Over the course of Westbrook’s career, he has made it to the Finals one time, in 2012 against the LeBron James led Miami Heat. Despite the Thunder being a perennial playoff team, Russell Westbrook still has not won a championship.
For the last three seasons that has been three straight first-round exits.
The Thunder front office needs to take a look at how a team with some high profile names is continually seeing early exits.
Westbrook, while not old, is getting up there. At 30 years old and in his 11th professional season Father Time is just around the corner.
The way Westbrook plays is not sustainable at his age. He is running out of time to take his team to the Finals again. Over the past several years there has been a noticeable drop in Westbrook’s level of play, his efficiency, and ability to close out playoff games.
Looking throughout his career there is a noticeable decline in how Westbrook has been playing.
One of the things Westbrook is most well known for is playing his “hero ball” where he takes a high number of shots in an attempt to take over the game. This style of play has been successful for him in the past but recently Westbrook has been slowing down.
Looking back to the ’15-’16 Westbrook played in 80 games. In this season his effective field goal percent was 48.9%. Moving ahead to now, Westbrook played in 73 games and had an effective field goal percentage of 46.8% while taking two more shots a game.
This may not seem like a huge deal but in the span of just three years. But Westbrook is arguably still in his prime. Seeing a drop off like this should be concerning to the front office. If he is going to continue to try and play his hero ball his shot selection is going to have to undergo a change.
If his efficiency is going to continue on this slight decline the front office needs to be preparing for what to do next. At the end of his supermax contract, Westbrook will be 33 years old and on the downward swing of his career.
Westbrook plays with reckless abandon. He’s like a bomb that’s always on the verge of exploding. Some nights it is a truly incredible experience. Other nights it costs his team a game.
This is not a way to win a championship. In the regular season, it works well. With a higher number of games and less pressure game in and game out Westbrook can thrive. Taking a high amount of shots and being a leader
for each game is a big reason that the Thunder are so successful in the regular season.
But when it comes to the playoffs this is simply not a way to win a championship. This season in particular fans are seeing the importance of team focused basketball. Westbrook is focused more on how he can take over the game than how his teammates could help him win. This has been changing recently as we can see other teams crowding the pain and preventing Westbrook from driving in easily. This has forced him to either take a 3 or pass the ball out and reset the play.
This style of play though is only sustainable for so long and, as we have seen, will only take a team so far.
Westbrook has an attitude unlike anyone else. He plays and acts like he’s always trying to prove something to everyone. In reality, it’s hard to dispute how successful he has been. In fact, it’s impossible to deny his success. But this attitude also has been a part of his failures to change and adapt as a player. Westbrook has essentially refused to change his style of play over the course of his career.
These points all bring light to the hard truth. A Russell Westbrook championship may never be seen if he refuses to change how he plays and the Thunder are going to have to move forward with this in mind.