Wednesday night’s victory over the Knicks marked the 14th game of the year for the Thunder. The victory was also the Thunder’s seventh game while missing Russell Westbrook due to injury. Now I’m no mathematician, but that means the Thunder have played exactly half of the season without their most valuable player.
Let’s take a look at some early season numbers for OKC with, and without, the Brodie.
*Disclaimer: I’m counting all statistics from the November 5th game against New Orleans as games WITH Westbrook, as he exited the game midway through the third quarter. All statistics were found using Basketball-Reference
Points Per Game
Assists Per Game
Field Goal Percentage
Effective Field Goal Percentage
Free Throw Percentage
Free Throw Attempts Per Game
True Shooting Percentage
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but the Thunder are a significantly better offensive basketball team with an active Westbrook. The Thunder are clearly better in every major offensive category, except free throw percentage, with Westbrook participating. The disparity in points per game was somewhat alarming, considering the 118.1 average points per game with Westbrook would be the third-highest scoring offense in the league. However, the Thunder offense sinks to 26th when Westbrook is in street clothes.
Thunder brass banged the “We want to play faster” drum all offseason and they are leading the league in Pace when Westbrook is running the show. The acquisition of Dennis Schroder was supposed to prevent a major drop-off in tempo when Westbrook sat. However, as evidenced by the pace without Westbrook, the Thunder aren’t there quite yet.
Let’s take a look at how the Thunder fare on the other end of the floor with and without Brodie.
Opponent Points Per Game
Opponent Field Goal Percentage
Opponent Effective Field Goal Percentage
Opponent Three Point Percentage:
Steals Per Game
Turnovers Forced Per Game
Rebounds Per Game
The most glaring stat that jumps out is the opponents points per game, as the Thunder are leading the league in opponents points per game when Westbrook is inactive. Whereas the Thunder are 21st in opponents points per game when Westbrook is in the lineup. With that being said, I took a deeper dive to see the quality of offenses the Thunder have faced with and without Westbrook. Thunder opponents have an average Offensive Rating of 109.4 in the games Westbrook has played, in comparison the 109.0 Offensive Rating Thunder opponents have in games Westbrook sits. The Thunder haven’t been facing significantly weaker offensive opponents in the games that Westbrook has missed, so why are they surrendering roughly 13 less points per game when Westbrook is not in the lineup?
Despite Westbrook’s strong defensive advanced analytics, Westbrook has a 3+ Defensive Box Plus/Minus since 2016-17. I’m of the opinion that he rarely shows the required commitment on the defensive end. Too often he floats and loses focus, especially when his matchup moves well without the ball.
In conclusion, the Thunder go from one of the league’s best offenses to one of the league’s worst when Westbrook is nursing an injury. Contrarily, the Thunder’s defense becomes one of the NBA’s best when Westbrook is coaching from the sidelines. Granted, this is only a 14-game sample size, but this is where it currently stands. It’ll be interesting to see if the Thunder’s stout defensive numbers are sustainable upon Westbrook’s return to the lineup.