April 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) rests between plays during the fourth quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The City Thunder defeated the Warriors 116-97. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Is Russell Westbrook the most underrated point guard in the NBA?

You’re not going to find many who think someone other than Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. But after CP3, the opinions start to really vary.

ESPN has been going position-by-position in the NBA, breaking down the top players in the league. When they got to the point guard spot, the question of which is the most underrated came up. Two experts said it was Russell Westbrook.

Russell Westbrook. Because he shares the court with likely the second-best player in the league in Kevin Durant, the focus tends to gravitate toward Westbrook’s flaws more than his abilities. Not that an injury is ever a good thing, but perhaps the silver lining to Westbrook being sidelined last playoffs was the ability to see the Thunder were just another good team rather than a title contender without their All-Star point guard.

Via Andrew Han/Clipper Blog

Russell Westbrook. He has been on the NBA’s All-Second Team for three straight seasons, but I think Russ is still underrated. He plays a dynamic style that creates havoc for opponents and great opportunities for his team. Playing beside Kevin Durant, however, overshadows so much of the great work he does night in and night out.

Via Curtis Harris/ Hardwood Paroxysm

Westbrook has been one of the most polarizing players over the past few years, which is always a key ingredient in becoming underrated. People tend to focus on the negative aspects of his game far more than the positives.

The fact is, Westbrook is a no doubt, top 10 player in the NBA. You can make a strong case that he is in the top five and really challenging Paul as the best point guard in the league (or as I like to call it, “the best player who plays point guard” since Westbrook isn’t a true point).

When I rank point guards in the NBA, I’ve got Westbrook second right behind Paul. Those coming after those two would be in some order: Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Stephen Curry. I can guarantee you there are people out there who would put any of those five guys ahead of Westbrook.

When it comes to how much each of these top seven point guards are criticized for their games, none compare to what Westbrook has to deal with. I think because of that, he becomes underrated.

Consider that Westbrook had a higher PER than any point guard in the league last year besides Paul. Isn’t he supposed to be inefficient? Don’t we classify Westbrook as being great because of his ability more than what he produces?

It’s just not the case. Maybe Westbrook takes shots and makes decisions from time to time that have us scratching our heads, but he is still one of the best players in the NBA. What he does from the point guard position is really unrivaled.

The only case for Westbrook no longer being the most underrated is that people are turning the corner on him. Last year’s playoffs after he got hurt revealed to the nation just how much he does for this Thunder team.

Even is Westbrook isn’t as underrated as he used to be, it’s hard to come up with a player that is more underrated than him today. Maybe Parker? Or John Wall or Irving? It’s hard to say.

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