Now that the Thunder have officially been eliminated from the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, one thing remains: Russell Westbrook continues to get ripped to pieces. The fans, the media – you’re hearing it everywhere. Westbrook takes far too many shots, turns the ball over too much, and may not even be best suited at the point guard position, etc. You’ve probably even heard Skip Bayless run his mouth about a trade for Chris Paul as if he’s best friends with each team’s GM. These claims, some of which are true, have easily placed an unnecessary amount of tension on Westbrook’s relationship with fellow star, Kevin Durant. However, I’m here to say that there’s nothing to worry about in Oklahoma City.
23-59, 50-32, and 55-27. Those are the Thunder’s records for each of the past three seasons, respectively. We saw them finish 8th in the West in the 2009-10 season, taking the Lakers to 6 games. This past season they finished 4th in the West and made it to the Conference Finals. I don’t know about you, but I’d call that progress. Better yet, take a look at their key players. Durant is only 22-years-old, and James Harden and Serge Ibaka are both 21. The guy receiving all the criticism, Westbrook, is also just 22, and people often overlook that. To say that he can’t be an elite point guard in the NBA after averaging 8 assists per game in back-to-back seasons is absurd. He’s top five in the league at the position and will prove that sooner rather than later. Hypothetically speaking, even if he did play the two as some are claiming, his shot isn’t good enough to warrant playing there anyway.
If I had to pick one reason why the Thunder lost this series it would be becasue of their inexperience. You would never see a veteran team lose a game in which they were up by 15 in the fourth quarter, and then fail to close out the very next game, too. This series could easily be a 3-2 Thunder lead right now, heading back to Oklahoma for a Game 6. It was a hard-fought matchup that went to a team full of nothing but veterans.
In summation, Westbrook is not the reason why OKC is on vacation. Sure, he took too many shots at times and might get a little reckless, but those are simple flaws that can be reduced with a better understanding of playing point guard in the NBA. If someone really wanted to point fingers, they could look no further than the 9 turnovers that Durant had in the crushing Game 4 loss, but we won’t do that. Instead, I’ll end this article with a question: When the Oklahoma City Thunder are back in the Western Conference Finals again next year, what will you be saying about Westbrook then?