Comparing Russell Westbrook small ball success vs OKC Thunder system

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OKC Thunder

Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Rockets shift to embrace small ball is allowing Russell Westbrook to play to his full potential. T.I. examines this system versus his OKC Thunder production.

When Russell Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets this past offseason it took a minute to process. After all, this was the one player synonymous with the OKC Thunder franchise and identity. Prior to the trade, there were those who thought Westbrook would defy the odds and be a lifer in OKC.

That wasn’t always the case as many earmarked chosen son Kevin Durant to fill those shoes. But, his departure in the summer of 2016 was also the catalyst for Westbrook to vault into that role. In one fell swoop, Westbrook became the chosen one while simultaneously easing the pain of Durant’s defection to the team OKC had on the ropes 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals the season prior.

The point guard signed an extension and then a long term max contract appearing poised to become the Reggie Miller or Dirk Nowitzki version of Thunder lore.

Of course that all changed this offseason stemming from the Paul George trade request. It simply made no sense to continue with the current path. Westbrook had tried his best to push OKC back to the upper echelon but even with an inspired MVP campaign and two seasons of George the team hadn’t got out of the first round in three seasons.

For all the things there are to love about the Brodie (and there are many) the truth was the identity and system of the Thunder was never truly suited to his best attributes.

Rather, what he’s currently experiencing with his new team is a style seemingly tailor-made to best display his prowess. Whether the Rockets have gone in too deep with their all-out commitment to small ball won’t be known until we witness a postseason run. Only then will the Rockets know if they went in too hard on small-ball and require tweaks to capitalize on James Harden and Westbrook’s talents while also winning at the highest level.

Thunderous Intentions decided to compare Westbrook’s season to date versus his previous Thunder campaigns. Will the data confirm the point guard is excelling in this new role and that the Rockets’ system is truly bringing out the best in the superstar?  Let’s find out.

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