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PLAYER PREVIEW #1: RUSSELL WESTBROOK
Certainly one of the most surprising drafts of 2008. The sophomore played only 9 minutes a game as a freshman but saw his minutes dramatically increase in his second season at UCLA to 33.8 MPG. Sam Presti was clearly hot on him well before the draft occurred and appeared poised to make some last minute moves for a lower draft pick in order to draft Westbrook at a more appropriate selection. None of the discussions or last minute wheeling and dealing materialized so Westbrook was taken at the 4. The Supersonics (now Thunder) GM was put under much scrutiny on the National level due to his selection. Some even castrated the selection as "the worst pick in the draft" due to its' height in the draft. Most of the heat came because of the obvious pass over of Jarred ******* who slipped all the way to #11.
The question marks on Presti's selection lightened after a strong performance by Westbrook in the Orlando Summer League. Put back dunks, strong defensive play, and intelligent decision making excited the fans and media in Oklahoma who saw the first pieces of their team materialize as the team trotted out in generic "Oklahoma City Basketball" jerseys. The only cause for concern visible in Westbrook's summer league performance was his tendency to over dribble which could have been largely due to the lack of talent his surrounding team possessed.
Things seemed good in 'thunder land' until Jarred ******* stepped on the court in the Vegas Summer League. Out shining Westbrook's performance on nearly all accounts, scoring record numbers and winning the L's MVP. In the end the heat surrounding the selection died down when everyone realized it was Summer League action and Nate Robinson was the reigning MVP (who's Jersey was crudely stapled to the wall in honor of his accomplishments ).
STRENGTHS: Westbrook is an Athlete, which will be good for the Thunder since their most athletically gifted player (Mason) is on the downside of his career. His first step will burn you, and his wingspan and hand size is impressive considering his 6'3" frame. He can defend (with excellence) both the 1 and 2 positions which is the predominant reason he was drafted. Most excitingly too me is his upside, willingness to be a team/role player, and big game energy.
WEAKNESSES: Mainly all of the question marks. Is he a true point guard? When (not if) he's played at the 2 alongside Earl at the point, will he be big enough to play against the regular SG's in the L? Are his ball-handling skills anywhere near where they need to be to compete well with other PG's? Is he going to develop into a starter? Will the fans/media/management give him the time needed to develop into the starter we need? Will his awful shooting mechanics affect his ability to remain competitive? Can he run an offense in the halfcourt when he so clearly seems to prefer a hi-tempo game?
In the end Westbrook's first 2 years in the league will be judged on three accounts: First his ability to run an offense efficiently enough to make OKC fans momentarily forget about the joy that was watching CP3 as a youngster, second to play on a consistently higher level than Jarred *******, and third whether or not he gets the appropriate playing time behind Earl Watson (particularly in his Rookie year). All three are possible but not easy. Thankfully Durant will take the majority of fan and press scrutiny meaning Westbrook won't have to live up to Paul like standards (which are ridiculously hi in the first place). As long as the offense remains efficient with few mistakes he'll be able to avoid trade talks and criticism (for the most part). The Portland Trailblazers are deep at their guard positions, so ******* likely won't get enough playing time in his rookie year to prove how good he is. So the big question will be playing time. Will PJ find that clean balance of giving a rookie PG room to develop without expecting too much from him by throwing him to the wolves.
Obviously, as much of the burden for success will lie publicly with Durant, privately our future is largely in the hands of Russell Westbrook. His ability to develop into a floor general may determine our competitiveness over the next 10 years.
Did you write this? It's good.
I wouldn't want ******* if he fell all the way to #24. He dominates the ball like Marbury and Iverson and you can't win with a ball stoppers like that. Westbrook dominates the ball to much also but I think he has the ability to become a real PG. Westbrooks defense is outstanding and that's all that really matters.
If ******* some day ends up being a 20 PPG scorer and Westbrook only ends up averaging 10 PPG and 8 APG I'll still take Westbrook any day of the week because of his D.
Last edited by Trueblood; 09-20-2008 at 04:11 PM.
Reason: Accidentally wrote Bayless twice instead of Westbrook the 2nd time
We're on the exact same page here. More of that SA spurs strategy coming into play. Great analysis btw. I'm going to trust Presti until he gives me reason not too. It's hard to predict how Westbrook is going to work out, but I can see him fitting into the scheme pretty well. Sometimes attitude and intelligence outweigh pure talent, and this might be the case here.
Originally Posted by okcnba
I think Westbrook will surprise alot of people
Yeah, I wrote it and thank you! I agree that he seems to dominate the ball like a Marbury or Iverson, but that may not be the case on an NBA level. I didn't get a good chance to watch him in college, most of what I've seen of ******* came from the Vegas league, and most of his ball domination likely came as a result of being the best player on the court, i.e. The level of competition and the level of his team mates was poor. I don't think he'll dominate the ball during a regular season game the way we saw him dominate it immediately after the draft. What we saw is he's a lights out shooter who is a great catch and shoot player. Part of me would have loved to have seen him playing the 2 next to Durant. Who would you cover? Pick your poison! I do agree that if Westbrook becomes a near double double guy than he was likely the better choice.
