Russell Westbrook is looking healthy, and the Washington Wizards are finally winning games. Was it worth the wait?
The Washington Wizards four games out of being a home-court favorite in the playoffs. Despite what can only be described as a disaster of a start to the Wizards’ season, things are starting to turn around at the season’s one-third mark. At 10-17, the Wizards are squarely in13th in the East, but they’re only four games behind the 15-14 Indiana Pacers, who currently have the East’s fourth-best record.
27 games into the season, the Wizards are currently in the midst of a four-game winning streak, their longest such streak this season. In fact, it’s their longest winning streak since they rattled off five straight wins in January and February of 2018. It’s been three years since the Wizards have had a winning streak like this, and it’s in no small part due to the play of Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook, one of the NBA’s most criticized and critiqued players, was receiving a lot of the blame for the Wizards’ early-season struggles, whether he deserved it or not. The obvious comparisons to John Wall were favoring the former Wizard and current Rocket early in the season. But lately, the tables are turning.
We’re finally seeing a healthy Russell Westbrook, and it’s flat-out fun. During the winning streak, Westbrook has looked a lot more like the player that the Wizards thought they were getting when they brought in the new point guard, and he looks a lot less like an injured and rapidly declining superstar in denial.
The Washington Wizards are finally getting the Russell Westbrook they traded for.
During the Wizards’ winning streak, Westbrook is averaging 17 points, 12.8 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game. It’s nice to see the triple-doubles finally turning into wins.
There are still some issues with Wizards Westbrook, though. He currently leads the NBA in mid-range attempts per game (6.3) despite shooting just 37 percent on such shots. He’s also leading the NBA in turnovers per game (5.1) and ranks in the top ten in turnovers percentage. The mid-range may be something we have to live with as Wizards fans. In year 13, Westbrook is only going to change so much. He is who he is. But the turnovers should improve (even if only slightly) as the Wizards continue to create some actual chemistry. A shortened training camp and preseason and game postponements throughout January delayed all of that.
The more time Westbrook gets with his new crew will only lead to a better version of Russell Westbrook in Washington. The fact that his most recent game (a 27-point triple-double in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers and Westbrook rival Damian Lillard) was by far his best game of the season is proof of that.
In each of the last four games, Westbrook has finished with a non-negative plus. He had only done that twice in his previous 13 games. He’ll need to do it again when the Wizards take on the Los Angeles Lakers tonight if the Wizards are going to keep this winning streak alive.