Russell Westbrook (Getty Images)
Russell Westbrook is tempestuous. He chafes in full view of cameras broadcasting on a nationally televised station in response to not working as his team's go-to talent. His decision-making needs work, and his shooting touch has yet to mold its way into something you'd respect from long range.
Russell Westbrook is 23. He clearly wants to win above all else, irrespective of who gets the credit in the next morning's recap, and he's worked as a designated second option for each of his four NBA seasons. He has yet to miss a game in his career, he's soon to take over as the best rebounding lead guard in the NBA, he appears to work as the NBA's top point guard on most nights, and his competitive drive is often what puts his Oklahoma City Thunder team over the top.
He's a star in the making, and according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, he's going to be paid like one. The 2010-11 All-NBA second-teamer is about to take in a five-year, $80 million contract extension. Overrate or underrate the guy at your own peril, he's about to become a fixture.
The criticism and optimism surrounding Westbrook is well-founded. He mixes awful decisions in terms of ball-distribution and scoring attempts with an all-around touch that ranks him amongst the best point guards in the NBA just four seasons into moving over toward that particular position. Ranking RW as a more valuable piece than Thunder teammate Kevin Durant is a bit showy and dependent on what we expect an athlete like Russ to do (as opposed to actually doing), but his all-around production (at worst) rivals that of Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, who won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award last season.
If you'll allow me to blink a bit and abandon my tone, understand that Westbrook isn't as good as you think he is -- currently, at least -- and he's nowhere near as destructive as you think he is.
He's 23, and he's absolutely brilliant. With several admiring expletives deleted.
Westbrook is well worth this contract extension, his status as a max-contract guy and his ranking amongst the NBA's elite. He's also worth your scorn, when he pulls up for an ill-fated 16-footer while leaning toward his right. He's also worth your patience, as you watch him grow and deliver and earn the money handed to him by what appears to be the smartest front office in the NBA.
This story isn't over yet. No absolutes, no black and white posturing, and no righteous indignation as to Westbrook's station be it high or low. Just enjoy watching him, as he figures it out.
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