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NO ONE CAN QUESTION RUSSELL WESTBROOK’S HEART, BUT CAN THE THUNDER WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP WITH HIM AS THEIR #1?
By Delano Burnett
So, I’m sure everyone has seen “The Shot”, followed by the wave and the cold-blooded, no emotion stare that Damien Lillard gave Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder right after he ended their season and sent them home for the rest of the playoffs. It was one of the coldest shots you're every going to see and of course we know part of the reason it was that cold is because of the rivalry between Dame and Russ.
Now let’s not act like Dame is totally innocent in their exchange but for the most part we all saw how Westbrook and his team acted after their game three win over the Trailblazers. It was just too much from a player and a team that was still at that point down in the series 2-1. Seems that was all the additional fuel the Trailblazers would need to want to close the Thunder out. As much as you can blame a lot of things for the reason the Thunder lost we all know who the leader of the Thunder are. It's part of the reason the team felt the need to do the "Rock the baby to sleep" and for Paul George doing the "next question" thing that Westbrook normally does when he's talking to the media.
We've always known that Westbrook is a volatile player, which is part of the reason he's as good as he is. Plus it makes him fun to watch, you know he's always giving 110% at all times. You have to be playing with a different motor if you're able to average a triple double for three straight seasons now. One of the marks of a good/great player is being able to at least get your team to the playoffs and even after Kevin Durant left he was able to do that. The problem is now it seems that we're at a cross road with the career of Russell Westbrook.
If we're just talking about his individual numbers and career resume we all know Westbrook will be in the Hall of Fame one day, but can Westbrook actually be the number one guy on a championship team? Yes he's made the playoffs, but since Kevin Durant left he hasn't gotten out of the second round of the playoffs. The Thunder were favored to win 2 out of the 3 playoff series they were in. Last year they lost to the Jazz, minus any all stars and lead by a rookie guard. Now we have the Thunder losing to a team that was minus Jusuf Nurkic and basically was shot out of the playoffs.
I've always felt the reason that Durant left the Thunder was he knew that he couldn't win a championship playing with Westbrook but now it's looking like Durant was right. The front office has done their best to add stars to the roster and getting Paul George was a big step in that direction. Now the front office will have to decide how they want this team to do going forward. Some hard decisions will have to be made and if they want to have a chance to win a championship they're going to have to do them. Here are some of the options.
One option is to have Westbrook off the ball and play more of a two guard roll than a point guard. Even though James Harden is the best version of this, you need to have a player that will be able to shoot, play defense, and be a playmaker to take some of the pressure off of Westbrook. The number two option is to work on adding shooters around Westbrook and that will free up the lane for Westbrook to get to the lane similar to how the 76ers did with Allen Iverson. The third option is to bring in a coach that will provide a motion offense that will take the ball out Westbrook's hands.
With all that being said I still don't believe in Russell Westbrook enough that he can be one of the leaders on the team to win a championship. I'm not even sure at this point he will be able to get out of the first round of the playoffs. We all heard Russell Westbrook say he will work on his jump shot this off season. I hope that will be the case, he's too talented to be going out of the playoffs like this year after year. He also needs to improve his decision making on the court, which has also been a problem. Either way, Russell Westbrook is at a point in his career where he has to decide how he wants the rest of his career to play out and unfortunately for him he has a lot of time in the off season to put in the work.