Is Russell Westbrook in his prime? Recent history suggests a huge drop
After the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Paul George to the L.A. Clippers, the future of Russell Westbrook became imminently more unclear.
Considering that the Thunder landed 20-year-old point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and several future draft picks in the massive deal, the timeline of their franchise changes to a younger and rebuilding identity. That presumably makes Westbrook significantly more expandable, which means that the 2017 NBA MVP could be available for other teams in the league for a trade.
During a recent episode of The Hoop Collective podcast, they mentioned that it’s “not every day an MVP in their prime is available for a trade” – which led to an interesting question about what stage of his career Westbrook is in.
They discussed that it was “debatable analytically” though it was not long ago he won the league’s Most Valuable Player. They also touched on the fact that earlier this season, the guard had 20 points, 20 rebounds and 20 assists in a game.
Perhaps the biggest issue for Westbrook is his massive contract that will be on the books for whatever team he plays for moving forward. He is set to earn $38.5 million next season and then $41.4 million in 2020-21 and then $44.2 million in 2021-22.
While that may be the hangup that diminishes his value, it still doesn’t quite answer the question of what value he will have on the basketball court as he gets older. The guard will be 31 years old when the season begins next year and 34 years old by the time his contract expires. Those are the seasons he’ll be paid for wherever he ends up.
According to our research department, just 15.7 percent of instances where a player received All-NBA honors this century have been 31 or older. Only 19 players have earned that nod at this age, though several have been big men whose frame continued to benefit their game.
Ignoring those examples because they will not have a similar age regression as Westbrook, we can look at guards in the past 19 years that have had success as they got older.
This is the full list of backcourt players since 2000 who have an All-NBA selection this late in their careers: Chauncey Billups, Gary Payton, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Manu Ginobili, Paul Pierce, Steve Nash and Tony Parker.
For what it’s worth: Payton, Bryant, James and Nash are the only examples who appeared more than once. Bryant and James both played wing, which means Payton and Nash are the only point guards with such a denotation.
Westbrook has always been an incredibly versatile basketball player who provides value in several ways beyond his scoring. But his biggest asset has been his athleticism, which will likely diminish as he gets older.
HoopsHype’s Alberto de Roa contributed research to this report