Russell Westbrook’s Negatives Overshadow a Distinction Only He and Oscar Robertson Share

Few would characterize Russell Westbrook‘s 2021-22 season as “good.” The 33-year-old has become the scapegoat for the majority of the Los Angeles Lakers‘ struggles, with much of it warranted. As a result, it’s created a significant amount of tension between the nine-time All-Star and the team, as well as the fans.

Westbrook has been below average, that much is certain. But the guard is still putting up numbers that vault him into a tier with the great Oscar Robertson.

Russell Westbrook has had a down first season with the Lakers

Westbrook’s 2020-21 campaign with the Washington Wizards started slow but picked up steam. The former UCLA Bruin finished the year with 22.2 points and career-highs in assists (11.7) and rebounds (11.5). He even earned MVP consideration from Robinson himself.

Naturally, it’s easy to see why LeBron James and the Lakers believed Westbrook was the best third star to join him and Anthony Davis in their quest for title number 18. But as we now know, things haven’t gone close to expected for Russ and LA as a whole.

Through 64 games, Westbrook is down to 18.3 points per game. While that can be attributed to sharing the rock with LeBron, he’s also shooting 43.5% from the field and 28.2% from beyond the arc. For context, he hit 47.2% of his shots two years ago with the Houston Rockets despite averaging 5.5 more attempts a game.

Additionally, Brodie holds an offensive rating of 106.5 according to NBA.com, only the eighth-highest among all Lakers with five or more games played.

Usually, a player averaging over 18 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists would be considered “productive.” But the 2016-17 MVP is held to much higher standards. Especially when you factor in his team-high $44.2 million salary this season and $47 million player option for 2022-23.

Despite the criticism, Westbrook is now in the same company as Oscar Robertson

For the majority of league history, the legendary Robertson was the face fans associated with triple-doubles. That was until Westbrook came along and surpassed Big O as the all-time leader in triple-doubles late last season.

Now, with Russ (193) and Oscar (181) sitting atop the triple-double list together, the two stat-stuffers are now intertwined in an entirely different category.

Early on in LA’s loss to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, Westbrook scored his 23,000th career point. He now sits 33rd all-time but joins Oscar Robertson as the only point guards to score 23,000 points or more.

There are a few other players in the 23K club that have point guard experience, namely Jerry West, Allen Iverson, and James Harden. But only Westbrook and Robertson, who sits 13th with 26,710 career points, were true point guards through and through.

That said, Russ and Oscar won’t be the only point guards to hit that mark. Chris Paul still has an outside chance at 20,844, but he’s already 36 years old. However, the 33-year-old Stephen Curry just eclipsed 20K on Thursday night and should eventually join the club sometime in the next few years.

Where does Russell Westbrook rank on the all-time point guard list?

Clearly, Westbrook is one of the top-scoring 1s to ever take the court. But where does that place him on the all-time list of greatest floor generals?

The consensus number one is Magic Johnson, a superstar with unparalleled court vision and five championships to boot. But there’s also a true playmaker like John Stockton, the league’s all-time leader in assists, as well as Robertson and Isaiah Thomas.

That’s not even getting to more of the modern players. Curry, the NBA’s all-time leader in threes, is going to retire with a case as a top-10 overall player, let alone one of the league’s best point guards. And if we’re looking at true 1s, it’s fair to put CP3 and Jason Kidd high on the list as well.

That puts Westbrook eighth at best. And there’s a strong argument for Steve Nash, Gary Payton, and Bob Cousy to all place above him too, thereby kicking him out of the top 10.

While his all-time rank can be debated, Westbrook is going to finish his career as one of the top two or three scoring point guards of all time. You can’t help but respect that, even during a tumultuous season.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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