Put Some Respect on Brodie & Booker
This season has been filled with great storylines, interesting teams and has been one of the most parody-filled NBA regular seasons in recent memory.
If the season ended today the Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks, and Phoenix Suns would all be in the playoffs. The race for league MVP goes about 15 players deep, ranging from guys like James Harden to Nikola Jokic to Damian Lillard and a bunch more. The competition across the league is truly at an all-time high.
But still, in the mix of all this excitement and parody in the NBA, there are still a handful of top-level talents that are not receiving their just due. Guys that have been balling out for a majority of the season or have come on strong as of late who are not getting the kind of recognition they deserve.
So, for this week’s Hoopers of the Week, we are going to show some of those guys some much-needed and well-earned respect. These guys are Russell Westbrook in the Eastern Conference and Devin Booker in the Western Conference. Let’s get into it!
To say that Washington Wizards All-Star guard and former league MVP Russell Westbrook has been one of the biggest topics in the NBA this week is probably an understatement at this point.
It all started earlier this week on Tuesday morning when ESPN First Take analyst Stephen A. Smith said that he does not care about Westbrook’s recent historical triple-double run because his statistical production has not been conducive to championship-winning basketball. Of course, the outspoken Westbrook would respond the same day to this take in a media session by saying:
“One thing I won’t allow to happen anymore is let people create narratives and constantly just talking s**t for no reason because I use my platform to be able to help people all across the world.” Westbrook would double down stating “I was a champion once I made it to the NBA. I grew up in the streets…I don’t have to be an NBA champion.”
This back-and-forth would go on to include the opinions of many including Westbrook’s wife, TNT NBA analyst Shaquille O’Neal, and others across the NBA media. Whether you subscribe to Russell Westbrook’s belief that a championship does not define his career, it at least is hard to deny that the man has been on a historical run over the last week and a half.
In the last six games, Westbrook has become only the third player in NBA history to average 15 rebounds and ten assists, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson. This might sound amazing on the surface, but let’s get into specifically what he has done this week.
Things kicked off on Monday against the Indiana Pacers when Brodie went toe-to-toe with Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon. In pursuit of a Wizards’ 132-124 victory, Westbrook put up 35 points, 14 rebounds, and a whopping 21 assists on nearly 50% shooting from the floor (14-of-26).
Washington would unfortunately play out the rest of this week and lose three straight games, but that did not stop Brodie from going off in the process. In the games against Charlotte Hornets and the Detroit Pistons, Westbrook would push his triple-double count to four-straight and eight in his last ten. In those two games, he would combine for 38 points along with 26 boards and 26 dimes on a pretty tough 14-of-36 shooting from the floor and 5-of-14 from beyond the arc.
Westbrook and the Wizards closed out the week 1-3 after falling to Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks yesterday, 109-83. But the matchup did not disappoint as Westbrook and Doncic went blow-for-blow. Doncic finished the game with 26 points, eight rebounds, and six assists on 12-of-24 shooting from the floor. Westbrook’s stat line was nearly identical as he finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, and five assists on 11-of-24 shooting from the floor.
Regardless if you feel like Westbrook is not a “winning player” and more of a “stat padder,” one thing you cannot question is how hard he plays. He has been playing out of his mind since the All-Star break and has been doing this without the assistance of his two-time All-Star backcourt mate in Bradley Beal who has missed some time with a right hip contusion.
Washington is not going to be a playoff team yet again this season, but this team has been exciting to watch because of the play of guys like Westbrook who has really given this team a much-needed spark at the point guard position.
Now we move over to a guy in Devin Booker who may not be in the news as much as Westbrook, but his team is easily in every conversation regarding who the best team in the NBA has been thus far in the regular season.
As the lead guy and two-time All-Star shooting guard, Booker currently has the Phoenix Suns sitting in 2nd place in the Western Conference with a record of 34-14. This week the Suns went 3-0 as they have won eight of their last ten.
Coming off a 35-point performance last Sunday in a win over the Charlotte Hornets, Booker continued to get in his bag this week starting with a matchup against Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks. Young put up a solid double-double with 19 points and 13 assists in the game, but Booker responded with 22 points, three assists, and three rebounds as the Suns went on to win 117-110.
Next up were the Chicago Bulls who played this game without their All-Star shooting guard in Zach LaVine. The Bulls would get nice contributions from newly acquired All-Star Center Nikola Vucevic who put in 24 points and ten rebounds. The frontcourt duo of Thaddeus Young and Lauri Markkanen would also chip in with a combined 35 points and 20 rebounds.
Unfortunately for them, Booker was unstoppable offensively as he put up 45 points, four rebounds, and four assists. His backcourt mate Chris Paul would also have a great performance with 19 points and 14 assists as Phoenix went on to win the game 121-116.
Then finally to cap off the week, Booker and the Suns blew the doors off an undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder team that was missing their two best players in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lugentz Dort. Thunder rookies Theo Maledon (33 points) and Aleksej Pokusevski (20) would have really solid outings in this one, but Phoenix as a team was just too much to handle.
Booker would lead the way with 32 points and five rebounds. He would also get big contributions from Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson who all scored 17 points apiece. This game would end with the Suns winning this one 140-103.
Whether people are willing to admit it or not, Devin Booker has played like a legitimate MVP candidate this season but is not being discussed like one. As part of one of the Top-5 teams in the league this season, Booker is averaging 25.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists on a career-best 49.6% shooting from the floor and 35.5% shooting from beyond the arc.
The man has been a scoring machine since entering the league in 2015 out of Kentucky and now he finally has a chance to display his talents in the playoffs. If Phoenix has plans of going on any little postseason run, best believe Devin Booker’s fingerprints will be all over those blueprints.
It will surely be up to him to translate his regular-season dominance to the bright lights of playoff basketball if the Suns organization wants any chance of hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in franchise history.