Good news: Russell Westbrook is now shooting over 40 percent for the year. If there’s one thing that’s keeping him from being mentioned as a legit All-Star or at least an upper level point guard, it’s that. He’s been incredible so far this year, despite some rough patches. He’s averaging 16.5 points per game, 7.4 assists per game and 5.1 rebounds per game. Like I said last week, just one guy can compare in those three categories and his name rhymes with Shashmon Brames.
But so far in six games in January, Westbrook is shooting a solid 45 percent from the field. He’s talked about how he thought he was settling for jumpers and how he wanted to get back to attacking the rim. Attacking the paint is where he’s absolutely lethal, and by getting back to that, he’s become instant dynamite. His pull-up jumper is improving, he’s finishing drives and best of all, he’s taking smarter shots in general.
I think this stat says it all: In November, Westbrook took 39 3-point attempts (hit 14). In December, he took 34 (hit seven). Through the six games this month, he’s taken only three. And two of those I know were clock-running-out-forced-hand desperation attempts.
Last year, Westbrook settled for a lot of jumpers, and even when he got to the rim (which he’s darn near unstoppable at), he wasn’t finishing. He took 58 percent jumpers and 34 percent “close” shots. And you know what, he’s actually taking MORE jumpers this year. He’s taking 63 percent jumpshots, and 32 percent close shots. But here’s where I say his shot selection is better. Last season, he was reckless going at the rim. This year, the jumpers he’s taking (especially as of late) are under control and within the flow. They aren’t bad shots and best of all, he’s making them.
And when you look at where those jumpers are coming from that he’s making, it helps too. Observe:
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Russ is scoring much better at the rim, but he’s also doing better in the paint as well as the little elbow jumpers he’s become so deft at. He’s hitting a really solid 38.4 percent from there and 43.5 percent from under 10 feet, which is up from 33 percent last year. You’ll see the number of attempts is generally the same, but a lot of that is skewed with late October and November’s numbers. Over the past month, Westbrook has been much more disciplined.
Here’s Westbrook’s hotspots for the season:
Not bad. Like I said, good free throw line and in, and around the elbow. But check his last 10 games:
Better shot selection all the way around. More shots from where he’s capable of making them from. That’s good coaching and more than anything, that’s a credit to Westbrook for being willing to make an adjustment. Of course, he’s got to continue on with this, but I’m sure he will.
Another example of Westbrook’s improvement is to look at when he’s taking shots. Last season, he took 51 percent of his shots within 10 seconds or less into the shot clock. He took 21 percent 11-15 seconds into the 24, 17 percent 16-20 in and just 11 percent with under four seconds left. This year, he’s 46 percent 10 seconds or less into the 24, 20 percent 11-15, 19 percent 16-20 and 15 percent with under four seconds on the shot clock. What’s most interesting is that in the shots he takes 10 seconds or less into the 24, he’s hitting almost 47 percent. After that, everything starts slipping to 41 percent between 10-14 seconds left, 41 percent 6-10 seconds and 33 percent under four seconds. So Westbrook has to force something because of time, he doesn’t do all that hot.
He’s well on his way to becoming the player we envisioned. His shot selection is improving and he’s getting a better feel and handle for how he needs to operate his position. If he continues on with the smart playmaking that he’s doing right now, he’s going to be flat out special. He’s not a great shooter. He’s just not. But when he’s taking smart shots that he’s capable of, he’s not bad at all.