Editor's Note: My internet's been totally shot for a few days now, so things are a bit inconvenient for the time being. Bear with me. Thanks.
Draft day is getting close- June 26th- and we've still got a handful of profiles to do in the 2008 edition of "Know the Prospect". Today, UCLA's Russell Westbrook.
The Basics: Westbrook is listed at 6'3'', 189 lbs. He turns 20 years old in November and just completed his sophomore season with the Bruins.
The Stats: Westbrook played more sparingly his freshman year, so it's his numbers from this past season that are really worth a look. RW put up respectable figures: 13 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists in 34 minutes a game alongside Darren Collison in the backcourt. He was decent from the field (.465), line (.713) and arc (.338) and also snagged 1.6 steals a game.
The Word: At long, skinny 6'3'', Westbrook has the looks of a classic tweener guard. What makes him special, though, is his lockdown defense. DX hails him as a dedicated and athletic defender who can stick with just about any point or shooting guard, having locked down the likes of Mayo and Bayless this season.
That said, it's his offensive game that's in question. Critics cite his inexperience handling the ball and running things as withholding him from "pure point guard" status, while his size and still-developing jump shot limit his chances at shooting guard. On the flip side, Westbrook's energy, athleticism, and and intelligence make for some real offensive gifts. He's excellent in transition, with the ability to finish with either hand or simply throw it down. And while his shot is still developing, Westbrook has shown signs of an emerging midrange and outside game.
The Tape: Here's just about the best highlight reel there is of Westbrook, including two of his monster dunks from this past season:
...Yeah. And most of that's just on the offensive side of the ball. The kid's certainly Youtube-worthy, but what do the experts say? I'm talking about the people who've had their eyes on Westbrook for a while, the fans, students, and alumni of UCLA. I stopped by Bruins Nation to see what the fine people over there had to say about Westbrook and his NBA potential. Here are a few highlights from the responses. You can head over to BN to see the full feedback.
"...The combination of athleticism and toughness makes him one of the elite perimeter defenders. He was one of the best on the ball defensive players in the country last year and caused issues off the ball where he used his long arms to get into passing lanes. Offensively, Westbrook’s biggest issue is his inconsistent jump shot, but his improvement from his freshman to sophomore season leads me to believe that he’ll have a good jump shot in a couple years. Westbrook also must learn to play the point guard position in the NBA. At UCLA, he was used primarily as a shooting guard and he was an explosive scorer from there, but in the NBA, he’ll be playing the point. When Collison went down early in the year Westbrook played point guard for us and led the Pac 10 in assists so I think he can play the 1, but there will be a learning curve as he picks up the nuances of the position." - ryebreadraz
"He will be as good as any rookie could expect to be on the ball defending PGs. One underappreciated aspect of his game is that he is always ready to play. He will be a rookie, and so I don’t expect to see him getting a ton of playing time, but when your coach calls his number, he will be at 100% the moment he gets in. There are so many players in the NBA that need to warm up while they’re in the game before they are effective. Chalk him up as your "sparkplug off the bench"."- Tydides
"...a little out of control in the fast break. He has little, to no jump shot, and he tends to drive to his right a whole lot; he hasn’t quite learned how to use the left hand yet, nor has he developed a cross over dribble...
he has soon the ability to sink a long 3 in critical situations (although I think he was only shooting 25-30% from beyond the arc). He’s a lock-down defender (just ask OJ Mayo). He’s quick as greased lightening and run the 2 guard spot in the break to perfection (as a 1 guard he tends to barrel into the lane a la Paul Pierce, only Westbrook takes fouls instead of giving them)."- ncrpz22
"Westbook is tough as nails. I recall several times during the season where he tweaked his ankle… he would just walk it off, and get right back to his D. One more thing… he has heart. His excitement for the game is infectious. LET’S GO!
This is just my opinion, but he loves to be on YouTube. As a result, he can be a little out of control. There were a few times when he would go for another monster dunk when he should have really gone for a jumper."- UCLAbruin920
"He has an NBA body. As everyone agrees, he’s tremendously athletic. He improved GREATLY in only one year. He’s a lock down defender. He’s poised. He got more and more intelligent on the court with each game. He has no fear."- jjreicher
So there it is. Westbrook is athletic, enthusiastic, and fearless but still developing the offensive skill set to match his pre-existing defensive talent. Huge thanks to the folks at BN for helping out.
If you couldn't tell, I'm pretty into the idea of Russell Westbrook wearing a Knick uniform. He seems to me to have, at least in part, all the skills necessary to play D'Antoni basketball, plus a winning attitude and lockdown defensive potential. Plus, if you happen to miss Anthony Mason, Westbrook can fill that void too. Especially if Jerryd Bayless is off the board, I think Russell
Westbrook might very well be our guy.
On that note, Ridiculous Upside is hosting this year's SB Nation mock draft, and I'm picking sixth for the Knicks tonight. Number 5 is currently on the clock, with Mayo and Gordon already off the board. Leave your comments with thoughts on Russell Westbrook and any last-minute ideas for my pick in the SBN mock draft.