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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm  |  81 responses

Top 50: Russell Westbrook, 9

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players for ’12-13.

by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan

Sometime about a year ago, while watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play on my 50-inch Hoshitoshi, I can distinctly remember Russell Westbrook having one of those “Russell Westbrook” type games. You know the games I’m talking about. Russell would take a quick pull-up jumper at the top of the key (no matter if it went in or not), Russell would take a bullish drive to the hoop, no matter how many defenders were protecting the rim. Russell would even execute the offense, and would have the gall and audacity to not even look in the vicinity of his teammate who could be No. 1 on this list.

“Traditional” basketball folks would look and say that Russell Westbrook shouldn’t be a point guard. Or that Russell Westbrook should be traded. There’s no way he should’ve received a $95 million contract by the Thunder. “He’s just not a great fit for that organization.”

I say to those “traditional” basketball fans, oh thee who think of themselves as “purists” of the game, you are some ungrateful bastards.

It was at that time that I accidentally came up with a double entendre for Westbrook, to show my support for the man who I believed could be one of the finest talents in this game. Zero appreciation. (At this point if you don’t get the double meaning then I don’t know what to tell you. Just pray.)

See, I used to think that folks didn’t appreciate No. 0. I thought that everyone was blinded to what I ultimately saw. A player so athletically gifted, with a determination to be great at his craft, was only scratching the surface of reaching such lofty goals. We’ve seen phenomenal athletes come and go in the Association, but there are two things you’d never question about Westbrook. His work ethic and that his intentions aren’t ultimately in the right place for his team. He wants to be elite. He wants to win Championships. It’s all he’s ever spoke about while being in Oklahoma City, and he’s still got a long way to go to reaching his prime…

… but maybe folks would never appreciate him.

Then he received the invite by the Godfather of basketball, Jerry Colangelo, and the ultimate basketball purist, Mike Krzyzewski, to be a member of Team USA’s Olympic journey to a Gold medal in London.

I turned on NBA 2K13, and the opening montage began with Westbrook dunking viciously at the rim while Jay-Z’s “P.S.A.” played in the background.

Then as I perused my Twitter timelines, a prediction I made came true. Once Dwyane Wade left his perch atop Jordan Brand’s basketball pantheon, I immediately stated that Westbrook would make the perfect replacement. A young, budding star. On a team with Championship aspirations. A personality as bright as those shirts he’d wear in those post-game press conferences. Just makes sense, right? Then Michael Jordan tapped him on the shoulder to be the next ambassador of Jumpman.

Jerry Colangelo. Mike Krzyzewski. Jay-Z. Michael Jordan.

Each, in their own way, have co-signed Westbrook. Their “appreciation” for Zero was made known in their own special way. It’s become undeniable at this point.

This article isn’t about proving whether Westbrook’s worthy of the No. 9 spot on SLAMonline’s Top 50 list, but rather your willingness to accept that Westbrook is just that damned good. That his status is only on the rise, that it hasn’t plateaued. Does he have his flaws? Of course. If that jumper of his was money, if he wasn’t at times reckless with his decision-making, if he didn’t wear egregious outfits from time to time… well, you wouldn’t be able to place him at No. 9 on this list.

And that’s a conversation you’re probably not ready to have. #0appreciation


Where should Russell Westbrook rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6
30 Amar’e Stoudemire Knicks PF 8
29 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 4
28 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 3
27 Paul Pierce Celtics SF 5
26 Andre Iguodala Nuggets SG 5
25 Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 4
24 Josh Smith Hawks PF 7
23 Derrick Rose Bulls PG 8
22 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
21 Steve Nash Lakers PG 7
20 James Harden Thunder SG 3
19 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 6
18 Chris Bosh Heat PF 5
17 Kyrie Irving Cavs PG 6
16 LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 4
15 Tony Parker Spurs PG 5
14 Dirk Nowitzki Mavs PF 3
13 Andrew Bynum Sixers C 2
12 Blake Griffin Clippers PF 2
11 Kevin Love TWolves PF 1
10 Carmelo Anthony Knicks SF 3
9 Russell Westbrook Thunder PG 4

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    So, this begs the question, how many people would take Rajon Rondo over Russell Westbrook?

  • booo

    Soooo, glad he is not above Rondo!!!

  • Caboose

    Not bad. I predict 22-7-5 from him, which should put him above Wade in my book (who I predict at 21-5-4). Factor in injuries, and the fact that Wade doesn’t have a substantial defensive edge, and I’d put Wade here and Russ one above.

  • spit hot fiyah

    his 2 all nba 2nd team honors in a row testifies to his top 10 rank

  • Caboose

    I think it’s because most people are expecting a huge season from Rondo. The C’s will depend even more and more on him and he could put up some really nice stats. 14-6-13 isn’t a crazy thought.

