Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Westbrook Shedding Baggage

By Jerome Watson

In a game where raising the level of your game in the playoffs usually means an increase in the glorified stats like points, assists and rebounds. In Russell Westbrook's case, he has raised his level of play by decreasing one of his glaring stats, turnovers.

Westbrook was second in the league in turnovers at 239, only behind John Wall's 255. His assist to turnover ratio was 1.51, which pretty much means for every assist he had, he turned it over on the ensuing possession. Only 5 out of the 66 possible games did Russell record 1 turnover or less, in which the Thunder went undefeated (5-0). That typically would be a recipe for disaster - especially in the playoffs - but the Thunder are loaded with offensive and talent, so the majority of Russell Westbrook's turnovers are masked due to the Thunder being just flat out better than other teams; evidenced by a 30-14 record when he commits 3 or more turnovers and a 9-3 record when he commits 6 or more turnovers.

It was widely speculated that Russell Westbrook would be the burden of the team come playoff time and that his lack of security and "me too" attitude would be the downfall of the Thunder. The first couple of games started out in that very fashion for Westbrook and his doubters, as he posted 7 turnovers in the first two games of the Dallas series. Both of those games were close. Maybe too close. So Russell adjusted. The next two games werent even close (by scoreboard indication), as Westbrook posted only 3 turnovers over the two game span as they closed out Dallas.

Game 1. Round 2. The Los Angeles Lakers are in town. Im not sure if it was the opponent, or just Russell wanting to prove his doubters wrong, but he was magnificient. Maybe the most efficient Ive ever seen Westbrook play. He had 27 points that night on 10-15 shooting with 7 rebounds, 9 rebounds and 2 steals. The stat line was gaudy, his team won big, but nothing stood out to me more than the turnover stat, he had one. The Lakers series got a bit rougher for him in regard to scoring efficiently but he stayed consistent in the turnover category and went on to average 0.8 for the series.

Ive always said that Russell Westbrook had the all the physical tools of the other top PGs but what separated him from the Pauls and Roses was the turnover stat. He has clearly changed that. Russell has had 18 turnovers this postseason (Paul 43, Parker 26, Rondo 45) and his new assist to turnover ratio is 2.86, while only averaging 2.1 turnovers per 48 minutes. Thats scary. If he can translate this game he's playing now into the regular season, he can very well be the best point guard in the association. Hands Down.


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