The last week of Thunder basketball has featured both highs and lows from this team. The competition stepped up for the first time all season and the Thunder got knocked in the mouth at times, but also fought back.
After the Thunder defeated the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, another well-rounded performance by Paul George has forced Russell Westbrook “stans” to realize that on this particular team, George is the featured player and that’s exactly how it should be moving forward.
Westbrook, while still effective, has taken a step back in his offensive game. Although he’s still compiling triple-doubles with ease as he’s done over the last two seasons, his shooting percentages are down. It has been proven on various occasions this season that the Thunder play better when Westbrook takes fewer shots and George takes more of quality.
Stan means you look up to that person, you watch them or you truly love their content. It’s another word for saying you idolize someone or something.
Right now, Westbrook is averaging 21.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.0 assists per game on 43 percent shooting from the field and 24.8 percent from three. He’s also averaging a career-low 61 percent from the free throw line which used to be automatic for him.
George averages 24.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game on 44.3 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent from three. He’s one of the lone Thunder players that are shooting at an acceptable clip from the free throw line at 82.6 percent.
George’s shooting percentage is a bit skewed. As the epitome of a streaky shooter, when George is up, he’s most definitely up, but when he’s down, he’s at rock bottom offensively. What’s most important is whether he’s making shots or not, is his impact defensively always being constant. What’s different this year, is scoring-wise, George has been more consistent, scoring at least 20 points in 22 of 29 games. What’s been inconsistent is his shooting percentage, which is why the season average is lower than you’d probably imagine. Still, over the last 10 games, George has shot 51.9 percent from the field and 45 percent from three.
Other than George playing at an unbelievable level right now, he’s getting better looks than he has over his entire career, which is a mix of three things: Westbrook maturing as a professional, George becoming more confident in OKC’s system, and allowing his best attribute, defense, take the lead.
In a weird way, Westbrook’s slow start to the season has been a blessing for both he and George. Westbrook has been forced to be a more traditional point guard over this stretch, which has subsequently helped get George in a scoring rhythm more frequently.
Westbrook’s struggles won’t last forever. As repeatably noted, he’s been recovering from a combination of an offseason knee procedure and early-season ankle sprain. He’s not 100 percent healthy, so his shooting percentages will improve with time, but this period should be eye-opening for the former MVP that just reached 30 years-old.
True self-confidence in this sport is knowing that you’re capable of putting the team on your back, but realizing your role and that there are other guys that can do just as much as you. Westbrook is morphing into a player that realizes that, while George continues to realize how devastating he can be for an opposing team on both ends of the court.
MVP chants around the Chesapeake Energy Arena have been for George as of late, and although there are a few players ahead of him for that award, there are still 53 games left to be played and he’s reaching his prime as we speak.