Russell Westbrook is in the middle of one of the best stretches of his career. Over his last 29 games, he has averaged 23.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 12.7 assists per game to help carry the Washington Wizards back into playoff contention. He has 24 triple-doubles in that span alone, more than all but 21 players in NBA history have in their entire careers, and the 30-35 Wizards are now comfortably in possession of the Eastern Conference's No. 10 seed as a result.
Westbrook has publicly grumbled about the lack of credit he has received for his recent stretch, telling reporters that he is pretty sure "if everybody could do it, they would do it." Well, Westbrook's longtime coach, Scott Brooks, went above and beyond in giving his point guard the praise that others haven't. On Monday, he called Westbrook the second-best point guard in NBA history (via Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington).
"I used to always say he's going to probably go down as the third-best point guard ever, but I think he's passed one and he's going to go down as probably the second-best. One is obviously Magic [Johnson]. What he does, there's no point guard that has ever done it. Nobody. Nobody," Brooks said.
"I've been fortunate enough to see him for eight years do a lot of things that are pretty much superhuman at times. Point guards don't do what he does. They aren't built that way," Brooks said.
"There might be some that shoot better, there might be some that probably can do certain things better. But there's nobody in the history of the game that can do what he does throughout the stat sheet. That guy is as high as level of a player this league has ever seen."
While Westbrook is on a Hall of Fame trajectory and can be compared only to Oscar Robertson in terms of triple-doubles, most pundits would likely have him much further down the all-time point guard list. Johnson tops most lists, and his greatest competitor plays in Westbrook's era: Stephen Curry. Chris Paul also usually ranks ahead of Westbrook due to his consistency, shooting and defense despite lacking an MVP award. Brooks does not say who he considered No. 2 before Westbrook, but Isiah Thomas is the likeliest choice.
Categorizing Westbrook as a point guard is almost unfair. As Brooks says, there are no point guards who can do the things that Westbrook does, but there's a reason for that. Westbrook is his own sort of player, and there are many things that most point guards are asked to do that Westbrook doesn't. The only thing he shares in common with most great point guards is that he is roughly their size and he controls the ball on most possessions. Otherwise? His playing style is much closer to a forward like LeBron James than it is to Curry or Paul.
Ranking Westbrook is a nearly impossible exercise because it comes down to how much an individual ranker values a wide variety of different skills. His poor shooting is among the most destructive traits any elite player has ever had, and it makes game-planning against his teams in the playoffs far easier. His athleticism is also game-plan proof and drives opponents crazy. He puts more on the table than any other point guard but takes more off of it as well. His value relies on the talent of his teammates and the creativity of his coaching staff. Most would agree that it's below players like Curry, Paul and Thomas in addition to Johnson, but where he falls beyond that is extremely subjective.
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