While watching the Oklahoma City Thunder crumble down the stretch in tonight’s game, completely unable to execute anything resembling a basic offensive set, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “I’ve seen this tale before and it didn’t end well.”
Like Russell Westbrook, Steve Francis in his time was the most scintillating point guard prospect the league had seen to date. Francis was spectacular and seemingly an unstoppable offensive force, at times. But the similarities run deeper.
It’s often asserted that the Thunder are at their best with Westbrook at the ‘2’, or at the least, James Harden running the show from the wing, allowing the former to focus on scoring. Rockets fans prayed for years that management would one day find a true point guard big enough to defend the league’s shooting guards, allowing Francis to focus on his strengths. It never happened, Francis never learned the game, and the rest is history.
The Thunder are in a far better position, already having James Harden to quarterback. (A point forward might be one of the rarest commodities in basketball.) But from the Francis experience, I’ve felt that there’s something truly problematic about a young point guard not being able to run a team. While it happened for Rajon Rondo, age and experience does not always translate to maturity.
I don’t know if Russell Westbrook will go the way of Steve Francis or if he’ll ever actually get it. He has youth and inexperience on his side. But from my seat, there are painful similarities between the two and the last time I watched this script, it did not end well.