Russell Westbrook in Fantasy Basketball Dynasty 2019 is the type of player to put fear in your heart on and off the court. We know the style of play he brings is ferocious and he leaves everything on the court. He has a killer instinct mentality and is one the most competitive players in the NBA. This is a style that I enjoy and appreciate on my fantasy teams, but we also have to realize if you go all out you have to continue to make improvements to your craft that you may lack in. Relying on your athleticism, while showing no regard for your body as crash onto the floor and absorb tons of contact is a recipe for disaster as you continue to age. Many bloggers may be afraid to write an article like this, but I won’t shy away.
Russ had a special 16-17 MVP season that will be remembered for ages averaging a triple-double along with 30+ points. He had an extra incentive to play harder when KD left him. Paul George has been a nice addition to help Russ to be little more efficient but hasn’t helped him in any other area of his game. Since 16-17 he has taken a dip in points, 3 pointers, Rebounds, Assists, FGA, FT%, and Usage rate. Westbrook has never been a particular sharpshooter but has been able to score around the basket and from free throw line. Russ still attempts a lot of free throws and what’s alarming now is he’s not shooting 80% or better like what we’re accustomed to. At this point, he is a punt build type of player at the charity stripe. His turnovers are trending up as well which hurts him in all leagues that utilize that category.
The future outlook for him has not looked promising for him, especially considering all of the minor injuries that have continued to plague him. Westbrook has a healing factor of Wolverine like tendencies, but how long can he play angry and ferocious? His production will continue to dip due to age, with Paul George, and Thunder roster taking more responsibility from him. I will never question his heart or competitiveness, but one thing holds true is trending or declining stats. He may be the only NBA player to prove all of us wrong and go back to MVP Russ.
Historically, we need to look at a player like Kobe Bryant, who obviously had an amazing all-around game, that was originally built on his other-worldly athleticism. As he aged and lost the ability to blow past defenders, he worked tirelessly on his game to become an improved outside shooter, a master at footwork and angles, and a serious post-up threat. If Westbrook has any hope of aging gracefully, this is the blueprint he needs to follow. Unfortunately, I have my doubts about whether he has these in his plans.
Looking at his current status, I believe he will work his way back to a top 25 ranking. The free throw shooting and turnovers should get closer to his normal ranges. My prediction from there is that he will actually have some slight improvements next season as well. His 2020 season will be where the physical tolls really start to slow him down. He’ll still probably be a usage monster, but the efficiency will continue to slip, leading to an at best 30 ranking, which will keep sliding and never look back.
The Starks Move
I traded him in my Dynasty League following his MVP season. I constructed a package based around Russ that included a few more players to earn Karl-Anthony Towns. Sometimes in Dynasty, you have to go with an instinct vs a consistent producer, but don’t take that approach all the time with players that are on your team. When he returns from his current injury and strings along a few strong games I recommend you work to trade him for a younger top 20-25 player.
He can still fill it up, so send this as a reminder when you trade.
I’ll never question his heart on the court, but I will question Westbrook’s durability to stay on the court throughout the rest of his career at his age. I’m afraid durability will catch up with him each year moving forward which will force him to fight to reach the rankings I have him pegged at. I don’t want to be that GM that has to face inconsistencies of his ranking that won’t be consistent moving forward. Russ is the only player right now that can win that uphill battle to be even better than those rankings, but I’ll leave it another GM.
2018: Top 25
2019: Top 20 (small bounceback)
2020: 30 or worse (The real decline begins)