Monday, December 31, 2007

Russell Westbrook - NBA Draft Prospects

Numbers: 12.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.6 spg, 2.5 t/o's, 47% FG, 71% FT, 34% 3's

About Him: No one in the country improved more between last season and this season than Russell Westbrook. He couldn't dunk until his senior year in high school and is now a Youtube all-star, and given he was considered a mid-major recruit until a late high school growth spurt and is now a potential lottery pick, that improvement may not be done. Westbrook is as good as you can get athletically. He is incredibly explosive, has a lighting-quick first step, and is much stronger than his slender frame indicates. Combine this with long arms and great anticipation, and he is a nightmare to opposing players in the passing lanes. Westbrook is also a phenomenal on the ball defender with the ability to lock down just about anyone - OJ Mayo averaged 12 ppg in three games and Jerryd Bayless averaged 14 ppg in two games against Westbrook, both are 20 ppg scorers. Offensively, it's a different story. Westbrook scored the majority of his points on fast breaks because of his ability to get into lanes and Kevin Love's ability to throw outlet passes. He struggles a bit in offensive sets. His first step allows to get get to the rim going either direction, but he needs to have an open lane to the basket. He struggles when he needs to change direction with the ball, either using a jump stop or with the dribble, resulting in him throwing up some wild shots in the lane. His handle is pretty weak, but he can run an offense because of his unselfishness. He is a fair shooter when he is open and spotting up, but on the move and off the dribble he struggles more, mainly because he doesn't use his jumping ability on his shot, allowing defenders to get a hand in his face. Westbrook is a very unselfish player. He knew is role on the UCLA team, and fit into the system beautifully. That's what NBA guys love about him.

Comparisons: Leandro Barbosa, taller Kyle Lowry

Bottom Line: Westbrook will probably never be a star or a guy that can carry a team for more than a few minutes in the NBA given is tweener status. But he has the potential to be a great role player - a guy that can come in, play some lock down defense, give you a spark off the bench and maybe get a couple buckets as well, depending on how his offense game develops. That's the risk that an NBA GM will take with Westbrook - how good will he be offensively.

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