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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Russell Westbrook Joins Wilt Chamberlain in the 20-20-20 Club

Russell Westbrook is on the verge of clinching his third straight season of averaging a triple double--an unprecedented feat that is, inexplicably, largely being ignored--and he is doing so with style: during Oklahoma City's 119-103 win over the L.A. Lakers on Tuesday night, Westbrook posted 20 points, 20 rebounds and 21 assists, just the second 20-20-20 game in pro basketball history. As you probably would guess if you did not know, Wilt Chamberlain was the first player to accomplish this, with 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists in Philadelphia's 131-121 win over Detroit on February 2, 1968.

After Westbrook's jaw-dropping performance, Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas--serving as a TNT commentator during the "Players Only" telecast--said that in an era of great point guards Westbrook is not mentioned enough. Thomas also declared that Westbrook is the "most dominant" point guard of this era. That is true. No other point guard is equally dominant as a scorer, rebounder and passer the way that Westbrook is. Westbrook can match anyone in the league bucket for bucket as a scorer, he rebounds better than most centers and he has become the league's best playmaker, defying the critics who used to say that Westbrook was a shooting guard masquerading as a point guard.

The best thing about Westbrook, though, is the thing that we should be able to take for granted about pro athletes but is in fact an increasingly rare quality: Westbrook plays hard, all the time. He would agree with Jeff Van Gundy's oft-repeated statement that the idea of "load management" is a load of something else.

Westbrook does not always shoot well (he shot 8-23 from the field versus the Lakers) and he gets too many technical fouls but no matter the circumstance he competes hard. Some of the perimeter players who are putting up gaudy numbers now would not fare so well in earlier eras, but Westbrook is a throwback; he would have fared well in Chamberlain's prime during the 1960s, and during the 1970s, and during the 1980s, and during the 1990s.

This is Westbrook's eighth 15-15-15 game, tying him with Chamberlain for second on the all-time career list; Oscar Robertson--who, before Westbrook made the triple double season an annual occurrence, was for decades the only player to ever average a triple double for a season--holds the career record with 14 such games.

Speaking of 15-15-15 games and underrated/unappreciated players, Westbrook's feat brings to mind one of the most remarkable--and probably least known--playoff stat lines: Rookie Julius Erving tallied 26 points, 20 rebounds and 15 assists as his Virginia Squires defeated the New York Nets 138-91 in game one of the 1972 ABA Eastern Division Finals. Let that marinate for a moment: Erving was a rookie when he posted those numbers in the Eastern Division Finals, while playing for the opportunity to advance to the ABA Finals (Erving's Squires lost that series but he later led the Nets to championships in 1974 and 1976). If a player put up those numbers in the Conference Finals today, the internet might implode--unless Westbrook does it, in which case it will be either dismissed or just ignored.

I understand--but don't accept--that media coverage of basketball is largely driven now by hype and memes and highlights and tweets, but how many NBA players are actually better at playing basketball--at scoring, rebounding and passing--than Russell Westbrook?

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:35 AM



At Thursday, April 04, 2019 1:36:00 AM, Anonymous Eric said...

Westbrook gets too much disrespect. How is a man who is about to get his third straight season of averaging a triple double most likely NOT going to be a 1st team All-NBA selection? It's a travesty he wasn't selected last year when Lillard and Harden got the nods over him.

It boggles my mind how the media has given Harden 4 first team All-NBA selections compared to Westbrook's 2 selections.

I would in a heartbeat take Russell over Harden because I know he'll give it his all.

At Thursday, April 04, 2019 2:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How is a man who is about to get his third straight season of averaging a triple double most likely NOT going to be a 1st team All-NBA selection?"

An argument can be made that stats are devalued these days due to the rule changes and the increased pace.

But then Harden's 36 PPG average is devalued too, and in fact to a much greater extent than Westbrook's triple doubles, because the rule changes have primarily boosted star players' scoring, not necessarily rebounding and assists.

At Thursday, April 04, 2019 4:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric, because there's at least 2 guards playing better than him this year, simple as that. Just a tough era for guards. RW has great numbers, but so do several other guards. And when you can't get go further than the 1st round of the playoffs as the main guy for several years now despite having a more than adequate cast to do so at least 1-2x if truly a top 5 player along with your team continuing to underachieve in the regular season and still not reaching 50 wins without KD, it's going to be hard to make 1st team all-nba if there's other good choices.

