Brandon C. Williams:
It’s time to downgrade Russell Westbrook in the wake of Tuesday’s surgery, which will cause him to miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season.
The once-durable Westbrook had been regarded as a solid mid-first round selection after averaging 22.3 points and 7.4 assists, along with 5.2 rebounds and 1.77 steals per game last season. Add the fact that Westbrook — who had played in each of the Thunder’s 394 regular season games since being drafted in 2008 — had been one of the most durable players available, and suddenly there is chaos.
Tuesday’s surgery leaves the fantasy draft status of Russell Westbrook in limbo. Photo Credit: Paul L. McCord Jr.
Those looking at how the Thunder will fill in the gap left by Westbrook’s absence can look at third-year PG Reggie Jackson, who showed his potential in nine postseason starts after replacing Westbrook, who went down in the second game of the opening round victory over the Rockets. Jackson averaged a respectable 13.9/4.9/3.6 while shooting .479 from the field and .897 from the line.
Jackson immediately becomes a mid-round target and jumps to the head of the line of potential sleepers. It stands to reason his assists totals will go up now that Kevin Durant will not have to share alpha dog status with Westbrook, who will likely return in mid-December.
Expect a nice jump in points per game (perhaps four to six) from Durant, who will be considered more valuable than LeBron James in some drafts. He and James have alternated one/two in the first round, and with the promise of more scoring, Durant will get a bit of a nudge over James.
Look for the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Kevin Love to each move up a notch or two with the loss of Westbrook, who now becomes a mid-to-late second round choice at the earliest. All three players can fill a stat line like Westbrook, as Anthony (rebounds), George (steals) and Love (FG percentage, FT percentage) each have stronger attributes at certain categories.
As far as point guards, look for John Wall and Deron Williams to find more value, as the loss of Westbrook will more both up the rails; Wall is a fringe late-first rounder, while Williams and Ricky Rubio will get further attention in the early portion of the second round.
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