Originally Posted by Starksfan311
I agree with the Presti quote, though I would have loved to have seen Durant play one season with Allen and Lewis, though we likely wouldn't have a team in Oklahoma if that had have happened. His attitude and intelligence seems to be hi, but don't overlook his talent, the kid is an athletic freak, he's just overshadowed from being in the same draft as OJ, Beasley, and Rose.
Originally Posted by Fast | Break
How so? I think people are expecting him to be very good. Expectations seem to be pretty hi due to the unfair expectations alot of Oklahomanites have due to being wooed by Chris Paul. If he has a 8-10, 4, and 1.5 season (PPG, AST, STL) alot of people will be disappointed when in all honesty, that won't be so bad considering he'll be a back up for the first half of the season. All things to think about.
Originally Posted by ghostman007
GREAT stuff, OKCNBA! I can't wait to read your reports on the rest of the team. Who's up next?
Thanks Jimmy. I plan on doing about 8-9 players in total (all of the guys that will see significant minutes this season). My next one will be between two players that hold a significant place in my heart: Earl Watson, Or Jeff Green!
Originally Posted by Jimmy Early
Excellent. This was a great read. I'll look forward to the others.
Originally Posted by okcnba
I find it unimaginable that the #4 pick overall on the next to worst team will not be a starter. If he doesn't start, I think it's a bust of a pick and Presti should be lit up.
Originally Posted by Dr Kupferberg
This was one of the worst drafts is several years, probably the worst draft since 2000. Most of the players in this draft will be busts. This was a draft full of role players and 1/4th or more of the players drafted will be out of the league in 3 years.
Westbrook will not be one of those busts he's a future all-nba defensive 1st team player. Presti knows what he is doing.
Watson is fine starting for now. We need him getting minutes to be showcased for a future trade anyway.
Riveting stuff. One thing people aren't talking about is Westbrook's determination. Everyone was ripping the pick saying he was drafted too high. So what does he do in summer league? Impress the hell out of everyone and have people saying that he may be a great pickup and one of the best rookies in the league. Having a guy like Westbrook, combined with a guy like Durant (who is a silent assassin when it comes to crunch time) will make this team hard to beat in the 4th quarter once they get some experience under their belt. Believe me, Westbrook will carry all that criticism in his head when the regular season starts. Mark my word.
I think most PGs take a couple of years to develop, and this is definately a pick for the future.
Originally Posted by okcnba
I wasn't thrilled with the selection at first, but then I slowed down and thought about it. This team needs a defensive stopper, and Westbrook has proven he can fill that roll. With time and the right attitude, anyone can develop into a good point guard b/c IMO PG is less about skills and more about being a leader and getting joy out of your teammates succeeding. Obviously to be great you have to have PG instincts, and that is one thing we don't know about Westbrook right now. But he has a good "foundation", so for now, I'll just trust the coaches.
Nice job, okcnba.....and some good comments all around.
I really like the fact that Presti had the stones to pull the trigger on both Westbrook and Green in the face of criticism.
If he's right on both, he's more valuable than either one.
Thanks ThunderCover. I agree the comments have been very good. Isn't it nice to talk about our players, team, and actual basketball. I for one have grown a touch tired of hearing about the logo and ticket prices! I'll be posting my review of Jeff Green sometime before Thursday evening. Hopefully tomorrow but I may be swamped at work.
Originally Posted by ThunderCover
Here's a comment from Darnell in the DOK today:
Top five picks like Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook enter the league to much fanfare and lofty expectations. As the surprise pick in this year's draft, however, Westbrook won't have the same hype as Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love. But the recent history of rookie point guards suggests Thunder fans should also have tempered expectations for this year's No. 4 overall pick.
In the last 10 NBA seasons, only five rookie point guards have averaged at least 12 points and six assists: Chris Paul in 2005-06, Kirk Hinrich in 2003-04, Steve Francis in 1999-00 and Mike Bibby and Jason Williams in 1998-99. Not Baron Davis. Not Gilbert Arenas. Not Deron Williams. Not Tony Parker.
"It's going to be very challenging for Russell,” said Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo. "But he showed already in Orlando and at UCLA what he's capable of.” Paul, Hinrich, Francis, Bibby and Williams were given free reign to make mistakes as rookies. All four held the starting job from Day 1 and averaged at least 35 minutes.
With seven-year veteran and last year's starter Earl Watson returning, it's doubtful Westbrook will receive enough minutes to reach such statistical production. Watson, in a career year, averaged 10.7 points and 6.8 assists last season, proving how difficult it will be for Westbrook to produce overly impressive stats.
And with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green as the focal points of the offense, Westbrook must also learn to find his own opportunities while effectively getting Durant and Green enough touches.........