Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to be rolling out our profiles of several of the top expected prospects in the 2008 NBA Draft. Figuring that we’re not the only ones who’ve thought of this, we decided to enlist some help by asking several of the best school-specific bloggers in the land to give us the up-close-and-personal profile of the players they’ve spent all year watching. For example, we probably watched Russell Westbrook play 15 times this year, but we were limited by his games that were on national television and other competing games at the same time. These bloggers know these players – their strengths, their weaknesses, whether they become Black Mamba or channel C-Webb in the clutch, and what kind of team they would best fit with at the next level.
With that said, our next submission is from the most excellent UCLA blog, Gutty Little Bruins. Andy over there has spent the week maligning the Mbah a Moute decision to stay in the draft, but he found some time to hook us up with some Bruins info . Here is their post on the acrobatic Russell Westbrook.
Last week, I did a Draft Profile on Kevin Love for Rush the Court and here is another one on Russell Westbrook. Just by looking at these youtube videos, I can tell we’re going to miss him next year. Enjoy!
Russell Westbrook could not dunk a basketball until he was 17.
Yes. That Russell Westbrook.
Yet, there was a time, if you can imagine, where he wasn’t always called “Russell Westbrook.”
Actually, about two years ago, you were more likely to hear him called “Russell Who?” than Russell Westbrook. Or maybe you’d hear him called “That New Guy.” Or “That Dude Who Got an Offer only Because Jordan Farmar Left for the NBA.”
Even in hindsight, you can’t really blame the recruiting services for missing out on Russell Westbrook. When Russell Westbrook was a junior, he was a mere 5’11”. Fast forward only one year later, and he’s 6’3″. And he can jump through the roof. BAM. He went from hoping to walk-on to a major program to bona-fide high-major elite guard prospect in a flash. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to show you Jamal Boykin getting Boykined just once more:
The fact that Westbrook was nearly forgotten as a prospect is best illustrated by the list of programs, besides UCLA, that offered him a scholarship: Arizona State, San Diego, Wake Forest, Creighton, and Kent State.
No Duke, No North Carolina, No Memphis. He came out of nowhere.
Yet coming into this year, Ben Howland could not shut up about Westbrook. Back then, Howland touted that Westbrook was the most improved player on the team. Ask Howland now, and he’ll say that Westbrook is the most improved player he’s ever had. Westbrook went from garnering around 10 minutes a game as Darren Collison’s backup to becoming the starter at shooting guard. Even at the beginning of his first season you could see that his potential was off the charts…
So here is what you need to know about Russell Westbrook:
1. Russell Westbrook is extremely athletic. I could describe how athletic he is but…well…just watch this again:
And because of his athleticism and length, he’s a pretty damn good rebounder for a guard.
2. Russell Westbrook takes defense personally. He is your prototypical lockdown defender and was named the Pac-10’s defensive player of the year. That’s quite the feat in a conference that has begun to swear by defense.
3. Westbrook is as quick as a wink and can penetrate the lane. And he does it fearlessly. To see him on the fast break is quite a sight to be hold. He knows he’s going to the rim. The announcer knows he’s going to the rim. The three guys trying to guard him know he’s going to the rim. But time and again…he just can’t be stopped.
4. Like Kevin Love (and really almost all Ben Howland recruits), Westbrook is a team player and works his butt off. Expect the same work ethic to continue in the NBA.
I see only two potentially serious weaknesses with Westbrook’s game.
1. Outside shot. Westbrook sorely needs to develop a mid range game. He only shot 33% from 3 at the college level and that number will at least stutter in the NBA.
2. Experience. Westbrook is slated to play the point in the NBA…but he’s only played a limited amount of minutes at point guard at UCLA. Those inquiring about his ability to play point at the next level have every right to pose those questions. I guess everyone’s just going to have to wait this one out.
It will be a blast watching him develop. Hopefully he’ll be able to pull off some of those ridiculous dunks at the next level…