The NBA draft is arguably my favorite day of the year. I love seeing the start of what are promising careers for some and landmark disappointments for others (Nikoloz Tskitishvili 5th overall in 2002).
Every analyst on earth is putting up their mock drafts, so I will spare you that formality (they’re always wrong after the first 3 picks anyway). Instead I will extend a warning to NBA GM’s, particularly those in the 4-9 position in the lottery:
DO NOT DRAFT RUSSELL WESTBROOK!
I know it sounds harsh, but over the past few weeks I’ve seen Westbrook’s stock rise faster than gas prices, and I cannot figure out why. He was a mediocre college player on a team that was basically left to him and Kevin Love when Darren Collison was injured for a chunk of the season.
Yes, he’s a freak athlete and supposedly a ‘lock down’ defender with a huge wingspan (according to Jay Bilas, nobody in the draft has a wingspan under 7 feet). But I have inside information that should be good enough reason for teams to steer clear of Westbrook until the late first round:
My friend Roger, a 6-foot-3 small forward who played for two different Division III schools, LOCKED UP Russell Westbrook in a pick-up game at UCLA last summer.
Yes, I’m serious. I was there. I was on his team. It was me (former high school division V California All-State player, thank you very much), Roger, and three scrubs against Westbrook, Lorenzo Mata, James Keefe, DeAndre Robinson, and a former UCLA football player.
First of all, I have no idea why four UCLA basketball players decided to hone their skills and prepare for the season by dismantling players that couldn’t even make the B-Division championship in intramurals.
But, after the Wooden Center Dream Team had won a couple of games, we had next so I figured it would be fun to say that we played against them. So I, 6-3 with shoes on, guarded the 6-8 (and hideously ugly) Lorenzo Mata, and Roger took Westbrook.
They started off joking around and throwing alley oops that went out of bounds over the basket. Westbrook got a steal and a fast break dunk where he clearly displayed his ‘plus’ athleticism.
Then a funny thing happened, we started winning.
You could see their body language getting a little more serious and MUCH more physical.
Soon enough it deteriorated into a regular old pickup game, complete with arguments, threatened violence, and three-minute long possessions.
Now, as much as I respect my friend’s game, he’s no Bruce Bowen when it comes to defense. His lateral quickness is, let’s just say, lacking. But he certainly is what we call a smart (otherwise known as white) defender.
But in a game to 11 by ones, Roger held soon-to-be top 10 NBA draft pick Russell Westbrook scoreless for the last 6 points or so, and it’s not like he wasn’t trying. Westbrook couldn’t make a jumper, and when he tried to get by Roger he couldn’t, pulling up for a crappy jumper or giving one of his patented ‘jump in the air for five seconds while I figure out what to do’ passes.
We ended up winning the game, and Lorenzo Mata tried to punch Roger in the face before the whole squad stormed off the court in disgust.
I think we lost the next game to five senior citizens but it didn’t really matter. We had our story to tell. By the time we’re in our 60s Russell Westbrook will turn into Baron Davis and Lorenzo Mata will be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
So, that’s my cautionary tale for any team that wants to take Westbrook. In any case Roger can always say that he shut down an NBA player (no matter how bad he turns out) and if Westbrook ends up an all-star we can tell everyone that Roger’s tough love caused Westbrook to work harder and take his game to the next level.
In either case, Roger just has one thing to say: “Russell, tell me how my ass taste!”