What More Can Westbrook Do?

Russell Westbrook is the most scrutinized superstar in the NBA. What more does Westbrook have to do to be properly respected?
WASHINGTON, DC (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

Westbrook: Mr. Triple-Double

There will never be another player like Westbrook.

Not only is he one of the most athletic guards in NBA history, but he also has proven to have an unrelenting motor and mindset.

Sharing only with NBA legends like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Allen Iverson, Russ’ will cannot be questioned or withered.

As the modern NBA era progresses and we see more athletes being able to record triple-doubles, Westbrook will always depict what that kind of game means: impacting the game in all facets of facilitating, scoring, and control.

Wizards’ 2020-21 Season

Not good enough to be a title contender and unable to make any moves that improve the team drastically, the Washington Wizards (18-32) are stuck in NBA limbo.

With a clear defensive ceiling on top of being injury-plagued all year, their season was bound to have its fair share of headaches.

They have the worst defense in the league, earning last in opponent points per game and 26th in defensive rating. Considering how Washington leads the league in pace and is 10th in points per game, scoring has never been their issue; cohesiveness and consistency have been.

Injuries have severely tormented the Wizards the entire season. Starters Rui Hachimura, Davis Bertans, Thomas Bryant, Russell Westbrook, and Bradley Beal have only played a combined four games altogether this year.

With Beal out with a right hip contusion, OKC Westbrook is in full effect.

Westbrook’s 2020-21 Season

Westbrook is a competitor through and through.

When he is up against the wall, he always gives his all.

Comparably to his first and only year as a Houston Rocket, many critics believed that Westbrook was declining and that his athleticism deteriorated.

He was still averaging nearly a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists. However, it looked like something was off, that he was missing that extra step.

Westbrook decided to play fewer minutes in his games and take some time off to recover from his injuries fully.

Coming back healthy and motivated to play the newly assembled Brooklyn Nets, the Wizards stunned the juggernauts 149-146 on January 31st.

Westbrook had the best game of the season, posting 41 points, ten rebounds, and eight assists.

Since that January 31st game, Westbrook has been among the elite NBA ballhandlers, like Kyrie, Steph, and Dame.

Westbrook’s shooting numbers have been up and down each month, and March was a great month for him. Not only did he average 25 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists, and two steals, he shot 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from three.

In April, he has not taken his foot off the pedal, as he is averaging 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists, keeping the Wizards afloat and in playoff play-in contention.

Time and time again, Westbrook hits an extra gear in the new year, seamlessly looking like the Russ of old.

Westbrook’s Criticism & Controversy

Russ has been met with a lot of criticism over the years due to the playoff woes he’s gone through since Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City in 2017.

The real criticism came in 2018 and 2019, where he had a formidable team and Paul George, a top 20 player in the league.

In 2018, the Thunder lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs in six games, while Westbrook averaged 29 points, 12 rebounds, and eight assists. Despite those impressive numbers, the Thunder losing to a team headed by a rookie guard in Donovan Mitchell and defensive anchor Rudy Gobert really did not sit well with NBA fans across the world.

It did not help that former teammate Kevin Durant was now winning championships with Golden State.

Many critics began to demean Westbrook’s stats as if they do not matter or lead to anything.

And in 2019, the bad just kept getting worse. The Thunder lost to the Portland Trailblazers in the first round of the playoffs in 5 games, where Westbrook averaged 23 points, nine rebounds, and 11 assists.

This was a battle of Dame versus Westbrook and Paul George to the general public. Not only did they lose the playoff series, but the Thunder also disbanded the team and traded away Westbrook and Paul George, choosing to move on and rebuild for the future.

Stephen A. Smith’s Westbrook Comments

After Russell Westbrook’s monster triple-double performance against the playoff-contending Indiana Pacers, where the Wizards won 132-124, there were mixed reviews on whether they should be praising Westbrook for his efforts or if his stats matter at all.

On ESPN’s First Take, Sports commentator and TV personality Stephen A. Smith offered his opinion on Westbrook’s performance.

In this condensed twitter video taken from Stephen A. Smith’s television show, Stephen A. weighed in heavily about how winning matters more than anything else, especially for Russ.

“Westbrook’s numbers last night mean absolutely nothing to me because even though that’s great numbers, that is what Westbrook can do…I’m at a point in time in his career where it’s not about that anymore; it’s about whether or not you can get another level to win the chip.”

Westbrook’s Contract

In 2016, we saw the NBA’s salary cap money jump dramatically during the offseason.

Due to a nine-year, 24 billion television deal signed by the NBA in 2014, we began to see NBA money on par with the MLB, which we had never seen. In 2017, the money increased even more as the salary cap rose to $94 million, a $24 million increase, which was the biggest leap the league had ever seen at the time.

In turn, NBA contracts will never be the same.

Case in point, Russell Westbrook’s 2017 contract extension.

While being the biggest contract in NBA history at the time, the contracts now are even larger. Damian Lillard signed his 6-year supermax extension for $257 million.

Westbrook’s contract around the league has been seen as one of the worst deals in the league alongside those of John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Kemba Walker.

Despite this notion, we need to look at the facts for what they are. Westbrook is an elite player who impacts a roster once he is on it. When his team is healthy, Westbrook leads his team to the playoffs every year.

With two years and $88 million left on his contract, Westbrook will give you exactly what you signed up for, as he is one of the most consistent superstars we have had in the league.

A proven commodity, Westbrook’s contract is not bad, as he flourishes in every situation he is put in.

Westbrook’s Future

WASHINGTON, DC (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

Westbrook Winning a Championship

Right now, I believe Russ wants to be a Wizard, at least until his contract expires or if Beal leaves.

Each season Westbrook continues to rewrite history as one of the greatest statistical players we have ever seen in NBA history.

But the big elephant remains in the room: can he be an integral part of a championship-winning team?

Like Westbrook said himself, there is nothing else left for him to accomplish because he has already defied all odds in his career. Him being where he is now is him being a champion in his own right.

Westbrook does not need a championship to solidify his career, but the Westbrook narrative completely changes if he does win.