I’ll go ahead and clarify you on two things that may concern you throughout this read.
- Russell Westbrook is a grown man. A phrase in which he stands by, “Now he can do what he wants” fits the situation perfrectly, and he has all right to make his life decisions both on-and-off the court.
- Russell Westbrook isn’t responsible for the entire teams’ successes and failures. It’s not neccesaily “his fault” or even at all, maybe, that he is who he is. He’s helped win games and he’s helped lose them, which every individual who graces this sport finds out about themselves.
It was the 2012 NBA Finals, when Russell Westbrook threaded onto the biggest stage of his career. The then 23 year-old didn’t play horribly for a first-time run to the Finals, but he did struggle in big losses throughout the series.
Westbrook was only able to shoot 45% from the field in one of those five outings. He even striked-out from three, shooting 5-22 (13.6%). The Heat of course went on to win their second title in franchise-history, and Lebron James was rightfully crowned “King” after winning his first-ever NBA title.
In a vacuum, this embarked what could be the beginning of an erratic journey to become not just one of the league’s top players, but potentially an all-time great. Russell Westbrook has been primed to begin that journey.
Things have obviously changed since those 2012 Finals, as Russ continued to become a bigger (…and bigger) option for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Westbrook has dominated sans-Durant, as he’s now averaging a “monster” triple-double of 30.9 Points, 10.4 Rebounds, and 11.3 Assists through these first nineteen games of the season. He’s clearly induced for the control of being proclaimed as “the face” of the franchise, once and for good, perhaps.
He’s the most dominant Point Guard we’ve probably seen since Magic and Oscar, and that almost hurts me to say it.
Because then again, I think that’s a lie.
Russell Westbrook has become that “2K-like” player everyone has hoped for someone to be. It’s finally happening in our generation, and with social media taking an enlarged role (of course) helps his case. Some ask if we get caught-up easily in questioning Russell’s post-game analytics more than his passion of winning, but I think it’s the latter. Let’s find out why Russell Westbrook isn’t truly being “Russell Westbrook” when Oklahoma City needs it most.
1. WESTBROOK HAS FAILED MISLERABLY AT FINISHING IN TRAFFIC.
Okay — we get it.
Russ is a dominant, yet demanding force whenever he has possession of the ball. He’s either going to attack you through the paint, or he’s using every screen he can to get-off a “sometimes-uncontested” jumpshot.
Following an immense 40% usage-rate, Westbrook has had issues driving the ball, and also understanding that the defense is there to meet him at the rim. He inadvertently changes his shots at the last second, leading to bad misses. And due to that, he’s shooting a putrid 18% from within 3-10 feet of the basket. As Coach Nick (via bballbreakdown.com) said it best, “It’s almost as if he ignores the defense.”
It’s not that he’s just inefficient from outside of the paint, as he has improved his outside shooting, but he may get more credit than he actually deserves for finishing.
2. WESTBROOK HAS IMPROVED IN SOME AREAS OF PERIMETER SHOOTING, BUT HAS ULTIMATELY MISCONNECTED.
We could really go on-and-on about how Russell has underachieved as a consistent perimeter scorer, but the lack-of-improvement in critical spots for him still remains to be seen.
The only good thing we could take away, is that he’s shooting 34% from three, which is a high for his nine seasons in total. However, he’s just 28% from sixteen-feet out, and 12% on corner threes.
You do have to credit defenses for rotating over to him, and making shots harder for him to get off. But as the number-one option, there’s no reason for these percentages to be so low — with so much control.
3. PLAYING UNCONTROLLABLY AT TIMES HAVE BECAME A GROWING ISSUE FOR WESTBROOK.
Take this statistic into consideration: Per 100 possessions, the Thunder are +6 when Russell is on the court. Off? +21 is your result. That plays a LOT into how much of a better team OKC is when he’s off the floor.
With Westrbook’s play, he’s already committed 82 lose ball turnovers, and we’re not even a third into the season yet. Take it into consideration that he had 116 turnovers in the 2015-16 season. But an interesting fact is that he’s only had eight turnovers this year due to “bad passes” and 14 for “other.”
But this is what fans wanted. They wanted someone who could just take the league by storm, no matter the effieciency, no matter the volume — and Westbrook has certainly printed his name as the best “taken with a grain of salt” superstar ever.
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