After taking a week off here at You’re The GM, we are back this week in what will be the last edition before the playoffs begin. From next week on, we will only be dealing with players in the postseason. As teams “go fishin'” throughout April and May, the talent pool of players to choose from is decreased until the season ends. When that occurs everybody is once again fair game because, well, columns need to be filled before the season begins again next year! For now though it is simply a question being posed to you: Given the chance, would you trade Russell Westbrook?
People may initially think this is crazy talk, but let’s save those accusations for the comment box at the bottom the of the page. Westbrook’s explosiveness and heart do make him quite unique, but his growing injury list is a concern. It is not quite Derrick Rose worrying, but his knees are becoming a real concern. Consider this: his first five seasons in the league, including the lockout shortened campaign, Westbrook didn’t miss a single regular season game. That is insane consistency and something you can build a franchise around.
Multiple knee surgeries have meant he has only played in 40 regular season games so far this season and he’s seeing his playing time restricted to ensure he stays healthy. He is also being held back from playing in back-to-back games with the feeling being that the wear and tear may put him up on blocks again before the playoffs begin. Suddenly this isn’t the kind of player who you can count on to be one of the foundations of your team. It is painful to type these words, but every generation has a Penny Hardaway or a Tracy McGrady, and Westbrook, along with Rose, may be among these guys.
Coming at it from another angle, and one Thunder fans will not want to hear, has this unit gone as far as it can go together? Was that one solitary NBA Finals appearance as good as it gets? Yes, James Harden is gone now, but what management has done with Oklahoma City is nothing short of remarkable. They allowed Harden to leave the team in favor of Serge Ibaka, and by and large nothing really changed. They went back to the draft and made cheap acquisitions to not only keep their head above water, but remain one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
Yes we haven’t yet mentioned Kevin Durant, and his otherworldly talents are a huge reason for this, but maybe management just needed to be brave and make that one killer move to put this team over the top. Westbrook is a catalyst yes, and is so crucial to this team. But his trade value will probably never be higher, so why not cash in now? Of course this is also cruel in a way too, chucking a player to one side at the first sign of trouble. It is not very classy and it is not how the folks in Oklahoma City would conduct themselves. But surely even the most hardcore fan has dared to dream about what bounty could be captured using their mercurial point guard as trade bait?
Hold up a minute though, because we haven’t told the full story here. On his day, Westbrook is unstoppable. He blows past slower defenders, out-muscles quick ones and has a great outside game too. People say he chucks the ball up too much, but his 6.9 assists a game tell a different story. Last season that figure was 7.4 and you know given more game time this year’s numbers would increase. Westbrook is a much smarter player than people give him credit for, he is just the emotional type and so it sometimes looke like his heart is ruling his head.
He has also averaged just over 21 points in the limited games he has played too, showing that he is still a huge factor for this offense. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 23.8 is amazing too, given the league average is 15. Put simply there is still so much to like about this player, and he is only 25 years old. On any given night he can play like the best point guard in the league, and that is not something which should be given up easily. Most fans out there feel that should the Oklahoma City Thunder ever win a championship, Westbrook will be a key reason in helping them achieve that goal.
So what would you do then? Give up one of your stars, albeit a more injury prone one, in the hope of getting enough talent in return to get this team over the top? The Thunder already have their go-to guy in Kevin Durant, so surely filling out the roster with not good but great players in better than having an additional superstar who is spending too much time lately on the treatment table? Or do you stick with Westbrook? He’s given this team his all, and really it is a little too soon to cast him aside yet. Let us know what you think by commenting in the section below or getting in touch with me via twitter @LucaLockheart. Most votes for whichever side you fall on wins!