How the Addition of Russell Westbrook Could Alter the Knicks Franchise

 

The Rockets To Switch Things Up

Daryl Morey, General Manager of The Houston Rockets, flipped Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook in the summer of 2019. Daryl hoped that he would finally give James Harden the complementary star he needed, but once again, The Rockets fell short of their goal. One could attribute many reasons for The Rocket’s failures this season. But one thing is clear: The Rockets are entering an offseason in which changes are to be made. Morey recently stepped down from the GM position in addition to the departure of head coach Mike D’Antoni. With these drastic managerial changes, there will come new decision making, which will likely result in an altering of the roster.

The Center of Attention

The Rockets will definitely be shopping for a center this offseason. However, the most intriguing part of their offseason is what they are going to do with Russell Westbrook. After Morey stepped down, Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that league sources now believe The Rockets are more likely to deal Westbrook. Westbrook, age 32, came to Houston after posting his third straight season in which he averaged a triple-double. He stepped into an offense dominated by James Harden. Russ came from the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he was clearly the alpha dog. Many thought Westbrook would not be able to accept the co-superstar role. It was believed that his game wouldn’t be able to adapt to having another ball-dominant guard on the court. Even more so on a deeper level, they said he wouldn’t be able to deal with the way it would affect his ego. 

Russ Proved His Doubters Wrong

Westbrook silenced all his haters. His success this season is actually one of the more underrated and overlooked story-lines of the season. In some ways, this was Westbrook’s most impressive season of his career; or at least his most efficient one. He was able to accept the role of co-superstar and learn how to play with Harden. He posted the best shooting numbers of his career, netting a career-high 47.2% from the field. 27.2 PPG also represents his highest-scoring number in the last three seasons.

Westbrook matured and became more aware

Westbrook’s three-point shooting did not improve this season and may have even taken a step back. However the three-ball, or should I say the lack of the three-ball, actually gave Westbrook perspective. Westbrook entered a culture in which the long-ball dominated the Rockets offense. But with wisdom, he left the long-ball to the rest of the Rockets’ historically good three-point shooters. While his three-point shooting was borderline horrendous, he finally came to understand that. In fact, Russ attempted his fewest three-point attempts in eight years, demonstrating that he learned to understand his role. He didn’t force a part of a game upon himself that he is clearly not comfortable with, a very mature decision by the veteran.

Paint Domination

Instead, Westbrook focussed on his strong suits and absolutely dominated defenses within the three-point line. Westbrook attempted and sank a career-high two-pointers, and shot the two-ball at the best rate of his career. He torched defenders in the paint. His unguardable stop-and-pop mid-range jumper combined with his drive to the hoop put too much stress on opposing defenses. Westbrook was not even thinking about shooting the three-ball which was the most important part of his success within the paint.

 Franchise Centerpiece 

The New York Knicks lack a point guard and a franchise centerpiece to build around. There is no question that the addition of Westbrook to the Mecca would be a franchise-altering event for the Knicks. The Knicks have many issues they need to solve before they become a respectable team in the NBA with playoff aspirations. But what the Knicks need most is a player they can build around. The organization is in desperate need of a direction – a path that they can take to lift them from the deep hole they have been in since the departure of Carmelo Anthony. A basketball organization needs many pieces in order to be successful. However, the most important part of a contending team is a leader, and there is no better player than Westbrook to fill that role. 

Westbrook will thrive under the bright lights of New York

Westbrook is one of the most mentally tough players in the league. His drive and passion for the game of basketball is not seen in many other players in the league. Whether it’s his emphatic dunks, his means mugs, or his regard and empathy for absolutely none of his opponents, his intensity fits perfectly in the Mecca. Playing under the biggest spotlight in the world, there is no question that Westbrook would light up the Garden. Westbrook could come to New York and be his best self. He wouldn’t have to worry about sharing the ball with another James Harden. 

The new Westbrook

The Westbrook the Knicks would get is not the Westbrook of the past. He is not the Westbrook who would shoot on every possession, not pass the ball to his teammates, and just try to pad up his individual stats. Westbrook moved on from that version of himself. He is sick and tired of losing as a team despite his posting of some of the most historic individual seasons in NBA history. There is no doubt that the individual accolades he achieved thus far in his career are incredible. But his realization that the game of basketball is more than an individual is more respectable than any of his individual awards. The Westbrook that exists now is a mature and seasoned basketball player. He knows a lot more about himself and his skill set than he did two years ago.

The former MVP doesn’t care about the haters. In fact, he thrives off of all the criticism he receives. This makes the prospect of playing in New York, the toughest environment with the most judgmental fans, absolutely electrifying. Westbrook’s intensity fits in perfectly with the culture of New York. His superstar presence is exactly what the Knicks have been dreaming of. 

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