Image Courtesy of yardbarker.com and Jason Vinlove- USA Today Sports
I’m not discrediting the Utah Jazz. They are a solid team. Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert, and Ricky Rubio took care of business knocking the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the playoffs in the first round.
Weren’t the Thunder, led by Russell Westbrook, supposed to be great this year? Most people assumed that the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony were going to launch the Thunder into contention. That didn’t happen. Let us dig into why.
First off, Carmelo Anthony isn’t good anymore. This “superstar” shot .001 percent better than J.R. Smith from the field, and his 3-point percentage ranked 121st in the league. Really not that terrible at almost 36%, but as a supposed star on the offensive end that lacks a defensive presence, it has to be better. Second, and most importantly, the Thunder’s leading man Russell Westbrook is not the guy that should be leading the team in pursuit of an NBA Championship.
I don’t think Westbrook is a bad player, but his style of play will never get himself a ring. Westbrook wants the ball in his hands as often as he can and, among qualified players, he had the third highest usage rating during the 2018 regular season at 33.2% (according to NBA.com).
The amount of time Westbrook has the ball in his hands limits the impact that players like Paul George gave on the team. George was pretty much a glorified 3 and D player this season because of how Westbrook’s controls the offense. It’s simply drive and kick unless Steven Adams is open underneath or Westbrook decides that Melo and George aren’t open enough for his liking.
Don’t believe me? Last year everyone was talking about how Westbrook had “no help” but somehow his former teammate Victor Oladipo (traded in Paul George deal) averaged 23 points this season leading the Indiana Pacers. Interesting. Oladipo did improve this season compared to 2017, but last year people categorized him as just a role player, along with the rest of OKC’s roster. And with “stars” like Anthony and George this season, the Thunder failed to make it out of the first round.
Westbrook makes good passes, plays tough defense, hustles, and can score the basketball. But he isn’t efficient at it and efficiency is key in a league that is driven by how much a team can but the rock in the hoop.
Westbrook’s adjusted field goal percentage of 47.7% ranks 120th in the league (ESPN.com). His percentage lies between Andrew Wiggins and Carmelo Anthony, who I already talked about. Westbrook also shot 29.8% from 3-point range this year which is worse than the likes of Marcus Smart.
Surprised? Well no one talks about it because everyone loves Russ. He is the guy who stayed home while that “snake” Kevin Durant went off to Golden State to win a championship. Everyone attacked KD for dipping the Thunder, but some of it had to do with Westbrook’s play which, after this series to the Utah Jazz, can be detrimental to a team’s success.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@jribs53)