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Westbrook or Love?

In the 2008 draft Love was drafted 5th by the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies then traded him to the Timberwolves for O.J. Mayo. That's five teams that royally messed up and one of those teams was the Oklahoma City Thunder -- who went by the Seattle Supersonics at the time. With the fourth pick they selected Russell Westbrook. The Thunder went on to extend a max contract to Westbrook, and many consider him an integral part of the Thunder's mammoth success. Kevin Love has had historic seasons but had struggled to get a top deal or into the All-Star game. Obviously we believe Kevin Love is a much superior player. Using the numbers doesn't even make this difficult.

Use the Boxscore Geeks Comparison Engine to see why Love trounces Westbrook.

Stats taken from 2013-12-31

Per 48 Minute Stats Kevin Love Russell Westbrook
Points over Par 7.7 0.3
Points 34.9 31.1
Defensive Rebounds 13.2 7.1
Offensive Rebounds 4.8 1.6
Assists 5.5 10.2
Turnovers 3.2 5.8
Blocks 0.4 0.2
Steals 1.1 2.6
Fouls 2.4 3.1

There are only two places Westbrook knocks Love. The first is assists. However, Westbrook is a point guard, and is expected to pass more. Relative to a standard power forward, Love gets 2.6 more assists per 48 minutes. Westbrook gets 1.8 more assists than the standard point guard. What's more Kevin Love's assist to turnover ratio is 1.72, which is just slightly below Westbrook's 1.76. It's arguable that Love is a better passer than Westbrook! I'll give Westbrook his impressive defensive rebounding and steals. However, typically this is not why people think Westbrook is such a star. 

Yay! Points!

Per 48 Minute Stats Kevin Love Russell Westbrook
Two Point Attempts 16.1 19.8
Three Point Attempts 8.6 6.4
Free Throw Attempts 10.1 8.8
Two Point Shooting Efficency 51.5% 46.2%
Three Point Shooting Efficiency 38.3% 30.9%
Free Throw Shooting Efficiency 83.0% 79.3%

Well, Love wins this one pretty handily. Even from the ever famous "usage argument", Love only gets 1.5 shots fewer per 48 minutes than Westbrook. And he gets 1.3 more shots from the line per 48 minutes. When it comes to shooting efficiency Westbrook is slightly above average than the average point guard at two point shooting. However, he completely loses this edge when it comes to his poor three point shooting and below average (for a point guard) free throw shooting. The net result: Westbrook should not be taking the most shots on his team given his percentages. Love on the other hand? I'd actually argue he should try shooting more!

Big beats small

A big part of the Wins Produced formula is comparing a player to their respective position. Guards have different responsibilities than centers. Of course Kevin Love's stats trounce Westbrook's right? Well, there's two keys to this. Even counting Love as a power forward, he comes up almost four times as good as an average power forward! Westbrook comes up right about average. But the other key is that big men are inherently more important in the NBA. Every NBA team to succeed repeatedly in the playoffs has had a top big (and yes, LeBron counts.) Point Guards have a lot of responsibilities, but aren't key to success. The Lakers made multiple finals with an ancient Derek Fisher at the helm. Chalmers is a competent guard, but I doubt people point at him as the driver for the Heat's success. And this makes the Thunder's original decision that much more unforgivable. If there's a good guard or a top big in the draft, you go with the big! Years later Love is filling the stat sheet, and doing in the right way. Westbrook is scoring lots of points, but don't tell me the Thunder wouldn't look amazing with Love next to Durant. Love or Westbrook isn't really a question. At least, it shouldn't be.