Russ’s legacy is on the line, and it needs to be discussed

Russell Westbrook is one of the most electrifying players I’ve ever seen pick up a basketball. His intensity, out of this world athleticism, and sheer brute strength is unlike anything I’ve ever seen from a point guard. Russ has already earned his place among the ten greatest point guards ever, and it is for that reason that we cannot allow another potential first round exit to slide so easily.

Last year I wrote an article on the ten greatest point guards ever and I put Russ at the number nine spot on that list. As a MVP winner, multiple All-NBA team member, and perennial all-star he deserved that spot but I couldn’t put him higher for the simple fact that I haven’t seen him do more as the number one option on his own team. Not only has he not lead his team to enough, but as a superstar MVP caliber player I would go as far as to say he has underachieved as well.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game One

Let’s just compare Russ to a few of his contemporaries that I had on the list, I’ll be fair I wont even use the multiple time champions like Magic, Zeke, Curry, etc. Steve Nash never won a championship in his career but he had enough impact on his team to where you can still give him all the respect in the world cause he at least led them to something. Nash led the Suns to multiple 50 win seasons, two 60 win seasons, and three conference finals appearances.

Lets look at Jason Kidd. Jason Kidd won a championship as a older veteran player for the Mavericks in 2011 but that’s not whats important here. Kidd led the Nets to back to back finals appearances and granted they loss but again, he led them to something. 

My point here is that Russ hasn’t led the Thunder to anything. In 2015 when KD missed the entire season due to injury Russ and the Thunder missed the playoffs despite Russ playing most of the season and since KD left to Golden State three years ago the Thunder have lost in the first round two years in a row, haven’t won 50 games yet despite having a MVP, two all defensive first team players, Steven Adams, and now (I’m not panicking yet) are down in this series against the Blazers.

I’m a fair NBA fan, I’m not hyper critical of guys who haven’t won a championship and that isn’t the end all be all for me. What I tend to pay attention to (And I hold Russ to a higher standard than this)  is can you at least get your team to the playoffs consistently? Can you get your team out of the first round consistently? Can you lead them to at least one conference finals?

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks

That is to me why Russ’s legacy is on the line. I’ve never been hyper critical of his triple-doubles cause I’ve always felt his triple doubles were vital to the success of the Thunder. I’ve only ever been critical of Russ and how he plays with other stars, especially stars who are better than him. And Russ deserves all the credit in the world for how he has played this season. He’s deferred to PG for most of the season and it shows as the Thunder were better (until PG’s shoulder injury) this season than last year, and he’s been excellent on the defensive end for the first time in years.

I’m not giving up on the Thunder just yet in this post-season. I believe they’re going to win this series and I’ve even gone as far as to pick them to go to the conference finals. But Russ has to lead this team out of the first round at least and he should be able to lead this team to the conference finals. They’re a better group than both of their potential opponents in the semi finals (Spurs/Nuggets).

Russell Westbrook is a top ten all time player, a MVP winner, and his career stat line will be among the 30 greatest career stat lines ever… and it is for that reason that he can’t lose this series, it is for that reason that he must lead this team to the conference finals. Every single player of his caliber has been able to lead a team to the conference finals at least and there should be no excuse for a player who is now 30 years old and still in the prime of his career.

LeBron and his failed feat of chasing the “ghost” of Chicago

After leading the Cavs to a game 7 victory over the Golden State Warriors in 2016, LeBron James owned the basketball world. He captured his 3rd championship, his 3rd finals MVP, and he (with the help of Kyrie) ended Cleveland’s 52-year drought without a professional sports championship.

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Greatest Power Forwards in NBA History

Establishing the order of this list was harder than any other position ranked list I’ve ever done. You could make a legitimate case for at least five of the players on this list taking the number one spot and each were so similar in skill that I almost felt bad putting one over the other.

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Greatest Small Forwards in NBA History

The small forward position has featured some of the highest flying players in NBA history. From sky walkers like the Human Highlight Reel, to machines like Lebron, to something we’ve never seen before in Kevin Durant. Here’s my list of the greatest small forwards to ever touch the hardwood floor.

