No. 24 Russell Westbrook

Russell WestbrookOne can’t talk about Westbrook without talking about his most important summer – not this one gone by, where he broke open games for Team USA at the World Championships with regularity, but the one that preceded it, in 2009. Thunder general manager Sam Presti asked Westbrook to participate in the summer league with hopes that the athletically gifted yet sometimes erratic rookie could further learn the point guard position. So Westbrook played – in Orlando, in Las Vegas. The Thunder sent out coaches regularly to his Los Angeles home to run him through extensive workouts. Westbrook attended a Team USA mini-camp. Then, perhaps most importantly, that August the Thunder hired Maurice Cheeks, a controlled point guard if there ever was, as an assistant coach. Oklahoma City’s intentions weren’t exactly subtle.

What followed was maturation. Westbrook found himself in the top 10 in the League for assists, including 28 games in double-figures, and nightly walked the tightrope that every (young) point walks of best knowing when to pass and when to score. He’s 21, and he’s learning.

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