In a recent post by ITALKSPORTSANDTHATSIT, James talks about how Westbrook is the most overrated player in the NBA. He goes on to state how despite filling up a stat sheet, his play and personality are less than ideal. While that may seem harsh, and I love the Thunder and Westbrook, I am not only inclined to agree, but have even more gripes than James.
Entering college, he was only recruited by one school: UCLA and even then, he had to prove himself. As a result of being doubted and his close friend passing away, who also played basketball and was even better than Westbrook, entering the league, he had a large chip on his shoulder.
Despite this though, really ask yourself: how has he improved throughout his 11 years in the league? Coming in, here’s what some scouts had to say:
- Offense mainly comes in transition
- Limited ball handling skills
- Doesn’t play well in half court sets but moves off ball to try and get open
- Extremely athletic and explosive; hard to keep out of the lane
- Not a good enough shooter, playmaker or shot creator at PG position
- High basketball IQ
- Decent court vision
- Inconsistent offensively
- Excellent defensively; extremely strong, lengthy and has fast lateral movement
Let’s examine how these claims stack up now
Does his game still mainly come in transition? Somewhat, but he is now capable of scoring on drives or post-ups in half court sets.
Has his ball handling improved? Yes, but seemingly not by much. He rarely ever attempts to break down defenses with his ball handling, more so speed and strength.
Has he gotten better at playing in half court sets (i.e. moving off ball, scoring, etc.)? Yes and no. He’s strong enough to force the issue and overpower most guards in the paint and post, but his FG% is subpar and he rarely ever attempts to cut and get open off ball or set up others off ball.
Has he gotten better at forcing the issue with his drives? Yes. He’s stronger, faster and more athletic than most guards in the league. This forces teams to send help on his drives or pack the paint to try and keep him out of the paint.
Has he gotten better as a shooter, playmaker and/or shot creator? Shooter, no. He shot roughly 35% from 3 in college on limited attempts and after 11 years in the NBA, averages 30.8%. His field goal percentage is career FG% is also 43.4%, slightly higher than what it was during the 2018-2019 regular season at 42.8%. For a superstar in his prime, the numbers tell a different story.
Playmaker and shot creator, yes and somewhat. He’s able to set up his teammates much more effectively since his drives command so much respect. He also led the league this year in assists and has over over 10 per game the last three years. His drives and post up game make him a better shot creator, but because he’s so inefficient, this is negligible.
Has his basketball IQ or decision making developed beyond what it was coming into the NBA? No, and comparing it to what the scouting report said at the time, it’s gotten worse, way worse. KD left for a reason. I will say though, in terms of rebounding it definitely has, but not enough to outweigh the decision to launch a 3 from 3-4 feet behind the three point line with more than 8 seconds left on the shot clock after missing consecutive baskets when he isn’t a good shooter.
Has his court vision improved? Yes, but he’s also susceptible to turnovers because he tries to force difficult passes often.
Has he become more consistent on the offensive end? No, as evidenced by his poor shooting from the field.
Has he gotten better on defense? I’m not even sure he knows what that is. When he wants to defend he can be great. He has become the best rebounding guard though, which is a plus.
TLDR; Overall, no, he hasn’t made significant strides to shore up many of the holes in his game that scouts saw. In fact, as this season has shown us, some areas he’s traditionally excelled at such as finishing at the rim and free throws are on the decline.
And this is what’s frustrating about him: he has the talent and work ethic and had the time – 11 years – to improve his game and the only thing he has to show for it is better court vision and exceptional rebounding ability.
Take a player like Steph for instance. Coming in 10 years ago, he was pretty much just known as a good shooter. Now though, he’s not only considered the best shooter of all time, but one of the best ball handlers, finishers, passers and off ball players in the league. While his defense is still suspect, what he lacks on that end is more than made up for with what he brings offensively.
That being said, if the Thunder and Westbrook are going to continue playing this bad, I hope they get swept because the fans deserve better than this.