I don't think I'd take Lillard over RW, but Lillard's teams have performed better in the regular season and playoffs than RW's teams, relative to each as the #1 guy on their teams. And RW's casts have been better most of the time. It may have been wrong to put Lillard ahead of RW last year, but hardly a tragedy. Both guys along with Harden were top 5 in MVP voting, someone's getting left out.

And let's not forget RW winning MVP in 2017. His team only won 47 games. I can't think of another MVP winner in recent memory whose team won such few games. That's hardly being disrespectful.

At Friday, April 05, 2019 12:10:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with you about Westbrook versus Harden and Lillard.

At Friday, April 05, 2019 12:36:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not sure what you mean about statistics being "devalued" or which statistics you think have been "devalued" but NBA pace has varied over the years and no one ever has come close to accomplishing what Westbrook is doing (other than Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple double during one season in the midst of a five year span during which he averaged an aggregate triple double).

Harden's numbers are tremendously inflated by (1) rules changes, (2) lack of enforcement even of the rules as they are written and (3) the free license that he is given to blatantly travel during his signature so-called stepback move (which is actually a two, three or four step move). From a skill set standpoint, Harden is the same player he has always been: an All-Star caliber player. However, point guards under Mike D'Antoni always have inflated numbers, and then things have just gone haywire this season after the NBA apparently decided that Harden has diplomatic immunity regarding traveling and offensive fouls.

I agree with your last point that if there is some kind of inflation or devaluation of numbers then that is much more true of Harden than Westbrook.

At Friday, April 05, 2019 12:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


It is debatable that two guards are playing better than Westbrook this season. Westbrook is leading the league in assists, rebounding like a center and ranking among the top scorers despite deferring to Paul George. At the very least, a strong argument could be made that Westbrook is one of the top two guards.

Whatever Westbrook and his teams did or did not do in other seasons does not directly relate to who the top guards/top players are this season.

Westbrook's one MVP award does not necessarily prove that he is not being disrespected now. The media tried hard to find reasons to not give him that award but Westbrook was so dominant down the stretch that he, at least temporarily, shut up his critics. This season, Westbrook's triple double numbers are not even being seriously discussed. Imagine if media darling LeBron James were averaging a triple double, or even if he just had a streak of 10 or 15 games during which he averaged a triple double. He would absolutely be in the MVP discussion under such circumstances but Westbrook is either completely ignored or else just given passing mention.

At Sunday, April 07, 2019 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

I disagree that Westbrook "plays hard all the time," at least historically. He certainly plays hard all the time on offense (or at least when he has the ball on offense, though he's become a less willing cutter as his workload has increased), but his defensive effort (or lack thereof) off-ball has long been my biggest knock on him, particularly in transition and recovery scenarios.

I'm also curious to see when the excuses run out. At a certain point, it comes down to wins and losses and so far in the post-Durant era he has not been generating wins the way an all-time great generally does. His numbers are astonishing but much like Harden's numbers I am not convinced they mean he is "better" than other players who put up more modest statistics but win more basketball games/playoff series.

I would much rather the MVP this year go to Giannis, who is not only the best player on the best team but also a more complete overall player, and one who does not benefit from an All-NBA level sidekick like Paul George, even if RWB's or Harden's numbers are bigger.

At Monday, April 08, 2019 8:37:00 AM, Blogger Tristan said...

One of the all-time legendary performances, something that vaunted trip-dub threats such as Oscar, Magic, Kidd, and LBJ never accomplished.

The Big O may have approached this feat during one of his 15-15-15 games, which is impressive enough in any era, although I would not know the exact stat line.

Dr. J’s massive triple-double in his rookie playoffs was probably the closest to Wilt’s benchmark, until Westbrook went nuclear against the Lakers. (How much more awesome, even poetic, if Lebron had played that game, and Westbrook still did the 20-20-20?)

Westbrook just matched one of the Big Dipper’s almost mythical records, and officially averaged a triple-double for THREE straight years, yet his loudest critics still dismiss / disrespect his competitive play and achievements.

Giannis and Durant are the only superstars today that are arguably better overall players than Westbrook, helped by their height advantage, and KD’s refined scoring prowess.

