Over the summer, the Houston Rockets pulled off a big trade. The Rockets traded point guard Chris Paul to the Thunder in exchange for guard Russell Westbrook.
A New Journey
The Rockets will look a bit different next season as Westbrook joins his former Oklahoma City teammate James Harden. The Thunder traded Harden in 2012, and he has played for the Rockets ever since. On the other hand, Westbrook remained with the Thunder for 11 seasons. So, for the first time in his career, Westbrook will play for a new team.
In the past few seasons, Westbrook started and maintained an impressive streak in averaging triple-doubles. The streak started in 2016-17 and led to him winning the MVP that year.
That year, Westbrook averaged 31.6 points (a career-high), 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. He also broke Oscar Robertson’s record of most triple-doubles in a season. Westbrook won MVP and started a streak of triple-double seasons.
The Streak Continues
The following year, Westbrook averaged 25.4 points, 10.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds. This year, he averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists. His averages in assists and rebounds were career-highs. Westbrook had 34 triple-doubles, which made him third in most triple-doubles in a season (behind Oscar Robertson and himself in 2016-17).
Westbrook averaged a triple-double this year, but his shooting percentages dropped. He shot 42.8 percent from the field, 29 percent from deep and 65.6 percent from the free-throw line. His percentages dropped from 2017-18, where he shot 44.9 percent from the field, 29.8 percent from deep and 73.7 percent from the free-throw line. So, some of his percentages dropped significantly.
Despite a new team and a decline in his shooting percentages, can Westbrook average another triple-double? Or, will his streak come to an end?
In his last two seasons, Westbrook kept his streak alive. He did so despite the Thunder acquiring Paul George in 2017. The Thunder traded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in exchange for George. They acquired him to pair alongside Westbrook in hopes of becoming a contender. This year, George averaged 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals (all career-highs) and was named a finalist for MVP. Then, the Thunder traded George to the Clippers.
Westbrook averaged a triple-double despite taking a backseat in the scoring department to George. Now, he joins another star in James Harden.
Can Harden and Westbrook Coincide?
Last season, Harden averaged a career-high 36.1 points, 7.5 assists and 6.6 rebounds. He also had seven triple-doubles, including a 50-point triple-double against the Lakers in December. Harden had 50 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. He also had another triple-double shortly after when he had 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies. Harden had three triple-double in December, and two of them were over 40 points. He had a 43-point triple-double at the end of the month.
Harden is a skilled offensive player that is effective with the ball in his hands. He is a remarkable scorer and can get his teammates involved (as his triple-doubles show). If the Rockets want the best of Harden, he needs the ball in his hands. But, Westbrook typically has the ball. He shot 31.9 percent from deep in catch-and-shoot situations. Harden, on the other hand, shot 41.4 percent. With this in mind, Westbrook may be better off with the ball in his hands.
During Westbrook’s introductory press conference, he addressed the situation. He said that he and Harden have a common goal (winning a championship) and he is ready to do what it takes to win. He said that he does not have to have the ball in his hands to be effective.
“I can play off the ball. I don’t have to touch the ball to impact the game,” Westbrook said, “That’s the best way for me to come in and impact this team.”
Can the Streak Continue?
A duo of Westbrook and Harden sounds exciting but is an adjustment for both players. If Westbrook does play off the ball, his triple-double streak will likely come to an end. While the streak is impressive, it is time to consider the team. If Westbrook streak does end, it was definitely fun while it lasted.
Featured image courtesy of USA Today Sports