13 Apr The Friday 4 – Westbrook did it again
By: Josh Weinstein
Welcome to The Friday 4, a weekly column where we dive into the player, trend, surprise and read that we found most interesting from the past week in the NBA.
Q: PLAYERS CATCH OUR ATTENTION IN UNEXPECTED WAYS. WHO’S ONE PLAYER LOCALLY OR NATIONALLY WHO YOU’RE WATCHING ESPECIALLY CLOSELY OF LATE?
Russell Westbrook just pulled off what seemed to be the impossible, averaging a triple-double for a second consecutive season. He was stat-chasing like no tomorrow, but when we look back in 30 years at The Brodie’s statistical achievement, that element of the accomplishment won’t matter in the slightest. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing a freakishly athletic specimen at the peak of his powers and the luxury of having that experience has been terrific for all NBA fans. Those that base their evaluation of a basketball player’s talent on the most advanced analytics may not take too kindly to Westbrook’s efficiency numbers, but regardless of how many shots he’s taking and missing, his overwhelming impact on the Oklahoma City Thunder cannot be denied. I’m interested to see whether the presence of Paul George can help Westbrook lead a team past the first round of the playoffs. Against a defensively-sound team like the Utah Jazz, that may prove to be too tall a task to handle.
Q: IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START LOOKING FOR TRENDS WHEN IT COMES TO PLAYERS, GENERAL MANAGERS, COACHES, TEAMS OR EVEN THE LEAGUE AS A WHOLE. WHAT’S ONE TREND THAT’S STANDING OUT TO YOU SO FAR IN 2018?
While the Eastern Conference is more up for grabs than it has been at any point in the past decade, fans still can’t help but favour LeBron James in the postseason. Even though Cleveland is entering the playoffs as a fourth-seed, LeBron has proven through his seven-straight NBA Finals trips that he can single-handedly lift the play of his team to a whole other level. I wouldn’t doubt that James can do that again, especially following one of the best seasons of his 15-year career.
Q: THERE ARE SURPRISE TEAMS EVERY YEAR, AND WHILE MOST END UP FADING AWAY, SOME CONTEND ALL YEAR. ARE THERE ANY LEGITIMATE CONTENDERS AMONG THIS YEAR’S SURPRISE CLUBS?
After getting swept in the first round of the postseason one year ago, the Portland Trail Blazers trotted back essentially the same core group of players and somehow improved. The terrific guard combination of Damian Lillard (4th in NBA with 26.9 points per game) and C.J. McCollum along with bruising centre Jusuf Nurkic have been the three most important players for the Blazers this season. With how closely contested the Western Conference playoff seeding was, the Blazers could have been entirely out of the playoff picture with three more losses. Nevertheless, Portland won the games it had to and have home-court advantage in the opening round of the postseason. This team has been a surprise contender all season, and I could seem them going as far as the conference finals if match-ups break the right way. I’d classify the Blazers as a second-tier contender; Portland isn’t on the same level of a Houston or Golden State juggernaut, but are a team that can hang with just about anybody else around the league.
Q: WHAT’S SOMETHING SMART OR INTERESTING YOU READ RECENTLY AND WHY DID IT STAND OUT?
This article is more of a gallery than anything else, but it’s must-see content. ESPN documented all 82 game-day outfits Russell Westbrook wore to and from games this season and shared them with the public. My main takeaway after looking at all 82 outfits: Westbrook is a one-of-a-kind individual. Trust me, it’s worth taking a look at this Westbrook gallery (I never thought I’d write that in a million years…there’s a first for everything).