The inaugural “Russell Westbrook Rampage World Tour” is off to a thunderous start. Westbrook, in his first year without Kevin Durant by his side, has started the 2016-2017 averaging 37.8 points per game, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Wednesday night’s game against the Clippers was the first game this season where he wasn’t close to a triple double (he was only an assist away from a triple double in the season opener against the 76ers) where he posted a modest stat line of 35 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. His intensity on the court has always been obvious but this year Westbrook has taken his fury to a whole new level. Every move Westbrook makes seems to have more and more vitriol behind it game after game. The NBA needs to get Jim Lee on the phone because forget Superman Unchained, we are now witnesses to Westbrook Unchained.
I think it’s easy to credit Kevin Durant not being around as the reason for Westbrook’s hot start but there’s more to it than that. Westbrook is averaging more field goal attempts than ever, 29 attempts per game are his highest by far, but he has some of his highest percentages of his career so far. He’s currently tied with his career high 2011-2012 season field goal percentage of 45.7%. He’s hitting almost 50% of his two pointers and 32% of his three pointers this season, even after he went 0-7 from 3 against the Clippers Wednesday night. Westbrook is also cashing in at the free throw line, indicative of his aggressive play being a little too much for opposing defenses. Westbrook is averaging 11.5 free throw attempts this season, again a career high. Friday against the Suns Westbrook got to the line 20 times, making 15 of those 20 attempts. Sunday against the Lakers Westbrook was a perfect 6 for 6 from the line. He’s not only dominant, he’s efficient.
Westbrook’s reckless and high-octane play-style does come with some drawbacks, as does everything good in life. Westbrook has been relatively healthy lately but he does have some injury history which, bundled with this hyper-aggressive play-style, can spell disaster should he get hurt. His minutes played could also be a cause for concern, as he is averaging 37 minutes per game, with 45 minutes against Phoenix Friday. A small (by NBA standards) man playing lots of aggressive minutes over 6 months is a concoction ready to explode. It must be said, however, that when Westbrook hasn’t had a major injury, he has played at least 80 games in a season and started every game he’s played in since 2009.
What’s also the most disconcerting is that even with Westbrook’s amazing games, his teams are not winning by a convincing amount. While only beating the Clippers by 2 on the road is forgivable, they’re a pretty good team. Beating the Suns by only a point more? Not so good. Westbrook’s new Robin, Victor Oladipo, has performed moderately well for a young guy who has played 4 games with his new team but not so well for a guy getting paid $84 million over the next 4 years. Other than Oladipo, Westbrook is pretty much a one man wrecking crew; shades of Allen Iverson in his prime. Hopefully, Westbrook is able to do what Iverson couldn’t and win an NBA Championship. One thing is for certain, an All-NBA First Team designation and an MVP are in Russell Westbrook’s future.
Oh, and tonight he gets to play Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. Take him in DFS, boys and girls.