There have never been excuses vis-à-vis Westbrook, because he has not looked or sounded like someone who makes excuses (at least publicly) with his game, and rightfully giving him due praise for his leadership and historic productivity is not making excuses when the Thunder runs aground against a peaking / more talented team in the first round.

Personally, I hope OKC pulls off an upset (depending on their opponent) in Round 1.

At Monday, April 08, 2019 8:00:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Westbrook ranks seventh in defensive rebounding this season. He ranked fifth in 2018 and fourth in 2017. That would be impressive for a center, let alone a 6-3 guard. Defensive rebounding is about effort and toughness and tenacity, particularly for a guard wresting rebounds away from players who are much bigger and stronger.

Westbrook plays hard to a greater extent than just about any other player in the league (maybe there is some 5 mpg player out there who plays harder in his cameos but, if so, he probably would earn more time quickly).

I agree with you that Giannis should win the 2019 MVP. My point about Westbrook is that a player who averages a triple double for a season belongs on the All-NBA First Team and should be in the MVP discussion, but it does not seem that things will go that way in either regard for Westbrook this season.

At Monday, April 08, 2019 8:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Westbrook is putting up legendary numbers but he is not being depicted as a legendary player by most media outlets.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 12:33:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I agree that RWB is an engaged rebounder. I do not believe he has historically tried hard as an off-ball defender, and I believe the tape backs that up pretty emphatically.

I do not know that I agree RWB belongs on the All-NBA First Team this year, though I don't feel strongly about it in either direction. Curry should be on there and any of three or four other guards (of whom RWB is one) would not overly ruffle my feathers.

I agree that RWB's numbers are "legendary" but then so are Harden's. Both guys have entered kind of a "prove it" zone for me, where I accept that obviously they are doing impressive things statistically that basically no one has done before, but I am increasingly skeptical of how much those things ultimately matter in terms of wins and losses and especially postseason contention. I am beginning to suspect that one or both of them is, essentially, the rich man's (or even millionaire's) version of the oft-derided "Looter in a riot," amassing astonishing stats that--while of some value in amassing regular season wins-- are ultimately little more than sound and fury signifying nothing.

Either guy could make it easier on me with the right kind of playoff run. Harden not turning into a shell of himself would go a long way, as would RWB leading a deep-ish playoff run as the #1 (or at least #1b) guy. I can only give so much credit to either guy for what they accomplished alongside Durant, and their individual success since seems at odds with their team performance.

Either dude showing up defensively for the playoffs wouldn't hurt their case, either, but realistically only RWB even has a chance of that.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 11:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RW's team is underachieving again, and won't reach 50 wins despite him having a very good cast. George has been OKC's best player this season, and OKC's success is much more strongly correlated with him playing well than RW playing well.

Harden's having a much better individual season than RW and more team success, and almost single-handedly has led his team near the top of the WC despite most of his team suffering big injuries. As for the other 1st team guard spot, RW has a case, but it's hard for me to find an argument of taking him over Curry. And then you have Lillard, who's team is outperforming RW's team again, despite having a pretty ordinary cast.

RW isn't putting up empty, meaningless numbers, but just because he's averaging a triple double doesn't mean he's automatically a 1st team all-nba performer and/or in the MVP discussion. OKC should be battling for the #1 seed and 56+ wins at the very least if he truly was the MVP or at least a top 3 candidate. The same went for James in past years, too. Everyone liked to say he's the best player and MVP(hopefully not anymore), but his teams would routinely underachieve in the regular season, so I never understood this.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 11:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, interesting comment you made to Tristan since the same goes for you in how you depict Harden despite his legendary numbers. Just because you feel RW gets slighted, doesn't mean you should slight other players to balance it out. You often theorize how well another past player would do today. But, look at all the great scorers today. Harden is the only one averaging 30ppg, and he's averaging 8ppg more than the #2 guy. It's not even close, and he's doing it very efficiently. Hard for me to buy what you're saying in this regard.

Nick, Harden has actually made deep runs in the playoffs without KD, and was one win away from a probable title last year as the WCF was the de facto Finals. To get that close against the juggernaut Warriors was amazing.

And for the record, KD only made the Finals once before he joined an AS team known as GS. And the year he made the Finals with OKC, he needed 2 future MVPs along with Ibaka, etc to help him. Though as far as RW doing something in the playoffs without KD, you're right, especially since he has the cast to do so.