  • Datkid

    I’m totally Ok with this ranking

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    I like this ranking. Looking forward to the Rondo writeup. With these two guys, it’s strictly about what your team needs. Neither can do what the other does best.

  • Datkid

    smh your league filled up so fast.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    yeah i’ma have to create a second one. i got boys out here who i play with (beat) every year who are pissed the league is full. they want to try and get some revenge. It’s like a bunch of Joker’s tryna defeat Batman. But I’m Batman!

  • biggieman

    I would. When Westbrook is motivated to get teammates involved, he can average 10+ assists a game. But it’s tough to be that motivated to be a great distributer, when there is a mismatch with anyone who guards him. I don’t think that there is anyone in the league who can guard this guy. Westbrook is capable of rebounding and distributing as well as Rondo, but there is no way that Rondo will ever be capable of scoring like Westbrook. You will see, Westbrook will be top 5 on this list next year at this time. Book it.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    ehhh, i’d rather have Westbrook. If the C’s can’t score outside of Rondo, the team isn’t going to do well. It’s not like he can carry them with scoring for more than once every few games. In other words, i prefer Westbrook because he is more consistent with what he gives you.

  • biggieman

    Ha I misread that, I would take Westbrook over Rondo hands down.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    This is one one of the best writeups I’ve read so far.

  • biggieman

    Westbrook will be top 5 this time next year… Book it.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    James, Durant, Howard, Paul, — Probably Deron Williams…..so nah.

  • Datkid

    if you’re batman then i’m tryna to be bane lol

  • Mike From Spain

    I don’ know, I am biased against the type of player that Westbrook represents, but there s no denying that he’s very good. Now, where were we in that discussion about PEDs?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    except Westbrook is a PG giving you the same amount of assists as Wade in more possessions and he shoots 45% compared to Wade’s 50% – i really don’t see any way Wade get leapfrogged by Westbrook this season, unless Westbrook comes out hitting 36+% of his 3′s.

  • Drig

    I would as long as I got good scorers. He distributes the ball better than WB and defends better than WB when he needs to. He’s lacking in the shooting and FT department but I can live with them with the right team.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    you better find Ra’s Al Ghul and bring him with you.

  • tealish

    Rondo has made himself him a really good player. But he’s not this nice.

  • shockexchange

    DOPE

  • Shifty

    The thing is Rondo has never been asked to score 22 a game. Westbrook has to score that much. When doc tells rondo to score he scores. I think it comes down to rondo dominating games without the scoring…..whether it comes to rebounding, assists, defense….a lot of analysts and game time commentators always talk how he can dominate games without having to score. Can you say the same about west brook? I don’t think I can recall Too
    Many times (and yeah I am not able to Watch every thunder game) those same people saying he dominated the game wen he’s had a low scoring game. Sometimes Westbrook shoots himself out of the game and in terms of game time decisions rondo is a lot better then Westbrook and I would say rondos IQ is higher too. Off course I’m being bias becuz i support rondo but gotta give him some love on here.

  • Datkid

    talia and scarecrow are rolling with me too. be afraid bro

  • Datkid

    I would. you can build championship caliber teams around both obviously but Rondo’s shooting woes mean it’s harder to build around him. meanwhile Westbrook rebounds and at times defends with a similar amount of tenacity. Russy is my guy

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Rondo has not been asked to score 22 a game because the Celtics would barely ever win if he tried to do that.
    .
    And being able to dominate games and actually dominating them are different. Rondo can dominate games, and sometimes he really really does. But he can also disappear from games completely. If his teammates aren’t hitting shots his effectiveness is reduced 10 fold. And he’s so scared of shooting FT’s that it takes away from his aggression. For every positive Rondo has, he has a negative. And none of his positives are consistent, whether it be because of his teammates or his own limitations. At least Westbrook constantly attacks the rim and applies pressure to the defense. Not saying you are wrong for preferring Rondo, just I don’t think it’s so cut and try to say, Rondo does everything but score, and Westbrook only scores. — And Westbrook might be the superior defender. He’s certainly the more versatile of the two.

  • LakeShow

    Not I.

