how do i get over something that make me question if i even want to fucking live anymore?
CHRIS BROUSSARD: Ric, you know I respect your basketball knowledge, and that’s precisely why I couldn’t believe my ears last week when you went on “SportsCenter” and said that Russell Westbrook is better than Kevin Durant!
Westbrook is a very good player, a perennial All-Star talent, but there is no way on God’s green earth that he is better than Durant.
Please explain yourself.
RIC BUCHER: My selection of Westbrook over Durant is pretty simple: He is better in more areas of the game than KD is. There’s no question Durant is one of the league’s premier scorers and shooters — and, as you know, there’s a difference between the two — and Westbrook certainly doesn’t compare to Durant as a shooter and is not quite on his level as a scorer.
But in almost every other aspect of the game, Westbrook is more of a force than Durant. He’s certainly a better defender and, at their respective positions, a better rebounder. Is Durant so much better as a shooter/scorer that it compensates for Westbrook’s superiority in those other areas? My argument is that he is not. Westbrook certainly has earned that extension he got today.
CB: I think in your heart of hearts you know you have made a mistake, but now you’re in too deep to change directions. There are so many ways to shoot down your argument.
But let me start with your contention that just because Westbrook is better in more areas (which in itself is arguable) that means he’s the better player. That is faulty logic. Fat Lever was the best rebounding point guard since Oscar Robertson, averaging nine boards per game over a four-year stretch (to go along with 19 points and eight assists), but no one would argue he was better than John Stockton or Isiah Thomas. That’s like saying David Robinson was better than Shaquille O’Neal because he had a more varied offensive arsenal.
Besides, it’s not like Westbrook is a terrific rebounder and Durant is a poor rebounder. Westbrook averages four rebounds a game, for goodness sake. That’s good but not great for a point guard. It’s not like he’s pulling down boards like Jason Kidd used to. And Durant’s seven rebounds a game are very solid for his position of small forward. In fact, he ranks third among all small forwards in rebounding, trailing only LeBron James and Luol Deng. Westbrook is second among 1s, behind the diminutive Rajon Rondo. I’d say they are equals at their respective positions in terms of rebounding.
RB: Fat Lever versus John Stockton? We’re not comparing guys who play the same position and making rebounds the deciding factor on who is better. Or at least I’m not. And you can’t round down 4.6 rebounds to four and call Rondo “diminutive” (with his 6-foot-9 wingspan and hands that are bigger than James’) as if not out-rebounding him is some sort of knock on Westbrook. Or dismiss the stature of being the second-best rebounding point guard at a time when it’s the most talent-laden position in the game. Or ignore that Durant is not strictly a 3 but plays 4 as well, so grading him as strictly a rebounding 3 is skewing how he should be graded in that category.
How about we look a little deeper at those rebounding numbers and factor in minutes played, which, oh, might have an impact on their meaning just a little. Care to know how many 3s are better rebounders per minute than KD? Try a half-dozen, including rookies Derrick Williams and Kawhi Leonard. How many 1s are better rebounders per minute than Westbrook? Still only one, Rondo — who, by the way, is a rebounding savant at PG.
But I’m not saying Westbrook is better simply because he’s a better rebounder at his position. He’s also a better defender. Thabo Sefolosha starts, essentially, so that he can take the toughest swingman defensive assignment. Durant does what he can, but let’s face it — his build isn’t exactly ideal for boxing out or keeping a guy off the block. Westbrook’s size, athleticism and fierce competitive streak make him a handful to get around for almost every PG in the league.
Your read on my conviction, by the way, is way off. This debate was born of my top 7 list, and if someone wants to say I should’ve had Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul or LaMarcus Aldridge or Blake Griffin as the seventh-best player in the league, no problem — solid arguments can be made. Picking a top 7 in anything as fluid and undefined as “best players in the NBA” is open to interpretation. Westbrook also has work to do in the efficiency department, so if we’re talking about traditional PG abilities, Paul, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams are certainly better with their decision-making.
But purely as a player, no position attached, versus Durant? How can anyone say a guy who has six triple-doubles, including one last spring that is one of only five in a playoff Game 7 in NBA history, is not an all-around better player than someone who has played more seasons and averages more minutes and never has put together double digits in three categories? Triple-doubles aren’t everything, but they reflect a player’s ability to dominate the game in multiple ways. Take a look at their single-game career highs and you’ll see the same thing: Westbrook dominates in more ways.
But please, no more about Lever or Stockton.
CB: You get an A for effort, but you’re attempting to argue the inarguable. Besides that, you picked a bad season to argue that Westbrook is one of the NBA’s best seven players. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s not playing as well as he did last season. His points per game are down three points (to 19) and his 5.5 assists per game are down from eight dimes per night the last two seasons.