I don't quite understand the individual success being at odds with their team success comment. Overall, RW and Harden's teams do much better when they play well and are putting up big numbers.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 12:46:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I was not impressed with Harden's performance in that playoff run, particularly when it counted most. His scoring, efficiency, FTs, and assists all notably declined once it was "prove it" time, as they always do. He reminds me quite a bit of Karl Malone, an excellent regular season player who tended to crumple into a much less impressive performer come May and June (though of course even in May and June Malone still provided significant defensive value, which Harden does not).

My comment about team success was primarily based on their respective playoff resumes. Harden routinely turns into a shell of himself and RWB has yet to break out of the first round as the #1 guy. As noted, their statistical wizardry contributes to regular season wins (though perhaps not to the extent we might expect given the sheer cartoonishness of their numbers) but neither guys has shown me anything yet that makes me confident they could lead a team to a title.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 6:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Even if we could agree about Westbrook as an off the ball defender--and I don't think that we can--let's just stipulate for a moment that you are right. Is it your contention that a point guard who averages a triple double for three straight seasons while scoring over 20 ppg each season and while ranking as an elite defensive rebounder is not worthy of MVP consideration primarily because his off the ball defense is below average? If Westbrook is an "A" student in every class but gets a "C" in one class he is still on the Honor Roll, right?

So, if I am understanding your perspective correctly, I would disagree with you even if I agreed with you about Westbrook's off the ball defense. My opinion of Westbrook's off the ball defense is (1) it is not as bad as you suggest, (2) without knowing exactly what OKC's defensive scheme is and what leeway he is given by the coaching staff it is difficult to just go by the "eye test" here and (3) gambling that sometimes creates steals and sometimes gives up baskets is different from, say, just not trying at all (aka, Harden).

I talked extensively about "gambling" on defense with Billy Cunningham and Bobby Jones, specifically regarding Julius Erving's defense. Erving made one All-Defensive Team in the ABA but he never made it in the NBA and some media members sniped at his defense over the years. You can find the interviews on the site but the gist of what they both said is that Philly's defense gave Erving and others license to gamble at times and if a player gambled and missed then the other players knew what they were supposed to do. I have not spoken with Billy Donovan or Westbrook about this but I think that it is closer to the truth that Westbrook's off the ball defense is part of the plan than it is to say that he is a poor off the ball defender.

Can one find clips of poor off the ball defense by Westbrook? Sure. Do these clips outweigh all of the positives that Westbrook adds? No.

A "looter in a riot," as I understand Kenny Smith's usage of the phrase, refers to a player putting up numbers that look good while playing for a losing team. He said that it is easy for a guy to turn a 14 point night into a 20 point night on a bad team without affecting the outcome of the game.

This does not even vaguely resemble what Westbrook is doing. He has been an All-NBA player on four WCF teams, one of which advanced to the NBA Finals. He has carried bad rosters to the playoffs. His teams do much better when he gets a triple double than when he does not get a triple double. All of this evidence points to the conclusion that Westbrook is a great player who makes significant contributions to team success.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 6:44:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Sorry, I should have better delineated my points. My criticism of his defense was in relation to the "plays hard all the time" comment, not his MVP bonafides.

I think the most meaningful argument against his MVP case is his team's win-loss record, particularly given the presence of another All-NBA tier star. Obviously his numbers are transcendent, but I am a bit confused as to why they never seem to lead him past 50 wins. I do think that argument is a very strong one.

I would also note that while I do think RWB gambles on defense, that was not what I was talking about above, as it's not an effort issue. Not making second rotations (or recovering after helping) and not trying in transition (particularly if he's just missed a layup) are the effort lapses I'm referring to.

I referred to him and Harden as the "rich man's version" of a looter in a riot; rather than a player putting up good stats on a bad team, they are players putting up transcendent stats on mediocre teams. If I had told you ten years ago that a player would average a triple double for three seasons I'm betting you would assume his team won 50 games at least one of those seasons (particularly if you knew he had an All-NBAish running mate for two of those seasons) or made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Similarly, if I told you someone scored 36 ppg on record efficiency while contending for the league lead in assists, you would probably assume that he was much better than Harden actually seems to be.

It is true that RWB reached the Finals (and several WCFs) as a number two option, and I think he's a great #2. However, I also think he is still very much in "prove it" territory as a #1 when it comes to playoff success.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 6:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I have been thinking a lot about LeBron, Westbrook and winning. You sometimes say something to the effect of, "If I could have player A for one game I would take him but over a 10 year period I would take Player B."

