Russell Westbrook went through a rough 2021-22 season in which he became the scapegoat of scapegoats for all that went wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers.
When he was traded there last summer, many expected them to contend for the NBA championship, but after numerous things went wrong, they didn’t even qualify for the play-in tournament.
Although Westbrook certainly contributed due to his multiple flaws and weaknesses, he also played well at times and averaged 18.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.
Because of L.A.’s terrible season, it’s easy to forget that not too long ago, Westbrook won a regular season MVP award and averaged a triple-double four times in a span of five seasons.
Of his 14 seasons in the NBA, which has been his best, at least so far?
Westbrook Was A Monster In 2017
From a purely individual basis, you can’t go wrong with the 2016-17 campaign, which was when Westbrook won the MVP award.
It was his first season without Kevin Durant at his side, and his Oklahoma City Thunder needed him to bring his A-game every single night in order to have a chance to win.
It was akin to Michael Jordan‘s early days in the mid-1980s, or when Kobe Bryant was playing on a mediocre Lakers squad two decades later.
Westbrook put up 31.6 points a game in 2017, earning him his second scoring title, to go along with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game, making it the first time he averaged a triple-double for an entire season.
It was the first time any player had done so since Oscar Robertson in the early 1960s, and many doubted if anyone could do it in the modern era versus sophisticated modern-day defenses.
2017 Russell Westbrook.pic.twitter.com/2mGnBnB4yA https://t.co/bHaRplUxFu
— hoopsdontstop 🗯 (@hoopsdontstop) December 4, 2021
Oklahoma City’s only other legitimate scoring threat in the 2016-17 season was Victor Oladipo, who averaged a mere 15.9 points per game, and as a team, it finished 16th in offensive efficiency and last in 3-point shooting percentage.
Yet, thanks to Westbrook, the team won 47 games and made the playoffs while playing above the collective level of its talent.
It was one of the more remarkable examples of a great player elevating a mediocre roster through not just his talent but also his sheer will.
There Was One Season That, Overall, Was Better
Since team success matters in a team sport such as basketball, one has to conclude that, overall, the 2015-16 season was Westbrook’s best.
He averaged “just” 23.5 points along with 7.8 boards and 10.4 assists a contest that year, but he was named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time.
The Thunder finished with a 55-27 record, allowing Westbrook to post a career-high 14 win shares and 55.4 true shooting percentage.
— NBA (@NBA) January 1, 2017
He also enjoyed arguably his best postseason, putting up 26.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 11.0 assists a game in 18 playoff games.
That was the year the Thunder took a 3-1 series lead over the 73-win Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, only to blow the lead and lose the series.
At home in Game 6, they blew a sizable lead in the fourth quarter as Westbrook played poorly, going 2-of-7 from the field in that period while committing four turnovers in the final 1:40.
Unfortunately, it looks like that will turn out to be his last real shot at winning a world championship.