Your success as a player is measured in awards and rings. That’s it. The good you do off the court, for the most part, is non-existent once you step off the court for the last time. Most players are fully aware of this. It’s why they’re ring chasin’, money hungry athletes.
That’s no difference to Russell Westbrook.
The 30-year old is facing a tipping point his career. Facing a 3-1 deficit for the third straight season, Westbrook’s career, which has been draped in All-Star appearances, triple-doubles and an MVP, sits at a point where he’s falling off. Oklahoma City has won a combined four games since Kevin Durant left OKC and everyone, including Westbrook knows it.
How much of Oklahoma City’s playoff disappearance is his, how much falls on the coaching staff and front office remains to be seen at this point. However, the two are going hand-in-hand.
Westbrook’s pitiful shooting performance in the series is nothing new. We’ve seen it for three seasons. He’s 152-of-393 (38.75 percent) in 15 playoff games in the post-KD era. He’s 35-of-114 (30.7 percent) from three.
An offense built around a superstar who’s wildly inefficient when it matters puts blame directly where it’s due as well. Billy Donovan’s offense often reverts back to old habits of ISO offense and hero ball. Sam Presti’s inability to recruit quality NBA longball threats to put around Westbrook is also glaring.
Westbrook has adapted. In the PKDE, Westbrook has put his name in the hat as the best point guard in the NBA in terms of getting his teammates involved. He’s led the league in potential assists and real assists the last three seasons.
When the Thunder re-signed Westbrook back in August of 2016, it was a requirement. Sure, they could’ve let Westbrook walk on his one-year deal and reset. The Thunder knew that was really impossible and so did Westbrook. The two used the the Durant situations for their own good. Oklahoma City gave their fan base stability in the loss of one of the greatest players in NBA history. Re-signing Westbrook meant they had a foundation going forward and it put the minds at ease. They had a starting point for starting over. Westbrook got paid. He’s the second highest player in the NBA. While Westbrook is beloved, there are glaring issues that could be addressed at the time, but the Thunder knew what they were getting themselves into.
It paid off initially. Westbrook had a historic year. He kept Oklahoma City in the playoffs and a season of “let’s see what happens” turned into a memory of a lifetime.
Fast forward three years and an almost 31-year-old Westbrook is facing a career bad year, in terms of shooting splits. His three-point percentage is the seventh worst single season in NBA history. Westbrook has faced five knee procedures all on the right knee.
At what point does a player who’s game is predicated by his athleticism finds a way to adjust his game? His explosion to the rim seemed off at times this season. Is that due to a knee that probably never healed? Probably not. We’ve seen some massive dunks from Westbrook, just not as many in year’s past. Is it an adjustment to his game knowing he is not always going to have that explosiveness?
There’s little think Westbrook’s hand, which has been wrapped for most of the playoffs, could face some sort of procedure in the offseason.
There’s not much time left in this window, the one with Paul George and Westbrook. Put up or shut up.
When the time comes to make that decision, will it be too late for the Thunder?We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!