Time is running out for Russell Westbrook to rewrite his postseason narrative

Image Credit: SLAM Magazine

The 2019 NBA Playoffs are in full swing. With teams across ‘The Association’ settling into their respective series, things won’t be slowing down anytime soon. There have been both pleasant and unpleasant developments through the first half-week of games. While some players have elevated their play as of late, others have gone back to their old ways. One of the latter examples is Oklahoma City Thunder point guard, Russell Westbrook.

Fresh off his third-straight regular season averaging a triple-double, Westbrook is looking to rebound after Oklahoma City was knocked out of the first round by the Utah Jazz a year ago. Paul George, Westbrook’s running mate, re-upped this offseason and sent a message to the rest of the NBA: These two were in it for the long haul.

Although George posted the best numbers of his career and was in the MVP conversation almost all season long, he missed some time down the stretch and OKC went 12-13 overall after the All-Star break. Falling to the sixth seed in the Western Conference, the Thunder have squared off against the Portland Trail Blazers twice since postseason play began.

In those two games, Westbrook has shot a respectable 8/17 (47%) and a horrid 5/20 (25%). In a five-point loss, his plus-minus was a -10. Last night’s total was -27. Turning the ball over 10 times in two games, the 11th-year floor general has struggled.

Per Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey, Westbrook has shot 38.9% during the last two postseasons. Averaging nearly 25 field goal attempts per game, this inefficiency is holding back the Thunder. Consistent with his average this series, Westbrook’s mean TOV/game is right around 5. When he’s on the court, OKC has been a -73. With Westbrook on the bench, they’ve been +22.

Since the departure of longtime teammate and former friend Kevin Durant, Westbrook and his team are 3-10 in the postseason. Here’s how those series have went:

  • 2016-17: Lost to Houston in 5 games. Westbrook averaged a whopping 37.4 points but shot 38.8% from the field. 6 turnovers per game.
  • 2017-18: Lost to Utah in 6 games. Another solid PPG contribution from Westbrook (29.3), but with more terrible efficiency (39.8%). 5.2 turnovers per game.
  • 2018-19: Down 2-0 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Westbrook’s current shooting percentage (35.1) and turnovers (5.1 per game) have hurt OKC.

Not all of this is Westbrook’s fault. He didn’t have a star-studded team against Houston in 2017 and Paul George has disappeared at times come April since arriving in Oklahoma City. With that said, the lack of postseason success since Durant’s departure has been concerning. Two years ago, it was a lack of surrounding talent. Last year, it was Carmelo Anthony. Unless Westbrook can improve — and bring the rest of the team along with him — another sad ending to a promising Thunder story is on the horizon.

For more NBA content from Jordan, check out his Hoop Central author page or follow him on Twitter @TheBestFooteFWD.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics in this article were obtained via basketball-referenceESPN and/or NBA.com

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