Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
He wasn't the celebrated first pick in last year's NBA draft, or the second, or even the third overall pick, but Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook might be on his way to a Rookie-of-the-Year Award, at least as far as fantasy owners are concerned.
Westbrook walked into a very good situation, not a good team, but one in which he would almost immediately get a chance to play significant time. In his very first NBA game, he played 22 minutes. Although he didn't start the first 17 Thunder games, Westbrook's minutes built and his value to the team became evident.
The 6'3" 190 lb UCLA product made his first start on November 29th against Memphis and he has started every game since. Westbrook's stats are improving each month. He averaged 12.2 ppg in November, 15.5 ppg in December, 16.5 ppg in January and 20.6 ppg in February.
On Monday, with both Kevin Durant (26.0 ppg) and Jeff Green (17.2 ppg) out of the lineup due to injuries, Westbrook posted his first career triple-double (17-10-10) and led the Thunder to a 96-87 upset of the Dallas Mavericks.
"Westbrook can fill the stat sheet, and we want that from him," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.
Although the Thunder aren't improving as quickly as Westbrook, it is becoming obvious that the team now has three rising stars in Durant, Green and Westbrook.
And it's certainly not a foregone conclusion that Westbrook will be the 2009 Rookie-of-the-Year Award winner. Memphis guard O.J. Mayo, Bulls guard Derrick Rose and New Jersey Nets center Brook Lopez are also playing very well for their respective teams. But if Westbrook continues to improves at this pace over the remainder of the season, I'll put him at the top of my ballot.
2008 NBA Draft Top-10 Selections