Russell Westbrook earned his ninth All-NBA selection on Wednesday as he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
Wednesday's honor marks Westbrook's first All-NBA selection with the Rockets. He was named to the Third Team in 2018-19 and Second Team in 2017-18 after back-to-back First Team appearances with Oklahoma City.
Westbrook struggled out of the gate in his first month with Houston, but the former MVP quickly found his rhythm as the calendar turned to 2020. Westbrook averaged 31.7 points per game from Jan. 1 until the COVID-19 suspension in March, often fueling the Rockets as James Harden struggled with his jumper. Houston looked like a legitimate championship contender in spurts this season, and Westbrook showed flashes of MVP potential. Daryl Morey's summer gamble appeared worthwhile for much of 2019-20
Westbrook couldn't replicate his All-NBA form in the postseason. He averaged just 17.9 points and 4.6 assists per game in the 2020 playoffs, shooting 42.1% from the field and 24.2% from three. The Lakers trapped James Harden and the Rockets out of the playoffs, exposing the shortcomings both in Houston's roster and Harden's running mate. Westbrook's ceiling is greater than that of Chris Paul. His weaknesses are also more glaring.
It's unlikely the Rockets break up their superstar duo after just one season, and perhaps the 2021 playoffs will feature the best of Westbrook. Houston's point guard tested positive for COVID-19 before arriving in Orlando, and he missed the start of the playoffs due to a quad injury. Westbrook admitted after Game 5 vs. Los Angeles that he played the series at less than 100 percent. He needs to be at full speed for the Rockets to survive the Western Conference gauntlet.
"It’s just very frustrating for me knowing that the postseason is where you’re supposed to elevate your game," Westbrook said postgame. "And for me, I was just trying to catch a rhythm and there was no time for that.”
The Rockets were eliminated in the second round for the second straight year in 2019-20. They have reached the playoffs in eight straight years with Harden, but the franchise is still seeking its first Finals appearance since 1995.