 

james worthy

10. James Worthy

Career Stats: 17.6 PPG 5.1 REB 3.0 AST

Accomplishments: 3x Champ 1x Finals MVP 7x All-Star 2x All-NBA

Big Game James. One of the most clutch players in the history of basketball. A high flying forward whose game shined the brightest on the biggest stages. During the 88′ Finals with the Lakers down 3-2 against the Pistons, James delivered the most impressive performances of his career. Dropping 28 and 9 in game 6 and following that performance up with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assist in the title clenching game 7 which earned him Finals MVP honors.

dominique

9. Dominique Wilkins

Career Stats: 24.8 PPG 6.7 REB 2.5 AST

Accomplishments: 9x All-Star 7x All-NBA 1x Scoring Champ

The Human Highlight Reel is the greatest dunker of all time, apologies to Michael and Vince but Dominique was flashier than MJ and was doing dunks far ahead of his time in regards to Vince. The Hawks never surrounded Dominique with adequate talent sufficient enough to bring a title to the A but regardless the Georgia legend deserves his place among the greatest small forwards ever.

paul pierce

8. Paul Pierce

Career Stats: 19.7 PPG 5.6 REB 3.5 AST

Accomplishments: 1x Champ 1x Finals MVP 4x All-NBA 10x All-Star

Paul Pierce likely would’ve been the eastern conference version of Carmelo if Ray and KG didn’t come to Boston. That’s not exactly an insult either but i say that to make the point that Pierce’s ring and finals MVP is probably the most legacy turning finals mvp/ring combo for any player on this list.

rick_barry_drive

7. Rick Barry

Career Stats: 24.8 PPG 6.7 REB 4.9 AST

Accomplishments: 1x Champ 1x Finals MVP 1x ABA Champion 8x All-Star 6x-All NBA

It’s debatable that Rick Barry is the most underrated superstar in the history of basketball. When you talk about offensive juggernauts you rarely hear his name mentioned even though it should be far more than it is. An excellent perimeter player who could find a shot anywhere he wanted to on the floor. Rick also led the league in scoring in 1967 averaging the most PPG ever by someone not named Wilt or Michael by averaging 35.8 PPG that season.

Elgin_Baylor

6. Elgin Baylor

Career Stats: 27.4 PPG 13.5 REB 4.3 AST

Accomplishments: 11x All-Star 10x All-NBA Rookie of the Year

One of the original high flyers Elgin Baylor led the early Lakers teams during a time period where they will still very much so in the shadow of the Russell led Celtics. Sure, you could make an argument that his numbers are inflated due to the era he played in being the beginning of basketball but regardless, he was dominant for the time period he played in and deserves respect for how great he was during his specific era.

scottie

5. Scottie Pippen

Career Stats: 16.1 PPG 6.4 REB 5.2 AST

Accomplishments: 6x Champion 7x All-Star 7x All-NBA 10x All-Defense 1x STL Leader

Scottie Pippen in my estimation is the greatest perimeter defender in the history of basketball. He will forever be viewed as Michael’s sidekick but that is perhaps extremely unfair to a man who led the Bulls to a 55 win season the season after Michael Jordan retired (the first time) and was one game away from the conference finals. MJ wouldn’t have enjoyed the success he did if it weren’t for Scottie and the Bulls should forever be grateful they swindled him away from the Seattle Supersonics.

dr j

4. Julius Erving 

Career Stats: 24.2 PPG 8.5 REB 4.2 AST

Accomplishments: 3x Champ 16x All-Star 7x All-NBA 4x MVP 

The man with the coolest nickname in all of sports, Dr. J was simply a magician. Long and Tall, Erving could glide the length of the court with no more than just three steps and dunk on every defender standing in his way in the paint. As the years have passed people view Dr J more in the realm of dunking and not how sensational of an all-around player he was. He was an incredible rebounder for his position and his easily the greatest ABA player there ever was.

Kevin Durant

3. Kevin Durant

Career Stats: 27.1 PPG 7.1 REB 3.9 AST

Accomplishments: 9x All-Star 4x Scoring Champ 1x MVP

Kevin Durant is the most unique basketball player I have ever laid eyes on. He’s the size of a center yet he can move with the ball like a guard and can shoot from anywhere on the floor like a shooting guard, he’s literally a unicorn. I view him as second greatest scorer ever second to only Michael Jordan, and by the end of his career I will not be surprised one bit to see him sit atop the all time scoring list ahead of everyone. 

larry bird

2. Larry Bird

Career Stats: 24.3 PPG 10.0 REB 6.3 AST

Accomplishments: 12x All-Star 3x NBA Champ 2x Finals MVP 3x MVP 

Larry Legend was drafted by the Celtics and made an immediate impact on the team. The year before Larry came into town with his iconic mustache the Celtics were a miserable 29 win team and immediately following the year after they drafted him they would win 61 games. A 32 game turnaround which still stands as the most impactful season a rookie has ever had on a team. 

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