By Chris Horton @HortonBBallSite
A closer look into the numbers behind the Russell Westbrook & Oscar Robertson comparison.
Russell Westbrook is the best player in the NBA right now. People may say that’s awfully disrespectful to LeBron, Kid Curry, The Brow, and The Beard, but the stats are inarguable and actually watching Russ is even more awe inspiring. Westbrook is more combo guard than pure point, more superhero than sidekick, more Monstar than NBA player. The tear he is on is one only a few of the NBA’s all-timers have ever rivaled. In Oklahoma City’s last ten games (all without reigning MVP Kevin Durant), Westbrook is getting his Oscar Robertson on every night as a stat filling, polarizing, and intensely dominant triple-double machine.
Here are his jaw-dropping stats for the past ten contests (yes, they deserve their own line):
34.3 pts, 11.4 ast, 10.3 reb, 1.9 stl
To put this in a historical context, this is how Westbrook’s last ten games stack up against Oscar Robertson's historic triple-double season.
The stats are nearly identical. Where Westbrook has the edge is in minutes per game (MPG). Russ is amassing these stats in nearly twelve minutes less per game. It’s like he spotted the Big O an entire quarter of basketball and still came out deadlocked. The minutes difference explains why Robertson's win shares (WS) are greater than Westbrook's, but Westbrook has the superior win shares per 40 minutes.
Prior to this ten game stretch, Westbrook had been oft criticized about his shot selection, turnovers, and overall efficiency. While some critics continue to mumble about such concerns, it is growing readily apparent that Westbrook’s offensive style is more than just sufficing. That’s not to say that Russ doesn’t still take some puzzling shots or force the issue at times, but those detriments to efficiency are often counteracted by Westbrook’s ability to get to the free throw line. Westbrook’s 9.4 free throw attempts (FTAs) per game is second in the NBA only behind James Harden, and Westbrook is shooting free throws at an even higher rate in his last ten games.
In addition to the constant treks to the free throw line, Westbrook has grown as a decision maker. When you consider that Westbrook has the highest usage rate of anyone in the league (38.5), it is completely remarkable that Westbrook has a turnover rate (as shown above) less than LeBron James and the aforementioned James Harden. Although still somewhat maligned as a passer, Westbrook’s assist percentage (Ast%), or the percentage of his teammates’ baskets that he assists on, is over 48%, which is the best in the NBA. In his last ten games alone, Westbrook has posted 17 assists in a game twice, which is better than all-time great passer Lebron James’ career high of 16.
While the comparison to Oscar Robertson may not be completely fair to either party, as the current game is completely different than it was 50 years ago, it’s still definitely worth noting; it’s not like comparing apples and oranges, but more like bananas and plantains. No matter which way you slice it, Russell Westbrook is in the middle of a transcendent stretch that leaves him holding the mantle as the best player in the NBA right now.