Russell Westbrook – from MVP to critics punchline, Thunder guard gets no respect

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 27: Russell Westbrook
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 27: Russell Westbrook /
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OKC Thunder
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – APRIL 27: Paul George #13, Carmelo Anthony #7, and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Utah Jazz during the 2018 NBA Playoffs on April 27, 2018 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder 2017-18 Struggle:

Admittedly, the experiment with George and Anthony didn’t work, at least not this year. The group faced adversity from the beginning and couldn’t seem to shake it throughout the season. Sure, it’s fair to attribute a lot of the blame to Westbrook, but don’t forget it was a team effort. Billy Donovan clearly had his struggles with the lineup, George had his moments and Melo had the most difficult adjustment period out of the three of them. If all of that wasn’t enough, the Thunder were dead last in bench points.

The struggle was real this season and Westbrook shouldn’t be excluded from the blame. But, neither should the rest of the roster. It’s for that reason I don’t mind when analysts like McIntyre put Westbrook behind some other talented players in the league. What bothers me is when they criticize him for being a ball hog and padding stats.

Russell Westbrook isn’t out there to pad stats, he’s out there to compete. It’s that intensity he brings which separates him from the rest. When the ball bounces off the rim, it’s his. Even if the opposing team got back on defense after a miss, Westbrook rises high for the rebound. He’s also the primary ball handler as the point guard, making his assist totals high. And above all, he’s a rim attacker. Those three things add up to triple-doubles, but they also add up to negatives like turnovers and poor shot selection.

If he was truly worried about padding stats, he would eventually turn the motor off to avoid further damage. But that’s not Westbrook. And if he’s a ball hog, how did PG13 explode for 36 in the game one win over Utah? In fact, George averaged less than two points this season than he did last year as the focal point of Indiana’s offense.

Haters gonna hate:

More from Thunderous Intentions

Do the haters have the right to make some negative claims towards Russell Westbrook? Yes. He had his struggles like the rest of the team this season. His inability to shoot, his questionable decisions and the bad loss to Utah in round one should all count against his record. But, when they begin making the claim he’s a bad teammate or he pads stats, they cross the line. My response to those arguments is to watch what happened when he wasn’t on the floor.Russell Westbrook

Did the offense run smoothly? Were the players relieved when the “ball hog” wasn’t on the floor? Would the Thunder have been able to finish the Warriors last season when they held a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals? No, no and no.

Russell Westbrook is the engine which drives the team. And it’s not as if Presti can cut ties with Westbrook and find another elite player. Even if he did find another superstar, whoever it might be would have their own unique flaws.

Critics relish stating OKC will never win with Westbrook on the team. But you know who also hasn’t won lately with Westbrook not on their team? Every player not teammates with LeBron James or with the super team in Oakland.

Next: Twice in a lifetime - the triple-double MVP

Russell Westbrook has taken a lot of heat lately, and rightfully so in some cases. Just don’t forget his MVP qualities.