  • Caboose

    Westbrook averaged an assist per game more than Wade last year. I’m not debating that Wade is better (he is), it’s that Westbrook will be more productive. It doesn’t matter that he uses more possessions to get his stats, the fact is that Russ produces more, regardless of the subtext.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    it’s not subtext. if you are using more possessions to do barely more work, then you are wasting more of your teams chances to score. every possession Westbrook uses without getting the ball in the basket in one way or another is one possession that could have gone to Kevin Durant.
    .
    Wade is more efficient, and just as productive per minute (assists per 36 minutes favors Westbrook by .4, & .1 points per 36 minutes). You wouldn’t come in here rating Kobe over Wade because Kobe has better basic statistics. It’s the same type of scenario. If the amount of production Westbrook provides is only slightly higher than what Wade gives, Wade is still the better player. As the more efficient a player is, has a greater effect on winning then a player with more volume in terms of stats. And Wade wasn’t healthy at the tail end of last season to top it all off. The only argument i see for Westbrook over Wade has to do with durability and minutes.

  • Sérgio

    No Kobe in the top 5? Please.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Uhhhh Kobe shouldn’t be in the top 5 this year (but he will)…..next year? Definitely not.

  • ctk

    Westbrook is too low should be ranked higher than Kobe …they both gunners but Westbrook is more efficent…Westbrook shots come at the rim…gets to the line more …better at usin his teammates …better on ball defender than him…he a biggest mismatch problem at pg than Kobe is at the sg

  • Shifty

    Yeah ok valid points. Who do you think has a higher IQ? Or who is more mature? Your right though it isn’t clear cut. In the playoffs he was getting to the free throw line though. And i think he shot a career high these latest play offs as well. Like you said he doesn’t get to free throw line becuz of his % but if he can be as aggressive as he was in the play offs it wud be a nice thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kari-Tai/1510813001 Kari Tai

    I don’t know, I think Rondo and Westbrook are both better than Deron Williams…

  • Caboose

    Durability and minutes are my basic argument haha. By possessions, I just meant how often he gets a chance to produce. That goes hand in hand with minutes. Wade absolutely has the capability to out-produce Westbrook, but you know how much I hate that jargon. Yeah, Tony Parker has the ability to put up Rose-like numbers but he doesn’t, and therefore isn’t as productive. You don’t need to convince me Wade is better; he is. What you have to convince me of is that Wade produces -more- than Westbrook. I think, last year, Russ produced more (injuries included).

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Westbrook produced more points and assists, barely. Wade was still the better player – http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=wadedw01&y1=2012&p2=westbru01&y2=2012

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Rondo is definitely the smarter player. Doc Rivers says Rondo is the highest IQ guy he’s ever been around…so i’ll take that for what it is.
    .
    If Rondo comes out as the same guy he was in the Playoffs then I will change my stance on which player i’d want. I just don’t see that happening. But I do see Westbrook making another jump as a player here in the next year or two.

  • http://twitter.com/edthesportsfan Eddie Maisonet, III

    Greatly appreciated sir.

  • http://twitter.com/edthesportsfan Eddie Maisonet, III

    To be fair, I even had Rondo about Westbrook, but barely.

  • TR

    Westbrooks best attribute is his intensity. Always goes 100. With that said, I don’t love how he plays

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kari-Tai/1510813001 Kari Tai

    Are they only revealing the 1 player per day now?

  • Caboose

    Ah, didn’t know that. You’re right. My only argument would rest with injuries, and I’ll never predict spontaneous injuries.

  • LakeShow

    Correcto

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    it really seemed like Westbrook was a more dominant player last season, Wade is basically becoming underrated because of LeBron. When they joined up, Wade was the second best player on earth. We should always remember this.

  • Caboose

    …2nd? I’ve had Dwight ahead of him since like ’08.

  • Clos1881

    Give me Melo anyday over Westbrook

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk
  • Perry the PlatyPteranodon

    If Kobe’s in the top 5 then I will personally not rest till all of the tables are flipped over. ALL of them. ALL OF THE TABLES.

  • ByAnyMeansNecessary

    It will be interesting to see what Jordan does with Westbrook since Nike did almost nothing advertisement-wise.

  • shutup

    Westbrook is amazing and as soon as he can control his game, he will be unstoppable. The only Knock on Westbrook is his pace and deeper understanding of the flow of the game, once he masters those I can see him fighting for the top pg spot.

  • aicomeback

    im not sayin that this is what the writer was tryin to say but if anyones replacing wade atop the jordan brand pantheon its cp3 then westbrook/melo

  • aicomeback

    meant im not saying the writer was saying that westbrook is replacing wade on top of the jb pantheon

  • Salty

    …if he didn’t wear egregious outfits from time to time….lol

  • danpowers

    as one of these “ungrateful bastards” i really think that westbrook would be even better and the thunder way more successful if he played shooting guard instead of running the point. as a man i also think he should be whipped for that fashion nonsense with that dorky glasses and other hipster nonsense. whats next? wearing pink skirts coz fashion tells us to?
    but hell yeah, westbrook could even be higher in this ranking i wouldnt argue. its a joy to watch him play and considering how great he plays already i wonder how great he is gonna be as soon as he enters his prime. i hope he stays healthy as i want to watch him play as many times as possible and i am pushing thumbs for the thunder to win it all this season.

