Russell Westbrook Is More Than Just a Point Guard


For years we’ve heard it. Russell Westbrook is good, but he’s not a pure point guard; that’s a designation reserved for Chris Paul, among others. Westbrook doesn’t pass first…he can’t run an elite offense. The list of complaints go on. But it’s 2015 now and this much is clear – while Westbrook isn’t your “classic” point guard, he’s the modern prototype for the position.

More from Thunderous Intentions

Basketball is constantly evolving in terms of playing style. When one style is figured out, another is designed to take its place. In an era dominated by isolation heavy guards, the Detroit Pistons made defense cool again when they demolished the offensive talents of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal in the 2004 NBA Finals.

The San Antonio Spurs proved champion teams beat teams of champions by dismantling LeBron James led teams in 2007 and again in 2014 with a system unlike we’d ever seen based purely on teamwork. In between that time, Mike D’Antoni began the seven seconds or less era of basketball. If not for a little bit more luck at crucial moments, his Phoenix Suns could have created a title-winning dynasty.

Then the Golden State Warriors adopted this concept and combined it with the Spurs to create a two-headed monster that took the league by storm last season and have showed no signs of slowing down. Amid this, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been marred by injuries but, despite this, they possess three unique talents.

The first is maybe the best pure shooting forward we’ve ever seen in Kevin Durant. Secondly is Serge Ibaka, a stretch-4 with range anywhere around the 3-point line while remaining a top rim protector and shot blocker. Finally there’s Westbrook, the best athlete in basketball.

Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Westbrook combines his unparalleled athleticism with a competitive drive like any other. He came into the league projected as an elite defender with role player potential, and would be a late bloomer. There were concerns about his midrange game, ability to create his own shot and of course that he “wasn’t a true point guard”.

In modern basketball however, what’s wrong with that? Why is there such a taboo around Westbrook not being of the pure variety? Pass first is a great mentality to have, but it shouldn’t be relevant if you can balance it with your own scoring. Westbrook has certainly done that, winning first a scoring title last season after averaging 28.1 points per game.

Doubts about his ability to create his shot are no longer valid, and he is unstoppable getting to the rim. His lightning first step simply allows him to blow by any defender. A midrange game as good as any, he’s now automatic from the elbow.

One of the main advantages of Westbrook’s ability to get to the rim is the effect it has on the opposing defense. Defenders are forced to collapse on him once he beats his direct opponent, creating instant space for the players around him. So if the defense finds a way to stop Westbrook, he’s developed the skill to make the right pass to the open player.

Players have revolutionized positions before, such as the point-forward and the current changing role of the stretch-4 and playmaking-4. So why is it so out of the question that Westbrook could be doing the same to the point guard spot?

Above all else, his incredible scoring does not mean he isn’t a willing passer. Assist totals for Westbrook have risen practically every season (his career average is 7.2) from 5.5 in the 2011-12 season to a career-high 8.6 last season. This season he currently leads the NBA with 10.9 assists per game. That sounds like a willing passer to me.

Westbrook tore apart the league in Durant’s absence last season, tallying 28.1 points,  7.3 rebounds  and 8.6 assists per game. In one particular outing against Denver, he racked up 21 points, 17 assists and 8 rebounds in 27 minutes. Here’s a few reminders of the all round brilliant of that performance.

The Thunder’s number zero is an outstanding rebounder, a strong defender when he commits himself to an assignment (an ongoing issue) and is now an elite passer. Via Kirk Goldsberry, the statistics now back up the argument that without a doubt he has joined the top bracket of passers in the league.

Despite only playing 67 games, Westbrook created the sixth-most shots for his teammates. More to the point, Westbrook was second in shot creation efficiency (55% field goal percentage via his passes). So the former UCLA man is not only an elite scorer, but an equally elite playmaker too. And just in case being the only player to average double digit assists so far this season wasn’t enough proof, there’s also this fun fact.

Oklahoma City’s most recent win over the Wizards was a perfect display of his versatility and box score dominance. Westbrook scored only 22 of the Thunder’s 125 points despite Kevin Durant sitting the entire second half, and finished with a triple double thanks to 11 rebounds and 11 assists. In only 28 minutes for the record. It’s his own unique style of dominance.

Behind the 8-0 Warriors, the Thunder rank second in offensive efficiency this season with a 108.9 rating despite their 5-3 record. Westbrook runs that offense (that rating jumps to 115 with him on the court), yet people said he wasn’t an efficient player who couldn’t run one with the best.

Live Feed

NBA point guard tier list: Where does Darius Garland rank?
NBA point guard tier list: Where does Darius Garland rank? /


  • Ex-Blazers No. 1 pick makes bold claim about Scoot Henderson's futureRip City Project
  • Mavericks star Kyrie Irving spotted in viral workout video with former NBA MVPThe Smoking Cuban
  • Houston Rockets franchise-altering move considered one of worst trades in last 5 yearsSpace City Scoop
  • 9 stars who played for the Washington Wizards after their primeWiz of Awes
  • Clippers projected lineup and rotations heading into 2023-24 seasonFanSided
  • Yes, he’s not Chris Paul. But the last time they met in a playoff series in 2014? The Thunder prevailed 4-2 and Westbrook dominated Paul. He led the NBA in triple doubles in the entire playoffs that year, and again last season with 11.

    His player efficiency rating this season stands at 30.10, his assist percentage is higher than Steph Curry’s at 27.7%. When you consider he’s averaging 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds (2.3 offensive), 10.9 assists and 2.1 steals per game, the question must be asked – what more can he do to convince people?

    The reality is that he doesn’t have to do anything. He is an utterly dominant force bordering on unstoppable. His team rates +27.3 better off with him on the court. He might not be what some purists are looking for but it doesn’t matter, he’s the prototypical modern point guard kids will be molding themselves on for years to come.

    Instead of tearing him down by making comparisons to the past, it’s time to appreciate his greatness and recognize that Russell Westbrook is the future.