In what has been an offseason filled with interesting transactions, the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards joined in the party by swapping star guards Russell Westbrook and John Wall. Analysts have mixed opinions on who won the trade or how will each player will fare with their new team.
It’s still a matter of wait-and-see. Since teams and their respective players are capable of adjusting their playstyle to accommodate one another. Be that as it may, let’s join the bandwagon by sharing our three bold predictions for Russell Westbrook in his first season with the Wizards.
Triple Doubles, Triple Doubles, Triple Doubles
The Westbrook-Harden duo definitely looked good on paper. While we can never discount the success they had as teammates, let’s face it, the two childhood friends did not complement one another on the court. Both Harden and Westbrook needed the ball in their hands to be effective. And the dip in Westbrook’s statistics proves that the Westbrook-Harden pairing was just a bad idea.
In his lone season with the Rockets, Westbrook averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. These are very impressive numbers without a doubt. But a look at his 2018-19 season averages with the Oklahoma City Thunder shows that Westbrook excelled well if he was the one operating the offense by himself. In his last season with the Thunder, Westbrook averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 10.7 assists. This marked his third consecutive season averaging a triple-double.
We’re not saying that triple-doubles are the be-all and end-all of things. But with Westbrook in the fold, the roles for him and his teammates are crystal clear. When Westbrook drives to the hoop with relentless aggression, all they have to do is get out of the way and be ready to shoot. Bradley Beal, who had to create his own shots without Wall, will now have plenty of wide-open opportunities from deep. Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant will likely experience an uptick in their point averages. And of course, Westbrook will be back piling up those triple-doubles. Maybe he’ll even average one for the fourth time in his career.
League Leader in Assists Once Again
Still on the topic of statistics, Russell Westbrook will likely regain his crown as the league’s best assist-maker. He was the league-leader in assists in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. But as noted above, Westbrook’s assists per game dipped in his lone season with the Rockets. In addition, Westbrook had a 35.6 assist percentage last season. This is a steep decline from his 46.5 assist percentage in the season prior. He even logged in a 57.3 assist percentage during his MVP season in 2017.
The likes of Beal, Hachimura, and Bryant will not just be Westbrook’s main recipients. Sharpshooting swingman Davis Bertans will likely make it rain from downtown a bit more in the coming season. Last year, the Latvian Laser shot at a stellar 42.4 percent clip from downtown. He made 3.7 3-pointers per game which was fourth in the league. And it certainly helps that Bertans is a 6-foot-10 stretch-4. This makes him the perfect complementary stretch big man to Westbrook’s drive and kick.
To make things a whole lot sweeter, advanced statistics reveal that Beal and Bertans are actually in the top 10 in open 3-pointers made per game. Per the NBA’s definition, an “open” shot means that the closest defender is four to six feet away from the shooter. Last season, Bertans was the sixth place with 1.6 open 3-pointers per game while Beal knocked down 1.5 game. These will likely be the looks they’ll be given with Westbrook around to suck the defenses in.
Westbrook Brings Playoffs Back to D.C.
Though Westbrook will be playing with a ton of new faces, he’ll also be reuniting with his former coach Scott Brooks. Note that Brooks was Westbrook’s head coach in the first seven years in the league.
Their partnership resulted in multiple playoff appearances including a trip to the NBA Finals in 2012. We cannot highlight how critical Brooks was in the development of Westbrook. The fact that their partnership has resulted in favorable results in the past, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll replicate their winning ways in Washington.
Westbrook knows Brooks’ playbook and vice-versa. It’ll be a relatively smooth transition for both parties.
Last season, the Wizards fell short by placing ninth in the East. This is still a remarkable feat given that the roster was filled with young guns and with their star guard out. This season, they have Westbrook in the fold, who has showcased his endurance and stamina over the years. The fact is that Russell Westbrook, despite his athletic playstyle, is not injury-prone. This will be critical in the long haul as establishing momentum and rhythm is the name of the game.
The trade may be bringing major change to the Washington Wizards franchise. But change isn’t always bad, especially when it’s just coming off an All-NBA 3rd team selection.