Russell Westbrook: The Alpha Dog
Last year was the second successive time that Russell Westbrook delivered some legendary statistics on the board, recording back-to-back triple-double averages for the full NBA season.
He averaged 25.6 points, 10.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds, whilst also scoring 25 triple-doubles throughout the regular season as the Oklahoma City Thunder finished fourth in the Western Conference.
The exclamation point was that Russell managed to achieve such a feat while playing alongside Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, both of whom are known for the impact they provide to the game. When they both arrived in 2017, they made clear the team leader was Westbrook and were equally excited about joining forces with him too.
The Thunder found a leadership figure in him, ever since his arrival in 2008. He is one of the "new-breed" point-guards the league is witnessing - excellent at tearing opposition defences apart, while his explosive style in attacking the basket and creating plays is evident for all to see.
Continuous criticism for misleading stats
Westbrook has been continuously criticised for chasing stats and being so ball-dominant. With that being said, he led the league in assists last year and his playing style forces teammates to adapt to his agility, aggression and high demands for consistent quality.
He's a good scorer inside the paint and despite questions over his shot IQ, a good shooter of the ball. With such a wide skillset, a career 43.5 FG% is a respectable number, while his ball-handling skills and overall court presence forces players' attention toward him more regularly.
During his MVP season, Westbrook posted 42 triple-doubles, setting a record for the most by one player in a single season. Just 34 triple-doubles shy of Magic Johnson's 138 (career-high), all eyes will be on him as you know he'll look to achieve this remarkable individual feat.
A new season, fresh challenges await
This upcoming season will see Westbrook play his 11th season with the Thunder. Such loyalty in this era is commendable on the 29-year-old's part, which also speaks volumes for just how valuable he is to Oklahoma themselves.
Despite his lingering critics, Westbrook has continued to evolve with time and now, the NBA Championship remains the only glory he's currently chasing. This season will be a serious test of his mettle.
After a forgettable first-round lost to the Utah Jazz last year, the Thunder have looked to remove the flaws which plagued them and introduce more maturity and equally, more talent within their side. Jerami Grant and Paul George have remained, while valuable defender Andre Roberson is expected to recover from his lengthy knee injury in the coming months.
Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder has also been recruited during the off-season, to an ever-improving line-up which is encouraging.
The mix within their roster appears good but will be placed under immense pressure once the regular season begins. However, Russell Westbrook needs to deliver yet more excellence if he and his teammates are to surprise many by winning only their second NBA championship in 2018/19.