Russell Westbrook: Most Overrated Player in the NBA
When it comes to athleticism and filling up the stat sheet, Russell Westbrook is one of the best in the game. This year he led the league in scoring and racked up 11 triple doubles, seven more than anyone else. People laud his playmaking abilities and practically swooned every time he scored more than 40 points. However, there was a reason Westbrook scored more points than anyone else and no one seems to be mentioning it, but it was an essential part of his success.
What some people seem to be forgetting is that Russell Westbrook led the NBA in ball usage percentage this season. Not only did Westbrook lead the league this season, he came less than half a percentage point from setting the all-time mark (statistically, the biggest ball hog award goes to Kobe Bryant). Relative to many of the other top NBA scorers, Russell was surprisingly inefficient. In fact, Anthony Davis’ usage rate was nearly 14% less, and he only averaged a touch less than 4 points per game compared to Westbrook.
Delving deeper into the “dark side” of Russell Westbrook’s advanced stats, one will find that defensively he was below average. Yes, he can use his superior athleticism to steal the ball, but overall, Westbrook rated as a below average defender. When it comes to measurement tools, such as the real defensive plus-minus statistic, it seems the risk taking propensity behind his defensive style didn’t always equate to positive effectiveness. Westbrook finished with a -0.72 according to ESPN.com.
Furthermore, looking at Westbrook’s field goal percentage isn’t a pretty sight. For the 3-point field goal, an essential part of today’s game, Russell doesn’t rank anywhere near the top. In fact, with a rate under 30%, he ranks significantly less than the league average of 35%. Besides the 3-pointer, it seems Westbrook’s overall FG% and effective-FG% (a stat that adjusts for added worth of shots) were also considerably less than average. This is substantially concerning when noting that he also led the league in total shot attempts. The idea of scoring the most points shouldn’t be any sort of revelation when you’re taking the most shots in the NBA.
When the time comes to elect the league MVP, Westbrook should be in the conversation, but not at the top. His team didn’t make the playoffs, and his offensive stats got a tremendous boost through the absence of key team contributors. He should be commended for his “killer instinct,” but unfortunately, points, rebounds and assists aren’t the only things to take into consideration.
Put everything into perspective and it all makes sense. In no way would anyone ever deduce that Russell Westbrook isn’t a spectacular player and talent. Simply put, an injury riddled season filled with player absences and misfortune meant the Oklahoma City Thunder needed someone to step up.
Without Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka for much of the season, Russell Westbrook had to do something. He took the ball and tried to make plays. Westbrook didn’t always trust the skill of the players surrounding him, and thus didn’t give them the ball. Handling the ball more, and with the team relying on him to act, caused Russell to score more, use the ball more, and rack up more stats that are counted. Moreover, overall defense suffered because of the team’s general decline in play. That’s not to say that Russell Westbrook is perfect, but no one is perfect.