  • danpowers

    pro PEDs, the league would be as boring as soccer if these guys wouldnt bee a bunch of hulks on speed

  • danpowers

    you left one out

  • danpowers

    lol

  • danpowers

    your argument is that a point guard dishes out ONE more assist than a shooting guard to let the point guard look better? find the mistake…

  • Caboose

    I don’t wanna argue this, but the point guard scores more than the shooting guard. Find the mistake in your counter point. Nbk got it right.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Who? That’s probably the 5 best players in the L at the end of the season. I expect Williams to have the kind of year that puts him over Wade.

  • danpowers

    yup, wade was who i was thinking about. maybe also kevin love (yesterday the united forces of slam readers convinced me that he is a top dog) and dont forget that rose will be back.
    ps: can i pn u somewhere somehow i gt a question bout that fantasy league

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I wasn’t apart of that. I still don’t even have Love as the best 4. Let alone a top 5 player in the whole league. He’s never even kind of shown the ability to lead a winner.

  • danpowers

    that was my statement yesterday and had BAMN going as long and as hard against that until he brainwashed me lol

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Man too bad I didn’t see it. I woulda gone off.

  • danpowers

    its still there, jump in! lol

  • Mr. Wet

    It’s all a question of who’s around him. If i’m building the ultimate starting 5 out of active players. Rajon rondo is running the show. If i’m building a team around someone. I’d prolly take Westbrook.

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ Megatron

    @disqus_rOeXXBD2qs:disqus I joined your fantasy league bro.. Don’tMessWithTheWEST !

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ Megatron

    @disqus_rOeXXBD2qs:disqus yo if you wanna make a just slam commenters league i can drop out of the current one

  • IAMORANGE4EVER

    Westbrook over Melo? Wow! I’m gonna wipe my arse with these rankings during the season. LOL!

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    I don’t know about this one SLAM (the review, not the placings)… sometimes I think your wordiness is somewhat… strained. Clever for clever’s sake – I think my grandma would say. Look, I understand you have to do 50 write ups and not all of them will be piece de resistance, but this one takes away from Russ and what he brings to the game. He’s more than just an athletic wild card; he has the capability to be a defensive as well as offensive juggernaut. Does he have the heart?… we’ll see. SLAM is putting him a 9 as a vote of confidence for this season so I’ll run with them… Go Russ!! You and all of OKC should really D up and perhaps with a bit of basketball serendipity we shall see who rues the day come July.
    OKC for life!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    Me me me. I truly believe OKC could trade Russ, and another A lister could fit right on in with KD and co and they would still be awesome. Whereas Rondo has the je ne sais quoi that few in the game do (perhaps only Wade, Lbj, Bryant and select others to lesser degrees).

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    Um, did you read the question?

  • http://www.facebook.com/qcollingwood Interdico Scriptor

    @Nbk… hyperbole much???

  • Gringo247

    Agree, Russel West is one of the finest SG the league has to offer IF he starts to reconsider his decision making on the court. Too many bull rushes to the rim, not always taking the best option available. Other than that, I feel that Billups in OKC could change a lot, even if he’s only advising when not on 10 – 15 minutes backup play… Just imagine…

  • thetruthhurts

    good spot for russ. but ima make a bold prediction here. midway thru this season, okc is gonna put russ on the trading block just to see what theyd get in return. probably a solid pg. then resign the beard. get tons of dollars off the books and get ready for free agency. sign 2 solid players to compliment durant better.

  • thetruthhurts

    people w talent on their team that needs to be spoon fed.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i am going to make another league, but you don’t gotta drop outta the other one.

  • http://twitter.com/ProspectsInEuro Prospects In Europe

    These positional rankings make NO sense… K-Love is ranked as No 1 PF which means there are 0 PF’s above him… Bynum is ranked No 2 C which leaves 1 C above him… Melo is ranked 3 SF which leaves 2 SFs above him and Rus is ranked 4 at PG which leaves 3 above him… that leaves 6 but yet we are on rankings number 9 so technically 8 players still need to be ranked?????

  • bashmo

    What a great, thoughtful and intelligent reply. BIG UPS man, I AGree with you.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    oh just send me an e-mail, just click on my name in that fantasy league, i think you can view my email there

  • Matt

    When building a team, do you take Rose or Westbrook straight up? Similar styles. Rose the better finisher and creator, but Westbrook the better shooter (look at his eFG progression), defense, and rebounding.

    I’d take Westbrook. 0 games missed in 4 seasons.

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