If I had to pick a team to win one game with my life on the line, I am taking Westbrook over LeBron all day every day: Westbrook is going to play hard, he is not going to quit, he is not going to pout, he is going to be loyal to his teammates and he is not going to cause drama. The only problem might be that in the fourth quarter if no one else is hitting then he will step up and shoot the ball 15 times if he has to--and if he is not hot, we are going to lose (that is why my "team to fight for me with my life on the line" will also have MJ or Kobe as my fourth quarter closer, so Westbrook can keep racking up rebounds and assists if his shot is off).

LeBron is 6-8, big, strong and he has developed his midrange game tremendously since he entered the league. He has traits and skills that Westbrook does not. Over a 10 year period under most imaginable circumstances, he is probably going to win more titles than Westbrook--but, in one game, LeBron might quit, he might pout, he might have a "boo boo" on his elbow or hand or ego, while I know that Westbrook is going to play all out.

LeBron just mystifies me.

If Westbrook were 6-6 or 6-8 and had a more reliable jump shot he would, without question, be the best player in the NBA--but he is 6-3 and his jumper is not consistent, so I can't just say in every year of his prime that he is automatically the MVP (unlike how I felt about Kobe in the mid to late 2000s).

Westbrook is also a little like Pippen, a guy who plays the right way and has a team-first mindset but just does not quite have the offensive game to take over down the stretch on a nightly basis. I think that Pippen could have been the best player on a championship team but possibly not with Pete Myers or Ron Harper as the shooting guard. A five years younger Pippen could have definitely taken the 2000 Blazers to a title, even against Shaq and Kobe. The only thing that Pippen could not do was score 15 points on demand in the fourth quarter. He could give you his solid six or eight and then he needed someone else to score, too.

Westbrook is going to play hard and put up great numbers in the playoffs but OKC will need George (or someone) to score big in the fourth quarters of close games.

It should also be noted that Westbrook is not getting nearly enough credit for the reality that (1) George chose to play with him over LeBron and (2) George is having his best season ever while playing with Westbrook. Critics blame Westbrook for not bringing out the best in Oladipo--who has admitted to being out of shape and, to some extent, immature, prior to the shock of being traded--but they don't credit Westbrook for George's great play. They can't have it both ways, "blaming" Westbrook for Oladipo and then acting like George doing well has nothing to do with Westbrook's court presence, passing and leadership.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 7:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous/Anonymous (I am grouping my response to both of you in this one comment):

I don't know what your preseason predictions were, but I tapped OKC to be the fourth best team in the West. Right now, they are in sixth place--but teams 5-8 are separated by just 2.5 games, while the fourth place team is just 2 games ahead of that logjam. Considering all of the variables that happen during the season, it is quite a stretch to conclude (1) OKC has underachieved and (2) this somehow proves that Westbrook is overrated and/or not MVP caliber.

Harden's numbers are padded beyond belief because he gets away with violations and offensive fouls. Maybe you are willing to ignore the elephant in the room, but I am not. Harden is a 25-30 ppg scorer who the NBA has made into a 36 ppg scorer. Harden is also a proven playoff choker, so even if I accepted these regular season numbers as valid I would be skeptical about his ability to consistently play at a high level in the playoffs. Harden is going to have one or more 40 point playoff games but, as always, his postseason will go down in flames as he shoots 4-20 and/or coughs up 10+ turnovers.

I never denigrate any player to pump up another player. Regarding Harden, I consider him a player who is best suited to being the number two player on a championship contender. I don't believe he will ever win a title as his team's best player. He is not a great leader, he is often an indifferent defender, he is more about himself than he is about the team and he chokes in the playoffs; there is plenty of evidence to support each of those assertions, and I have provided that evidence in my various articles that discuss Harden.

This season, an additional factor has come into play regarding Harden: he is being permitted to blatantly travel during his "step back" move and he is being permitted to commit uncalled offensive fouls. Those permissions, combined with his 25-30 ppg skill set, have transformed Harden from a productive scorer to a historically great single season scorer but I question the validity of these numbers.

It will be very interesting to see how the playoffs are officiated.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 7:20:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


From a broad perspective, everyone has something to prove every day. You are either progressing or regressing; there is not really such a thing as staying put.

