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ESPN’s Zach Lowe strongly suggests Russell Westbrook is padding his rebounds

Russell Westbrook, K.J. McDaniels
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Much has been made of Russell Westbrook‘s historic triple-double season, and most incredibly, that he is doing so in 10 fewer minutes than the legendary Oscar Robertson, who was the only player to average one for a season during 1961-62.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe is a firm believer that if a media presence is to vote Westbrook for MVP over James Harden, it should not be because of his two-rebound advantage over The Beard, or the historical factor of being the next coming to Robertson.

Lowe argued that the Oklahoma City point guard was clearly padding his rebounds throughout the season, despite his often team-first attitude during interviews and media scrums.

“If you don’t think Russell Westbrook is stat padding his rebounds, you’re just blindfully ignorant or not watching,” said Lowe on his podcast The Lowe Post. “He is stat-padding his rebounds. So if you really care enough about two defensive rebounds to make that the deciding factor in who you vote for, more power to you. If you vote for Westbrook, you should not do it because of the triple-double. Period.”

While there is much truth to it, he’s not the only one to pad his stats. One could argue that Harden pads his assists by unnecessarily passing for a corner three when he has a potential and-one situation by going into the heart of the paint. The biggest difference is that Harden has weapons around him that can make those shots — Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, Lou Williams — all 35 percent-and-above three-point shooters with more than 1.7 three-point field goals made per game.

Westbrook has… Victor Oladipo on a good day at best?

The Thunder’s three best three-point shooters are rookie Alex Abrines (1.3 3-pt FGM on 37.2 percent), Oladipo (2.0 3-pt FGM on 37.1 percent), and Westbrook (2.5 3-pt FGM on 34.7 percent). OKC shoots a combined 33 percent from deep this season and is 28th in the league in percentage and 25th in makes.

So let’s make the argument a fair one, Lowe. We can also argue Andre Drummond takes hook shots with his off hand purposely to grab that extra offensive rebound, or that Rudy Gobert is slightly out of position at times to get an added emphatic block on a smaller opponent.

The fact that Westbrook is averaging these numbers in less than 35 minutes per game makes it all that much more impressive.

Averaging 10.4 assists with a bad roster is much more significant a feat than 11.2 assists with a much more capable one. It’s doing the most with least available resources.

“I might vote for Russell Westbrook. I’m not going to tell you which way I’m leaning, but I might,” said Lowe. “It doesn’t have to matter to you that he is averaging a triple-double. That’s not why you should vote for him.

“You should vote for him because he is carrying a bad roster to 45 wins. The team is a disaster without him. They were designed to be a team of role player finishers around two superstars. They lost one of their superstars and haven’t fallen into the tank. Those are reasons to vote for him. The fact he averages 10 rebounds instead of eight-and-a-half is not really a reason to vote for him.”

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