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NBA / Feb 2, 2011 / 2:00 pm

Russell Westbrook or Joe Johnson: Pick one to build a team

Joe Johnson (photo. Zach Wolfe)

You have a game tomorrow. Do you take Russell Westbrook or Joe Johnson?

That was the text message last night. (This is what a business dinner with the Dime crew can turn into.) And I already know how most people will answer the question, so I’ll just get right into defending the other side.

I would take Joe Johnson. Why? Because if I don’t know yet who else is on my team for this hypothetical game, I do know that I need a primary scorer and a go-to man in the clutch. And Joe Johnson performs that part of the job better than Westbrook.

I know Westbrook (22.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 8.5 apg, 1.9 spg) has had a better season. I know he makes the highlight reels and cranks out triple-doubles. I know his team has a better win-loss record in a tougher conference. I know he’s younger. I know he didn’t jut sign a $120 million contract, then get off to a slow start this season. I know Westbrook might sit higher in the ranking of NBA point guards than Johnson (20.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.4 apg) ranks among shooting guards, and if he doesn’t, it’s only because there aren’t as many great two-guards in the League today as there are great point guards.

But in this situation, I’d still take Johnson. He is a legit go-to scorer, a player who has led his team to back-to-back conference semifinal appearances rather than helping lead a team to a first-round exit once. Westbrook has been great in part because he fills in the holes for Oklahoma City that Kevin Durant cannot. Johnson has been great because his game dictates where Atlanta’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

And if this hypothetical game is tomorrow, than Johnson is the pick because he is arguably the hottest player in the NBA today. In the month of January, he averaged 26 points per game on 50 percent shooting from the floor, to go with 4.8 assists while the Hawks went 9-4.

Also, as good as Westbrook has been, he has high potential to eventually sink OKC with his horse-blinders style in clutch moments. Often he has it real bad with only looking for his own shot when Durant is either unavailable or not open to receive the ball. Westbrook puts his head down, makes his moves, and usually gets a pull-up jumper that is not yet wholly reliable.

Joe Johnson, meanwhile, is a cool and experienced clutch performer. He keeps his head up, and if he doesn’t have the best shot, is in position to find someone with a better shot. He has reliable moves to get the shots he wants, and whether at the rim or from 25 feet away, he hits those shots in when the defense isn’t keying on the NBA scoring leader at his side.

Who would you want on your team for one game tomorrow?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mr.brogden MR. BROGDEN

    WESTBROOK.
    Easy.

  • Broseidon

    Westbrook all day

  • http://thesphericalstudies.blogspot.com Professor J

    i’d say westbrook. I know Johnson has the height and experience but hes wavered in big moments too many times (including that disastrous playoff series with Orlando last year if i remember correctly). Westbrook is young but is beastly!

  • JBaller

    I think this paragraph makes a stronger argument for Westbrook than the rest of the article does for J.J.

    “I know Westbrook (22.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 8.5 apg, 1.9 spg) has had a better season. I know he makes the highlight reels and cranks out triple-doubles. I know his team has a better win-loss record in a tougher conference. I know he’s younger. I know he didn’t jut sign a $120 million contract, then get off to a slow start this season. I know Westbrook might sit higher in the ranking of NBA point guards than Johnson (20.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.4 apg) ranks among shooting guards, and if he doesn’t, it’s only because there aren’t as many great two-guards in the League today as there are great point guards.”

  • http://dynastybball.wordpress.com/ sean.dynastybball

    I agree JBaller above…

    BUT… I can’t tell whether the question is asking who we take to win that one game today or who we take to build a franchise around. If the question is who to win the game with I might say JJ. If the question is who to start a franchise around then the question isn’t worth asking. You don’t build a franchise around an almost 30 year old. You build around the 22 year old future all star point guard that can score, assist, and rebound and put pressure on all the other great point guards in the league while dominating the mediocre ones.

  • http://@shakenbakekake Kaker

    @DimeMag is this serious Q? They play diff positions, hard to compare. Youth is key so take #Russell Westbrook b/c he’s like 8 years younger!

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Love the way this article was written. Agree, Austin.

  • justin

    Did you watch Atlanta in the playoffs last year? Well if you did then this question is a no brainer.

  • Shot In Ya Face

    I’d take Durant or LeBroad

  • http://ayeyedubu.tumblr.com Asha

    Westbrook definitely! Joe Johnson is good, but he’s not as explosive or athletic as Westbrook.

  • Soopa

    Odd comparison…

    No brainer tho’.

    Westbrooke is younger, has a better contract (who doesnt?), still hasnt reached his potential (which is scary) and has enough energy to power a team (energy is a LEGIT talent, like hops and basketball IQ) – which is an area where JJ is really weak if you ask me.

    But they would make a very nice duo on the same team!

  • Isaac

    WESTBROOK! WHY IS THIS EVEN A QUESTION?

  • 100k

    Westbrook.

    Joe Johnson has no killer instinct.

  • WinDelRoj

    How strong an argument can you even make that Johnson is a better scorer? If the argument is pretty much a wash then wouldnt you take the younger, cheaper, more athletic and mentally tougher version?

    Better question: who is more important to the Thunder Russel Westbrook or Kevin Durant? I know what the “obvious” answer is but Westbrook is making a case.

  • Claw

    This reminds me of the ZBO for all star article AB did. KLove has better numbers and more double doubles so that proves ZBo should be an All Star. What?

    Westbrook, today and every day.

  • First & Foremost

    To build a franchise around… AB I really want to back you up on this one but I can’t. I’d take the guy who didn’t box out ONCE over the guy who fadedaway TWICE in the playoffs.
    Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice _ _ _ k giving you a max contract.
    Besides, he isn’t even a real draw to put fans in the stands. Joe Johnson has been great, the team has gotten better every year but their attendance is a joke.

  • ctkennedy

    ill take joe johnson for one game n to build a team around …i rather have joe for the next 3yrs then westbrook for the next 6(this is based on if durant isnt there with him btw)

  • geoff

    still fishing for comments eh burton? same act different bait…

    that must be a stat they keep in the dime office, cause i kno even this guy doesnt beleive half the stuff he writes

  • Chaos

    As much as I like joe jeezy, I gotta take westbrook. I think joe at this point is not what he could be or his ceiling has been reached. Dude is a ier be star andd a great second option. I just feel as the 120 Million dollar man he should be doing more…maybe it was the elbow earlier this season but he should be taking over games more often now, he doesn’t see to have that killer instinct like Kobe, D-wade, paul pierce or even rose have. He doesn’t even seem like the leader he is supposed to be, someone who should make that play when needed. If he can prove that toward the end of the year or playoffs I may rethink my position…westbrook wants to play and get even better and isn’t adverse to making plays when durant can’t.

  • First & Foremost

    Next article in the series:
    Who would you rather have to build a defense around:
    Shane Battier or Luc Mbah a Moute?

  • geoff

    ….then jj drops 37 on my raptors…i deserved that

  • Detroit Dave

    You’ve got a good case. JJ is a very good player no matter who is on his team. Westbrook has the luxury of playing with the Scoring Champ.

  • Jane

    Russell Westbrook…he’s often overshadowed by KD, but when your look at his stats and explosiveness, he’s truly the game changer for the Thunder