Russell Westbrook of the Thunder crashes the offensive boards better than any guard in the NBA and it often goes unnoticed. The Oklahoma City Thunder upset the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the playoffs by killing them on the offensive glass. Westbrook used his elite athleticism and speed to secure extra possessions for the Thunder during this series. It goes unnoticed because of his tendency to play completely out of control at times but it is an unsung part of this game.
All season long, Westbrook has been the NBA’s triple-double man with 18 in the season. He had a career high 7.8 rebounds a game including 1.8 offensive boards. He finished second on the Thunder in total rebounds and third in rebounds per game. It is highly unusually for a guard to be one of the teams leading rebounders. Zach Lowe from ESPN recently reported that NBA teams are giving up on crashing the offensive boards to get back in transition defense.
The Thunder won’t be confused as one of those teams. They were the best rebounding team in the league this season and averaged 13.1 offensive boards a game. Westbrook who led all guards during the regular season improved his average to 2.5 offensive boards in the playoffs. In the plays below against San Antonio he chases down his own miss to kick it out for a Serge Ibaka three, then he has a put-back dunk off a Durant miss, and then on a critical play down the stretch of game 5 he grabs a board and finds Kanter for a game tying basket.
Westbrook is one of the most criticized players in the game. Sometimes he takes too many shots and plays completely out of control. Other times, he uses his athleticism and explosiveness to be one of the best players on the court. He must continue to be a monster on the offensive boards to create problems for the Golden State Warriors’ guards who often leak out. Westbrook’s instinct to fight for offensive rebounds and turn them into points will be one of the key to beating the Warriors and advancing to the NBA Finals.
- Article from Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is an ESPN piece from January 5th, 2016 – Why are teams bored with boards?