Russell Westbrook’s rebounds are the most unusual part of his typical triple-double — no one Russ’ height has ever pulled down that many rebounds per game. They’re also the most contentious. Mention Westbrook’s boarding, and someone will point out that they are merely the product of stat-padding supported by his teammates.
That is true! Russ lags on defense, and his big men defer basically every uncontested rebound to him.
I don’t think stat-padding equals empty stats, though. Watch enough Russ rebounds and you’ll see a whole mess of Oklahoma City Thunder fast breaks succeeding because the ball came off the glass so fast. Russ rebounding himself cuts out the split second or two needed for some big guy to collect the board, find his guard, and throw an outlet pass. The moment he snags the carom, Russ is off to the races, and his teammates know to run with him. OKC was top-3 in fast break points per game this season, in part because those Russ rebounds caught so many transitioning defenses.
It didn’t make the Thunder offense great, but all that Westbrook rebounding wasn’t for naught. There’s a reason his teammates let him grab all those boards, and it’s the same reason you always want the ball in his hands. He’s faster, stronger, and bolder than everyone else. Russ is a weapon, and letting him rebound engages that weapon as soon as possible.