So, yes, unless/until Westbrook wins a title as an All-NBA player there is something missing from his resume.

However, at this point I am not as convinced as you seem to be that it is Westbrook's fault that OKC has not done better and/or that Westbrook is not capable of being the best player on a championship team.

Even a Pantheon level player (and I am not putting Westbrook in the Pantheon at this point) typically needs a certain kind of supporting cast to win a title. You would not put the same type of players around Wilt as you would around West, to cite just one comparison.

Many people say that OKC needs more "shooters." That is true to some extent but I am coming to the conclusion that what OKC and Westbrook really need is at least one player who can shoulder the offensive load at key moments when Westbrook is either not in the game or when his shot is off. I think that they also need some players who have better motors. OKC often looks lackadaisical, which is baffling considering how hard Westbrook plays. It's almost like the other players just expect him to do everything.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 7:45:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I agree with much of what you wrote, as usual. I think you perhaps mildly overstate the likelihood of Lebron pouting or quitting-- while it has happened, and those incidents are super memorable, I suspect it's happened in less than one percent of the games he's played-- but I agree with your larger point that he is mystifying.

I don't need RWB to win a title, necessarily, but I would like to see him win a few playoff series as the #1 guy. If he can do so while scoring reasonably efficiently and/or playing the good version of his defense, so much the better.

I should clarify that I am not disputing that RWB is good. That much is self-evident. It is whether or not he's as great as his box score suggests. I think we agree that Harden is not as good as his box score; I am more and more beginning to lean towards the idea that neither is RWB, but my mind is not made up.

I think the George-related stuff is a separate issue and not one I feel particularly strongly about, butI would note two things about it:

1) RWB definitely deserves some credit for figuring out how to play more cohesively with George after last year.

2) It is difficult to evaluate what percentage of George's progress should be credited to RWB vs. how much is simply a factor of health and experience; he was tabbed by many as a future perennial All-NBA type before his heinous leg injury, and has largely improved every season since with the exception of his disappointing first season in OKC.

I absolutely agree that Pippen could have been the best player on a title team. I have him as somewhere between the 13th and 19th greatest player of all time.

I think that if RWB is truly the best guard in the league, he has sufficient support to be expected to make the WCFs. If you give the league's top guard a (complimentary) Top 7 forward and an (also complimentary) Top 10 Center, I think that's a reasonable supporting crew. OKC has some other nice pieces further down the depth chart as well.

As usual, I think we are mostly arguing a question of degrees. I would not dispute that RWB is an All-NBA caliber performer, but I would argue that a 48 win season merits automatic First Team placement (particularly with George being at worst 1b to RWB's 1a), I would emphatically argue that Curry is still the league's top guard, and I remain unconvinced that RWB can be the best player on a title team.

Would you give Shaq an MVP if the Lakers won 48 games during an upper-tier Kobe season?

Yes, if RWB were 6'8 and an elite jumpshooter he'd be much better. If Damian Lillard were 6'8 and a lockdown defender he'd be better, too. They aren't, though, so we're stuck with what they are.

RWB is perhaps the hardest player in the league to evaluate, and my view of him fluctuates from season to season. His numbers are undeniable. His net impact is much harder to pin down. A deep and dominant playoff run would remove at least one of the question marks.

At Tuesday, April 09, 2019 7:48:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I would also add that I would stop shy of saying it is Westbrook's "fault" that OKC isn't better. I simply feel that a "true" MVP level player with the quality of his support would be expected to win something around 55-60 games. There are only a maybe five or six of those guys in the league (and two of them in Golden State) but the evidence so far makes it difficult for me to conclude that RWB is as good as they are.

If he were better at the things he's bad at it, it would help his team, but the same is true of literally every player in every sport.

At Wednesday, April 10, 2019 10:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I disagree that OKC as currently constituted should be a 55-60 win team. I expected OKC to be the fourth best team in the West, which would have required 52 wins this season, and OKC fell three wins short of that.

At Thursday, April 11, 2019 12:09:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I agree that 47-52 wins is about right for this team as-is.

But I think that if RWB were the Top 3-5 player his numbers and boosters suggest, that would be a reasonable expectation.

Therein lies our disagreement.

At Thursday, April 11, 2019 12:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I think we will just have to agree to disagree, until there is enough evidence one way or the other to move one of us off of our respective positions.


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