Russell Westbrook Just Got the Extra Motivation He Needs to Dominate in the Bubble
Russell Westbrook is heading into the NBA restart with the Houston Rockets as he and James Harden look to bring an NBA championship to Houston. The Rockets are certainly not the favorites to win it all, and not even the favorites to come out of the Western Conference, but with them having Westbrook and Harden, they definitely can’t be counted out. Well, now, on top of his typical desire to win, Westbrook has another reason to want to dominate when play resumes in the bubble.
Bleacher Report ranked Westbrook No. 22 among the top NBA players
Bleacher Report recently released rankings of the top 100 players from the 2019-20 NBA season. In the top 10 are, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, and Khris Middleton.
Not in the top 10 is Westbrook. In fact, Westbrook is not even in the top 15 or the top 20. Bleacher Report has the former league MVP at No. 22 on its list. Westbrook’s struggles in the beginning of the season are a reason why they put him so low as the article reports that he was on pace for the fourth-worst true shooting percentage of his career prior to Jan. 1.
He, however, has improved greatly after the Rockets traded Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks. The article reports that since the Rockets have removed Capela from their rotation, Westbrook has averaged 31 points, 5.8 assists, and 57.5 true shooting percentage.
So, who are some guys ranked above him, in addition to the ones listed in the top 10? Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gobert, Ben Simmons, and Jayson Tatum.
Russell Westbrook reacted to being ranked so low
An Instagram account posted a few of Bleacher Report’s rankings on Saturday. In a picture, the account noted how Khris Middleton was ranked No. 10, Jayson Tatum was No. 11, and it said that Westbrook was ranked No. 23. He was actually ranked at No. 22, but the post still gives the same idea.
Westbrook saw the post, liked it, and then commented, “Hahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahhaahhahahahahahahahahahahhahhahahahhahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahaha.”
Westbrook certainly has a reason to feel disrespected. He is a nine-time NBA All-Star, and he won the league’s MVP award in 2016-17. Westbrook has also led the NBA in points per game twice, and he has led the league in assists per game twice. He also averaged a triple-double in three straight seasons from 2016-7 through 2018-19.
This is only Tatum’s third season in the NBA, and he just earned his first All-Star selection this season. Middleton has been in the NBA since the 2012-13 season and has earned two All-Star selections. He has also only averaged 20 points per game or more twice in his career. Additionally, Westbrook’s numbers this season are still pretty incredible and are still arguably better than both Tatum’s and Middleton’s.
If Westbrook does, indeed, feel disrespected, we may see a man on a mission when he and the Rockets return to the court at the end of this month.
Do the Houston Rockets have a chance to go on a run?
The Houston Rockets have had a lot of success in recent years. This season will mark the eighth straight year that the team has reached the playoffs. The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals in 2014-15 and 2017-18.
Coming into the NBA restart, the Rockets are 40-24 and are tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference. With there being eight seeding games before the playoffs, the Rockets can improve their place in the standings tremendously. They are one game behind the Utah Jazz for the No. 4 seed, two-and-a-half games behind the Denver Nuggets for the No. 3 seed, and four games back of the Clippers for the No. 2 seed.
They struggled at times this year, but the Rockets have as good a chance as any to make some noise once the season restarts. Harden is averaging 34.4 points per game, 7.4 assists, and 6.4 rebounds. Westbrook is averaging 27.5 points per game, eight rebounds, and seven assists. The Rockets also have several solid role players as five other players are averaging over 10 points per game this season.
So, with one of the best scorers in the NBA in Harden, an extra-motivated Westbrook, and some other nice role players, the Rockets certainly have a chance to make a run at an NBA championship.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference