Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you know that Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double this season. It marked the first time an NBA player achieved the feat since Oscar Robertson did so 55 years ago.
Westbrook’s numbers were ridiculous – 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists per game – and he led the Oklahoma City Thunder to 47 wins.
HoopsHype recently asked a number of active and recently retired players who they dreaded guarding. With Westbrook’s ridiculous athleticism and versatility, it’s no surprise that his name surfaced quite a bit. However, there were some surprises too.
Without further ado, here are the players who drew praise from their peers for being incredibly tough to contain on the offensive end.
John Wall, Washington Wizards:
“Kyrie Irving is one of the best one-on-one guards – hands down. Russell [Westbrook], just because he applies so much pressure attacking downhill and trying to score. And then I’d have to say Steph [Curry] because you have to run off so many screens and chase him and do all those other things. I’d say those three are the toughest point guards.”
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic:
“First off, I’d probably say Russell Westbrook. He’s tough because he’s always going 100 miles per hour and is always a threat to score. Second, personally, I’d go with Steph Curry because he’s constantly moving, coming off screens, things like that. Even without the ball, he’s always coming off screens. Then, Kyrie Irving. I’d say Kemba [Walker] is tough too. He can really handle the ball, he looks for his shot and he can really shoot it.”
Courtney Lee, New York Knicks:
“James Harden and Russell Westbrook are the toughest to guard at this moment because they are always on the attack.”
JJ Redick, Philadelphia 76ers:
“I think Kawhi Leonard is really tough. Manu Ginobili still, to a degree, but Manu Ginobili circa 2009 to 2012 was such a monster. There were a few years where the Spurs were Manu’s team. He’d play like 28 minutes a night, but he’d average about 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. I mean, he was a monster. He was essentially [James] Harden before Harden. Harden is now the modern version of Ginobili. Manu was tough. There are some guys who may be surprising – like J.R. Smith in New York was unreal. He’s still a good player, but that year he won Sixth Man of the Year in New York, he was tough. He’s still really good, but he was unbelievable that year. Down the stretch, I think he averaged over 20 points per game in the final months of that season. Kobe Bryant, of course. Dwyane Wade.
“Jamal Crawford is tough because he carries the ball every time he dribbles it, so you never know where he’s going or if he’s going to pull-up or drive. The refs have given him a life-time exemption on the carry rule (laughs). I’ve played against that guy or with that guy for 11 years now and I’ve seen one carry call! I can’t figure it out. I know he’s a regular guest on The HoopsHype Podcast, but I have to give him some shit.”
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers:
“Who are the toughest guys to guard? DeMarcus Cousins because he’s a very versatile big who does a little bit of everything. He’s so big and strong. One-on-one, it’s hard to guard him; it takes a village to guard that guy. You can’t just do it with one person. Anthony Davis is the same way in that he’s very versatile and affects the game in so many different ways. You need to have your eyes on him at all times because he’s so long and makes so many plays around the basket. Man, it’s crazy they’re on the same team now.
“Nikola Vucevic in Orlando is another big who’s really tough to guard. He doesn’t move as fast as other guys, but he’s a very skilled player. I remember the first couple times I played against him, I had some trouble with him. Those are just some of the toughest guys off the top of my head.”
Kwame Brown, 12-year NBA veteran:
“The hardest player to guard was Shaquille O’Neal because of his size and speed. When he could still move, it was crazy. You would need two days for your body to recover after playing against him.”
Garrett Temple, Sacramento Kings:
“James Harden is difficult to guard because of the pace he plays with; it’s so unique. Not to mention, he’s left-handed. His ability to shoot from deep, but also attack the rack and draw fouls makes him tough. Also, CJ McCollum because of his shiftiness and his ability to knock down every shot in the book. Threes, mid-range and he’s a good finisher in the lane. His handle is very underrated too; he has a top-five handle in the league.”
Caron Butler, 14-year NBA veteran:
“I’ll start with LeBron James because he’s still the best player on the planet. He’s the best all-around basketball player, probably, that we’ve seen. He’s Magic Johnson or Jerry West – that’s who his comparisons should be. LeBron’s basketball IQ is amazing. He has the combination of power, strength, quickness, size, everything. No matter what – whether it’s in the half-court or full-court – he always manages to get pick up speed and get that momentum on you and impose his will. It’s impressive and he’s been dominating like that for so long.
“Kevin Durant is right there knocking on the door, though. He’s one of the most unique scorers we’ve ever seen at his size. He can put the ball on the floor, shoot over everyone, face you up, back you down, score off of one leg, shoot from inside and out. Plus, his reach is amazing, he has great touch and feel for the game, and he’s a super efficient player. I’ve never seen anyone like him. They’re both such unique talents in their prime and it’s great for the NBA.”
Malik Beasley, Denver Nuggets:
“Everybody in the NBA is a tough matchup, but the guys who really stood out were Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry. I went to KD and Curry’s camps when I was younger, so it was cool to play against them now.”
Maurice Evans, 11-year NBA veteran:
“My career spanned 11 years, so when we’re talking best offensive players, I’ve seen the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter. And they were all in their prime years, with the exception of MJ. The most difficult player to guard on that list, for me, was Kobe Bryant. He was equally as talented as he was skilled. He could beat you from any position on the floor and his competitive drive and will made him a constant threat to go off for 40 or 50 points at the drop of a dime.”
Ricky Davis, 12-year NBA veteran:
“Kobe Bryant was almost impossible to guard; he had several moves and counters. Allen Iverson was so difficult too because he was a point guard playing two-guard, lightning quick and could score from anywhere. But Michael Jordan was the greatest scorer ever!”
Anthony Parker, 9-year NBA veteran:
“Kobe Bryant was hardest. You had to respect every pump-fake, jab-step and shoulder-fake because he had the green light to try whatever he wanted and the talent level to pull it off. Brandon Roy is another because he could do it all – with the ball or off the ball, finish at the rim and or shoot deadly from deep. He was quicker and could jump higher than you’d think too. And Dwyane Wade; he was so quick! He changed directions so fast, I couldn’t stay in front of him. Once Wade got rolling, it was going to be a long night.”
Jamal Crawford, Minnesota Timberwolves:
“The toughest three guys I’ve ever had to guard during my NBA career were Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Dwyane Wade.”
Dorell Wright, 11-year NBA veteran:
“Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Tracy McGrady were the toughest. But especially ‘Melo and Durant… those two dudes gave me a hard time often. (laughs)”
DerMarr Johnson, 7-year NBA veteran:
“Kobe Bryant because he scored in every way possible. He had counters to his counters. Also, Allen Iverson because he was just too fast and relentless, attacking you non-stop. And Dirk Nowitzki because he was too tall and you can’t affect his shot.”
Larry Nance Jr, Los Angeles Lakers:
“Three guys who have really given me problems are Carmelo Anthony, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant.”
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