Rondo a better fit in OKC than Westbrook
by Andrew Kennedy
After watching the first five games of the Thunder season, I’m starting to feel like Russell Westbrook is literally the worst player in the league. He’s definitely becoming one of the most destructive and as part of the Thunder faithful, I want him out now before it gets any worse.
The trade rumors I’ve heard involving Westbrook that are the most exciting would be swaps for Rajon Rondo or Stephen Curry. While Curry is one of my favorite players in the league and I would love to see this trade happen, I’d rather see Westbrook traded for Rondo and think it makes a lot of sense for both teams.
It’s actually really easy to ever argue that Rondo is a better fit somewhere than Westbrook mainly because Rondo is a true point and Westbrook is not so he will always fit in better with a surrounding cast. But would Rondo always give any team the best chance to win over Westbrook? No. Like, if I was a lottery team right now, I’d rather have Westbrook because he has so much more scoring potential.
The Thunder are not a lottery team and are a team that has a chance to win a championship right away. Only it seemed that way before the season started and ever since Westbrook’s demise in the media’s eyes last playoffs, the Thunder’s chances are looking like they’re fading.
One of Westbrook’s big problems has been his inability to get the offense going. Some of the blame needs to go on Scott Brooks and how long some of the Thunder’s sets take to get going but if Rondo was running the show instead of Westbrook, we wouldn’t being seeing this problem with the Oklahoma City offense.
OKC needs a true point
Westbrook isn’t a true point and doesn’t understand when to go and when to slow it down. He also doesn’t seem to have the leadership qualities that a true point like Rondo or Chris Paul displays when they get the rest of their teammates in the positions they need to be. Westbrook often makes the mistake of looking to run and penetrate early in the offense and if he doesn’t get a look, he dribbles it out without calling anything for the Thunder to run. That’s not the qualities that you want out of your point guard.
Westbrook does this so often too and does have some individual success when trying to shoot early in the shot clock. This season, 50 percent of his shot attempts have come in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock and he is shooting .463 percent on those shots, good for 7.4 points per game. A lot of those are also transition opportunities but it’s clear that when he tries for an early shot and doesn’t get it, the Thunder offense suffers after.
Rondo is able to gauge the game better and when to run and not. He actually is more effective scoring early in the shot clock than Westbrook. He takes 52 percent of his shots within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock and shoots 613 percent on those shots.
Rondo’s tendency to push the ball has increased notably this season and since Rondo is one of the league’s best passers (10.5 assists per game this season) it has led to some easy buckets for the Celtics. 26 of Rondo’s 63 assists this season have been at the rim for layups and dunks. Westbrook has just 10 assists at the rim so far this season, a pretty low number for point guards.
Is Westbrook a better shooter than Rondo?
While Westbrook is considered the better scorer than Rondo, his shooting numbers have been worse than Rondo’s so far this season. Westbrook is supposed to be the better jump shooter while Rondo is supposed to be a brick layer. So far this season, Westbrook is taking jump shots 73 percent of the time and shooting just .233 percent on them. He is 2-for-13 between 10-15 feet, 5-for-25 from 16-23 feet and 1-of-10 on three-pointers this season.
Rondo is actually better, taking jump shots 53 percent of the time and hitting .484 percent of them. Rondo is also shooting 40 percent from 10-23 feet this season. Will these numbers remain the same for the entire season? Maybe not but it is clear that Rondo is getting better at deciding when to take jump shots and Westbrook is getting worse at it.
Rondo’s a better fit for OKC’s offense
With not much of a post presence on offense, Oklahoma City relies a lot on pick-and-roll and spot up shooting to get their points. Rondo thrives in creating shots for both of these facets while Westbrook has truly been struggling.
Westbrook is shooting just 6-of-33 off pick-and-rolls this season, just over 18 percent. Rondo is much better at 11-for-21 shooting as the pick-and-roll ball handler this season. The only area where Westbrook still can produce well is in the isolation. He is over 50 percent in isolation shooting but is turning the ball over 39.1 percent of the time as well.
The Thunder need good pick-and-roll players in their offense which is evident by the jump James Harden, who thrives in the pick-and-roll, is making for them. Rondo is also one of the best at getting the ball to players coming off screens having done it so much with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Kevin Durant is one of the deadliest players coming off screens in the league today, shooting 56 percent coming off them this season, and Rondo will only help that number.
All of these numbers seem to point to the truth that Westbrook is in a huge funk in Oklahoma City and isn’t fitting in as well anymore. While his numbers have been dropping, Kevin Durant and Harden’s have been rising. If Oklahoma City wants to win now, they should get rid of Westbrook and try their best to get Rondo in return.
What Westbrook gives Boston
It’s no secret that Boston’s getting old. What is the best thing that Westbrook could bring to the Celtics? Young legs. If surrounded by Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers, it would be great for Westbrook in the situation he is now.
Boston would be in better shape now and for the future is they could get Westbrook for Rondo. With Rondo as their best player, Boston is no longer a team who can compete for a championship. When Rondo was their third or fourth best player and Garnett, Pierce and Allen were closer to their primes, it was a perfect fit.
After trading away Rondo’s best friend, Kendrick Perkins, last year and now the trade rumors surrounding Rondo, a very proud and confident player, he is ready to leave himself. At this point, there is no better talent they could get for Rondo than Westbrook.
The one thing Boston now lacks with an aged Pierce, is someone who can come in and score in isolation situations, the best aspect of Westbrook’s game. Boston looks to score in isolation plays just 6.7 percent of the time this season and shoots just 26.7 percent in those situations, 28th in the league.
As long as Westbrook can cut down the turnovers, and with Rivers coaching him I think he does, then he will drastically improve Boston in that area, an area that will need to improve upon if they want to beat Miami in the playoffs.
Who’s not happy?
Both Rondo and Westbrook have been unhappy this season and both have trade rumors surrounding them. If they are traded for each other, that gets rid of all that. Rondo goes to play with his best friend and for the best team in the West. Westbrook gets a fresh start with one of the most storied franchises in all of sports and under a great point guard mentor in Rivers.
Thunder fans are sad to see Westbrook go but by now most of them understand he needs to. Rondo will solve the issue of the Thunder offense becoming stagnant at times so there is immediate progress in replacing Westbrook.
The Celtics fans suddenly get to watch a team that doesn’t look so old. Westbrook is one of the freak athletes in the league and exciting to watch when he explodes to the rim. Boston fans could use a dose of that to restore hope in the team’s chances at competing for a title. Westbrook is no longer second fiddle to Durant and now has the freedom to explode as a scorer in Boston. He immediately gives the Celtics a different look that could surprise Chicago or Miami enough to take a series with them seven games and maybe upset them.
How often are there trades that make sense for both teams and make both teams better? Not often. This is one that needs to get done.