There are many reasons why the OKC Thunder were able to dispatch the Lakers in the second round with relative ease. They are younger and more athletic. They also have better shooters and more depth. Those are all fine reasons, but that is ignoring the most important reason -- Russell Westbrook.
With his play in this post season he is making a strong case at being the best point guard in the entire NBA. In the series against the Lakers, Westbrook played like one of the five best players in the league. In fact, without his play, the Thunder are still playing the Lakers to advance. Westbrook was the catalyst for the comeback in game four and helped bury the Lakers in the close out game five.
Chris Paul is the gold standard for NBA point guards, but the torch has been passed to a new type of point guard. CP3 is an old school, pure point guard in every sense of the phrase. He is the personification of a floor general. But if there is one thing that Derrick Rose taught us it is that the position has evolved to one of freak athletes, ones that are playing and dominating this position.
Russell Westbrook is not only a member of this club but he is the de facto example. I would take Russell Westbrook as my starting point guard over Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Mike Conley Jr., and Deron Williams and I wouldn't even think twice about it. It is time for everyone to drop preconceived notions about Westbrook and learn to embrace the rare and special talent that he is.
It is amazing what a year makes. At this point last year everyone was jumping on the Westbrook shoots too much bandwagon. He was the scapegoat for every Thunder loss, and could do nothing right. Last season in the playoffs Westbrook averaged 19.4 FGA and 22.9 PPG. This post season he is at 19.6 FGA per 36. That is why the Westbrook needs to shoot less debate never held any merit with me. It is a myth, much like Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster or Kim Kardashian having any talent at all. That is who Westbrook is and that is what makes this Thunder team as dynamic as they are.
In the 2012 playoffs with eight less games, Westbrook's numbers are all down with the exception of points, steals, and most importantly he has cut down his turnovers from 4.4 per 36 to a whopping 1.6 per 36. Remember that Westbrook has only been playing the point guard position for four years. Yes, four years! And he learned to play the position at the highest level. That is why it is so baffling to me that Westbrook got slapped with this selfish and destructive label. How did this happen? Why did it happen?
This past off-season Russell Westbrook was seen as the road block for the Thunder's journey to title town instead of the highway leading to it. The story line surrounding the Thunder became when are they going to unload Westbrook and get a point guard who would always defer to Kevin Durant. Thankfully for people like me who enjoy watching awesome basketball, this scenario was never close to happening.
A lot of the blame placed on Westbrook for last season's playoff exit is greatly misplaced. The Thunder lost to the Mavericks last season because they were not as good as the Mavs. Plain and simple. But people need that one singular reason or person to blame for said losses and Westbrook fit the mold.
It is easy to blame Westbrook. He is a very emotional player who loses his cool on the court from time to time. That emotion has bled over to the sidelines and resulted in dust ups with the face of the franchise Durant, Kevin. Westbrook does not do himself any favors here either. He can be stand offish and curt with the media. Learning how to play the game would do wonders for his public image.
I posed the questions earlier on why is it so easy for people to pile on Westbrook and that is why. People are petty. NBA reporters are no different. I have been around Westbrook for a very short amount of time and was able to ask him some questions and I can see how he got that reputation. He is not a bad guy or a jerk or anything like that, but you could tell that he's still a novice when it comes to media relations. If Westbrook continues to do interviews like he did on TNT after the series win vs. Lakers, then those voices against the point guard will eventually be silenced.
The craziest part of Westbrook's playoff run is that we have not even witnessed Westbrook's ceiling. I will admit that I was perplexed when the Thunder drafted a defense first shooting guard with the fourth overall selection. I scratched my head even more when the front office announced they drafted said player to play point guard. As someone who follows and covers the NBA, there are moments where you look really smart. The Russell Westbrook draft pick is an example of the opposite for me.
There is certain information that you can only ascertain by talking with someone. Russell Westbrook is a winner. All he wants to do is win games and titles. The Thunder were able to identify this trait in a 20-year-old kid and knew how important it is for a point guard to have that mindset. From the outside, the Westbrook draft pick was a risk but like the Thunder have done many times, they are ones reaping the spoils.
It is fitting that Westbrook wore those big, fake plastic glasses sans lenses in the post-game media sessions. Watching his play this post season is akin to another man who dons fakes glasses to blend in with the mortals of this planet. Superman dresses like a buttoned up, awkward nerd because that is what his imagine of humans. But he is really an alien from another planet who can do extraordinary things to benefit those around him. I am not saying that Westbrook is Superman, but I heard he does have a pretty sweet fortress of solitude.