performed however didn’t get one (.538 win share). They had been 5-4 when Westbrook didn’t play.
However Westbrook’s method didn’t precisely make for nice offense in Oklahoma Metropolis. In two of the three seasons by which he averaged a triple-double, the Thunder had a below-average offense, they usually had been tied for eighth in the other one.
The Numbers Past the Numbers
The place Westbrook is hounded most by his critics is for his inefficiency as a scorer. He’s a horrible outdoors shooter for a guard, with a profession mark from 3-point vary of simply 30.5 p.c. In his lone season with Houston, he shot 25.8 p.c. In in the present day’s pace-and-space N.B.A., not being a satisfactory shooter could be a hindrance to offenses.
Past that, Westbrook wants plenty of pictures to attain the factors that he does. His true capturing share — a measure of effectivity that takes under consideration 3-pointers and free throws — has been under common for many of his profession. It’s at 53 p.c, whereas final yr’s league common, for instance, was 56.5 percent.
There additionally seems to be a niche between how conventional numbers and a few superior statistics view Westbrook.
For instance, final yr, Westbrook averaged 27.2 factors, 7.9 rebounds and seven assists per recreation and shot 47.2 p.c from the sphere. It was sufficient to make him an All-Star and All-N.B.A. third group.
Nevertheless, Westbrook’s win shares per 48 minutes — a statistic that makes an attempt to point out how a lot worth gamers deliver to their group per minute, extrapolated to a regulation N.B.A. recreation — paints a distinct image. At .098, Westbrook was ranked 101st in the league. For his profession, Westbrook has been within the prime 10 on this measure simply 4 instances, and not since his M.V.P. season.
Does Westbrook Maintain His Teammates Again?
Westbrook has performed with a number of A-list N.B.A. stars: Paul George, James Harden and Kevin Durant. He’ll now be a part of Bradley Beal, who completed second within the N.B.A. in factors per recreation final season. Westbrook, although, can seemingly solely achieve success if he controls the offense with the ball in his palms. His profession utilization fee — a measure of what share of a group’s performs a participant is concerned in — is 32.7 p.c, the second highest in N.B.A. history. The optimum trendy celebrity can present manufacturing as effectively as potential. Westbrook has by no means been accused of effectivity.
Nevertheless it must be famous: George, Harden and Durant have all thrived taking part in subsequent to Westbrook. Final yr, Harden led the N.B.A. in scoring and put collectively the most effective N.B.A. common seasons in historical past. In 2018-19, George, as Westbrook’s accomplice in Oklahoma Metropolis, had by far his greatest yr (28 factors per recreation) and completed third in M.V.P. voting. Durant gained 4 scoring titles as Westbrook’s teammate and the pair led the Thunder to an N.B.A. finals. Durant additionally gained the 2013-14 M.V.P. with Westbrook as his teammate, with the caveat that Westbrook missed 36 video games that season and had a better utilization fee than Durant within the video games he performed.
So What’s Going to Occur in Washington?
Westbrook actually got here alive within the second half of final season, earlier than faltering within the playoffs. After the All-Star break, Westbrook averaged 27.5 factors, 7.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 27 games on 55.7 true shooting. He even shot 37.5 p.c on 3-point makes an attempt.
He can clearly nonetheless play at an elite degree, and pairing him with Bradley Beal will make for an intriguing mixture. The Wizards went 25-47 final season in a weaker convention. Including Westbrook ought to, at the very least, put the Wizards in playoff rivalry. However can they make precise noise within the playoffs? Westbrook’s current historical past suggests no.