Russell Westbrook is currently playing the best basketball of his career.
Yes, you read that right, in 2020, this is the best we’ve ever seen Russ. No not when he won the MVP in 2016-17 or led the league in scoring in 2014-15, right now.
The reason for this is simple, this is the smartest Russ has ever been.
Westbrook haters used to watch him and declare that because of the 5-7 bad shots a night you could pencil in for him, he was both overrated and impossible to win with. This was always interesting to declare since a, Russ has made the playoffs every healthy year since his second season in the league and b, if averaging what he averaged is so easy, why don’t other people do it?
But still, no matter how much you loved Russ at his highs, it was impossible to admit that many of his lows were self-inflicted. For the man whose intensity is seemingly unmatched every night he takes the floor, so was the level of ugly shots he took.
I can’t tell you how many times I have stared at my TV in disbelief as Russ hoisted another contested three as a shooter who probably shouldn’t even take them when they’re open. However, this season is showing us something. Maybe, the reason he hoisted those shots up wasn’t because he was dumb like NBA twitter wanted you to believe but rather, because he had to.
Think about it, in the era of the three-point revolution, it is abundantly clear you need spacing to win games.
So, was Russ ever a great or even good shooter, no. What he was though, was the best option to shoot on teams that played major minutes to Andre Roberson, Thabo Sefolosha, Reggie Jackson, Dion Waiters and a host of other dudes who were supposed to spread the floor but couldn’t. This failure of talent led Russ to try and spread the floor.
Obviously, he failed. But he failed because it wasn’t ever supposed to be his game.
He was the speed receiver being asked to run a diverse route tree and then blamed for not being good at it. Russ may be an all-time talent but he as much as anyone ever needs a role to fit to get the best out of him.
Think to the year OKC made the finals. Do you know who the crunch time point guard was? I’ll give you a hint, they are currently teammates again.
Yes, James Harden always got the best out of Russ so why should we be surprised? This duo was always going to work because it already did. It doesn’t matter that Harden became a superstar because his game was and always will be his game. Harden is in a system built for him and now finally, so is Russ.
The numbers are staggering since the Rockets gave Russ the spacing he’s never had. By eliminating a paint clogger like Clint Capela and instead surrounding the floor with exclusively shooters, it makes you have to guard Russ one on one and in case you never knew, that’s basically impossible.
Don’t believe me, this is the player Russ has been since the new year:
Westbrook was born to play in this offence. Case in point career highs in field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage, pace and points in the paint. The last two or the proof of why this team is the team we should’ve always seen Russ on.
55% of his points are in the paint, 10 % higher than ever before and a lot of that is possible because of the pace he’s allowed to play without a big on the floor.
Watch the ridiculous amount of easy shots he’s generating for himself and others now. Sure he’s averaged more points and assists and what have you but, this is the most efficient he’s ever been and for a player who was routinely told that was never possible, that’s a win in it of itself.
I’m not saying the Rockets will win the title this year, far from it. What I am saying is this team is far better now because of the way Russell Westbrook is playing. He’s finally in a place destined for him to excel and he’s reminding fans every night why he is who he is.
Simply put, it’s the best he’s ever been.