Last year Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook accomplished something that was a long shot as he became the first NBA player since Oscar Robertson in 1962 to average a triple-double for an entire season. Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists en route to being named as the NBA’s MVP. But as amazing as the feat was for Westbrook, it was far-fetched to believe that he could do it again. However Westbrook has proven that theory to be wrong.
Westbrook just made the impossible possible as he has averaged a triple-double for the second consecutive season. Westbrook averaged 25.4 points, 10.3 assists, and 10.1 rebounds this past season as he helped the Thunder reach the NBA Playoffs for the eighth time in the last nine years. And in the process Westbrook has put himself in the NBA’s record book forever.
There will be those who will accuse Westbrook of “stat padding”; especially since he went for 6 points. 20 rebounds, and 19 assists in Oklahoma City’s regular season finale against the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday. However nobody should get upset at Westbrook for what he did in the final game of the season as his overall body of work is what put him in that position.
Westbrook collected 26 triple-doubles on the season, and they weren’t cheapies either which was led by his 37-points, 14-assist, 13-rebound performance versus the Toronto Raptors on March 18. I understand the notion that Westbrook has struggled at times to make the players around him better, however this is not a situation where he is merely focused on one aspect of his game as it takes a special person who knows that he can score, but he should be applauded for his willingness to pass the ball as well as crash the boards.
Westbrook is the modern day Allen Iverson of the NBA as he plays with reckless abandon, and at 6’3″, 200 lbs., Westbrook has never met a rebound that he didn’t like as he is never afraid to bang bodies in the paint with the big men of the league. And when Westbrook gets that rebound, the fun just begins as he can be his own one-man fast break.
Westbrook has dealt with ups and downs throughout his career as he teamed with small forward Kevin Durant and shooting guard James Harden to help Oklahoma City reach the NBA Finals in 2012. But after the Thunder lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, they’ve never been able to get back to that point. Harden was soon traded to the Houston Rockets, while Durant shocked the basketball world in 2016 when he left the Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors.
Westbrook shrugged off Durant’s departure and he let his actions speak for his words in averaging a triple-double for the season, being named as the NBA’s MVP, and getting the Thunder to the postseason. But last year’s first-round loss to Harden’s Rockets showed that Westbrook could not do it by himself as his 37.4 points per game to go along with 11.6 rebounds and 10.8 assists in the series were not enough to prevent the Thunder from losing in five games.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti attempted to make things right for Westbrook last summer when he acquired small forward Paul George from the Indiana Pacers and small forward Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks giving Oklahoma City three All-Stars.
The Thunder were up and down at times this season as this team struggled to gel with George, Westbrook, and Anthony all learning how to play with each other. But the process never stopped Westbrook from shining. And as the playoffs have begun and the Thunder are in the midst of their first-round series with the Utah Jazz, Westbrook is out to show that he has a new crew that he can get it done with.
Westbrook’s tenacity makes people think of Iverson, but overall it’s hard to get a fix in regards what greats that he equates to as the NBA has never seen a player like him. Westbrook earned more than $25.4 million this season, but he plays like a man who is on a 10-day contract, and one mistake away rom packing groceries. But it is that hunger which keeps Westbrook going, while it also makes it hard to bet against him. At times Westbrook can fall in love with the perimeter shot even though it is not a strong point of his game. But when Westbrook makes up his mind to get to the basket, he is like a runaway freight train that cannot be stopped. The Thunder may have George and Anthony, but they are only going to go as far as Westbrook takes them.
Individually Westbrook has done it all as he is a seven-time All-Star, one-time NBA MVP, the first player in league history to average a triple-double in multiple seasons, and he also took home a gold medal in basketball with the United States in 2012. However only time will tell if his frantic play and reckless abandon will bring an NBA Championship to Oklahoma City.