We took a look at a list of goals for the entire Thunder team a couple weeks ago. But let’s get detailed. Let’s get specific. I’m going to dig in and hit on some individual goals for a few players that would define a successful season. So what meters for success should we set for Russell Westbrook?
The previously mentioned 3:1 assist to turnover. That may be a little ambitious, but that’s a big time goal for him. I don’t think Westbrook will be a 10 assist a game kind of guy, but he’s got to limit turnovers. So if he can hover around six or seven a game and keep his turnovers under three, that’s what we’re looking for.
At least receive some votes for NBA All-Defense. Remember when Sam Presti drafted Westbrook? Remember the supposed reasons he was taken? He was an elite defender in college and that’s what he was expected to be in the NBA. And he was solid last year. At times he’d have lapses, but for the most part he played with great energy, made some plays and has good instincts. But he needs to take it to the next level. He needs to start catching people’s attention. A defensive backcourt of Thabo and Westbrook could be scary good. But Russ has got to pull his weight and get there.
Shoot at least 42 percent from the field. Last year, his field goal percentage was, let’s say, not awesome. He finished right under 40 percent which is kind of like hitting .200 in baseball. In fairness to Russ, a lot of that stemmed from him taking shots at the end of the 24, missing multiple times on putbacks and also, well, not being a great jumpshooter. If he can start finishing around the rim, he could easily be a 42-45 percent guy. I’ve written about his shooting abilities and compared it to that of Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. An ideal game for Westbrook would be 5-11 from the floor with at least six or seven free throw attempts.
Shoot 35 percent from three. He shot just 27 percent last year from three. That’s not a great number but don’t freak out. A lot of point guards don’t shoot the three well and some don’t shoot it at all. Westbrook needs to be that selective three-ball kind of guy because he’s not a great shooter. But he’s got to be able to knock one down when it’s presented to him and he’s got to have other guards respect it. With his driving ability and quickness, you don’t want defenders sagging off you, neutralizing your speed. You want them up on you, giving you a better, more effective first step.
Average 13 or fewer shots a game. He’s a point guard. While he’s a scoring point guard, he’s still the distributor. Last year, he put up 13.4 shots a game. Not a crazy high number (Chris Paul – 16.1, Deron Williams – 14.5, Rajon Rondo – 9.5, Steve Nash – 11.5), but that’s a solid chunk of the team’s shots. And with the addition of James Harden, the scoring burden should be lifted a little from Westbrook. While that doesn’t mean he should average fewer points – because I think he’ll average more – it means he needs to score more efficiently. Score 16 points on 11 shots, not 14.
Get to the line at least six times a game. Last year, Westbrook averaged 5.2 foul shots a game and even had a high of eight a game in February. He’s best when he’s attacking the rim and with his deadly quickness, he can draw fouls with the best of them. Now with another year and a little more respect, I’d imagine Westbrook getting a few calls. He’s a good free throw shooter and getting to the line is free points. And when you’re not a high percentage shooter, free throws are about as high percentage as you get.
Have at least three triple doubles. Too big a number? Too small? I don’t really know. But three seems realistic and fair to me. Westbrook had one last year with his 17-10-10 performance against Dallas with no KD. He can be an animal on the glass so as long as he pulls down some boards, triple doubles will be in his future. He had nine games last year with double-digit assists and four with double-digit rebounds. The key is staying consistent and I think with a year under his chops, he can do it.
Ideal stats: 16.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.5 rpg, 2.0 spg, 2.7 turnovers per game, 43 percent from the field, 35 percent from three. If Westbrook can replicate stats somewhere near that, the Thunder’s in for a nice season. He averaged 3.4 turns a night last year, so cutting into that number would be big, but getting his assists and scoring up while also bringing up his efficiency is equally important.
What say you Rumbleheads? Define some success for Russell Westbrook.