But here’s the crux of the matter: Westbrook struggles with decision-making, which is the most critical element of a point guard’s game. In fact, he is one of the worst decision-makers in the league, often driving and shooting and acting as if he’s the team’s best and No. 1 option when, in fact, he should be setting up his teammates, particularly Durant.
I mean, come on: He has only five assists per game? On a team with Durant? Playing alongside KD should get you five assists a night. And with Westbrook’s quickness and ability to get into the lane, he should be getting Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins a few easy buckets every game.
But because at this point he is just an incredibly explosive athlete rather than a polished basketball player (especially for a point guard), he doesn’t yet know how to best utilize his ability for the sake of the team and his teammates.
All this is made evident by his absolutely horrible assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.57. You know how many starting point guards have a worse ratio? Two — Kyrie Irving, who can be excused since he’s a rookie who barely played in college, and Tyreke Evans, who’s about as much of a point guard as Carmelo Anthony.
Eighteen point guards are averaging more assists than Westbrook. Eighteen! Forget his rebounding “prowess” (five per game … wow!); how about running the damn offense? How about feeding one of the best shooters and scorers in the world, one who’s hitting 50 percent of his shots? Yet Westbrook finds a way to shoot it more than 16 times per night (more than all but 10 players in the league — and more than any point guard) even though he’s hitting just 43 percent of his shots. Plus, he’s a terrible 3-point shooter (23 percent).
So let’s get this straight: Durant scores far more (25.8 ppg to 18.9 for Westbrook), scores with far more efficiency (.506 to .437), gets to the foul line more (7.4 to 5.1), is a much better 3-point shooter and plays smarter, yet Westbrook is better? Heck, even though Westbrook might be a better defender, KD’s length makes him a solid defender.
RB: Durant “plays smarter”? He has a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. How is that smarter? Granted, assists aren’t a complete reflection of whether a player is giving up the ball; there are plenty of guys in the league who are selfish in that they won’t pass it unless they’re getting a dime out of it. They get numbers and their teams pay the price for it in W’s and L’s. Westbrook isn’t one of those guys. He’ll pass ahead and swing it without hesitation. He’s in the same mold as Rose — he couldn’t care less about his individual stats, he’s simply looking to win. Does Westbrook’s decision-making need to improve? No question. He still goes off the rails at times.
But Westbrook isn’t a traditional point guard, he’s just a relentless attacker who is still learning to harness his phenomenal athleticism. He doesn’t see the floor as well as the top point guards do, but if you think he’s ignoring an open Durant, you don’t watch the Thunder very much.
Fact is, they start three guys who are great defenders but are severely limited offensively (Perkins, Ibaka and Sefolosha). That does two things: allows opponents to key on Durant and Westbrook and limits the collection of easy dimes. Since KD struggles to break some defenders down off the dribble, it leaves Westbrook, whose sheer speed and size are a tough match for every point guard in the league, to do all the creating. On a lot of nights, he doesn’t have a choice but to push the envelope and attack the crowded paint; without a post-up threat and opponents jumping KD coming off screens, the Thunder are taking all challenged jump shots if Westbrook doesn’t try to break somebody down.
Look, I get the love affair with Durant; he is as sweet and polite as any superstar I’ve come across. No player buffed his image during the lockout more than he did, with his impromptu flag football games and playground heroics that reflected his absolute love for the game. He stroke is buttery, he’s fearless shooting big shots and he’s super-quick and graceful.
Westbrook, on the other hand, plays angry and rarely smiles, and there’s nothing subtle about his game most nights; he’s going to beast you every chance he gets. Westbrook plays through all the criticism and the scrutiny of his relationship with Durant and just keeps coming. Because he, Scott Brooks and everyone else in the Thunder organization knows if he doesn’t, their offense stagnates.
If this debate was about who is more popular, hell, there’s no debate. But again, this isn’t about that. Their win over the Knicks the Saturday night was a perfect example of the knee-jerk tendency to make Durant the star because he scored the most points and ignore how one-dimensional he sometimes is.
And don’t even begin to compare them defensively; aside from the rebounding, which is part of defense, Westbrook has been an outstanding defender since his days at UCLA. He’s a point guard and you’re mocking him pulling down five rebounds a night? One every 10 minutes is the gold standard for PGs.
Durant works at his defense; I don’t fault him at all. But when you’re pencil thin, you’re not digging out boards in the trenches or keeping someone off the block or fighting over too many screens before you begin to feel it and can’t do what you’re great at — in Durant’s case, pouring in shots.
Westbrook has neither that problem (getting beat up physically) nor the luxury (of saving himself for the offensive end). It’s why Durant, unsolicited, called Westbrook the Thunder’s MVP last season. Westbrook does more because he must. And he can.
these two songs are on repeat over and over for me
i really get to see this? fuck…