Russell Westbrook: Historical Comparisons

I about blew a gasket the other day when I read that Russell Westbrook is averaging more rebounds per game (10.5) this season than Karl Malone (10.1) did in his career, and nearly as many assists per game this season (10.4) as John Stockton (10.5) did in his career. I wasn’t impressed as much by the numbers, as I was shocked that someone out there was dumb enough to throw this comparison out there.

Anytime someone is being compared to Stockton and Malone I take it personally. Westbrook is a warrior, a competitor, and an absolute freakish athlete, but please do not compare him to two of the most efficient and skilled players in NBA history.

Westbrook’s previous career-high for rebounds per game in any season was 7.8 rebounds. Westbrook’s career average is 6 rebounds per game. Malone on the other hand, had eight seasons in which he averaged more than Westbrook’s 10.5 this season. In Malone’s 19 year career, Malone never had a season averaging less than Westbrook’s previous career-best of 7.8 rebounds per game. Malone averaged 10.1 rebounds per game in his 1476 career games. Westbrook has averaged 10.5 rebounds over a 53-game stretch.

Westbrook is no Stockton.
Nobody compares to Stock.

Westbrook’s career-high for assists per game is 10.2, but he averages just 7.8 assists per game for his career. Comparing anyone to Stockton in the assist category is insane. Stockton had 10 seasons averaging at least 10.5 assists per game. Not only that, but Westbrook is averaging 5.4 turnovers per game to get his 10.2 assists. Stockton never averaged more than 3.8 turnovers per game and he did that in a season he averaged 13.6 assists. Stockton’s career-best season for assists was 14.5 assists per game. Westbrook is not even close to being in Stockton’s league.

Only idiots compare season averages to career averages. Career averages are always pulled down by the first couple of seasons in the league, as the player adjusts to the NBA and generally playing fewer minutes, and then again in the last couple of seasons before retirement, as the body breaks down. Comparing Russell Westbrook’s prime season averages to Malone and Stockton’s career averages and implying that Westbrook is somehow a better rebounder than Malone and a better passer than Stockton is like saying that Jerry Stackhouse is a better scorer than Kobe Bryant because Stackhouse had that one season where he averaged 29.8 points per game, which is better than Kobe’s career average of 25 points per game. It’s like saying that the great Greivis Vasquez is a better passer than Jason Kidd and Steve Nash because of that one season he averaged 9 assists per game was better than Kidd and Nash’s career averages.

If you want to compare Russell Westbrook to Oscar Robertson because of the triple-doubles, fine. If you want to compare his competitiveness and putting his body on the line to Allen Iverson, great. But do not compare his season numbers to the career numbers of the famous Jazz duo, that’s just taking it too far.

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