Russell Westbrook is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and explosive players in the NBA. As we saw last season Westbrook has the ability to impact the game in many different ways. However, since averaging a triple-double during the course of the regular season, and winning the regular season MVP, Westbrook has not been the same player. His numbers are down in points, assists, and rebounds but that is to be expected when adding more capable players. The concerning part is his shooting percentages. Westbrook’s shooting percentages this season have been very poor. Whether it be the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony or another aspect, Westbrook’s play has certainly not been helping the Oklahoma City Thunder win.
Russell Westbrook Shooting Struggles
The Thunder find themselves at 12-14 which is 9th place in the West. After 26 games last season, the Thunder were 15-11. What could be contributing to the struggles of Westbrook and the Thunder? One thing is for sure, Westbrook needs to play better in order for the Thunder to be contenders.
How poor is poor?
In 26 games this season Westbrook is shooting 39 percent from the field, 31 percent from beyond the arc, and 72 percent from the free throw line. This puts him more than 5 percent lower than the league averages in each category. To put this into perspective, LeBron James has only one game this season with 40 percent or less shooting percentage from the field. Now that may be more of an argument towards the greatness of Lebron. But either way, Westbrook is not in good company.
This season, Emmanuel Mudiay and Dennis Smith are nearly identical to that of Westbrook, in terms of percentage. Though both young players show promise, a reigning MVP does not want to be compared to them. Furthermore, Westbrook’s 72 percent from the line is his worst percentage in his career by a wide margin. In his 10 year career, he is a respectable 81.9 percent from the line. That is a nearly 10 percent lower than what you would expect from a player of his stature. Though Westbrook is shooting poorly, his attempts per game still rank second in the league behind James Harden. High quantity in addition to low quality is a recipe for disaster.
George and Anthony
During the course of this offseason, the Thunder acquired marquee players in George and Anthony. Soon after the signings speculation started on if the three players (Westbrook, George, Anthony) could compete at a high level as a team. All three ranked in the top twenty in usage rate last season. The question became, who would be the number one, two and three options? This lack of understanding of each players role appears to be a huge contributor to the poor play of Westbrook.
Though we only have a 26 game sample size. The Thunder have been less than impressive when you take into account the star power the team brings. It does not appear that these three can play together consistently. What we have seen so far this season is “hero ball”. The Thunder lack fluidity and until more defined roles have established this team will not be able to compete for a championship. This may just be a phase, but Westbrook has not been benefitting from the help of George and Anthony. It has hurt him drastically.
BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 05: Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the warm up prior to the NBA Global Games Spain 2016 match between FC Barcelona Lassa and Oklahoma City Thunder at Palau Sant Jordi on October 5, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)