Russell Westbrook was shooting 2-for-10 from the field at halftime of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s game in Chicago last night. Head coach Scott Brooks said Westbrook was playing great.
It was true too. The shots weren’t falling for Westbrook and he was taking too many ill-advised jumpers but he was doing so much more for the Thunder too.
Westbrook had eight assists and zero turnovers by the half of last night’s game as well. There was a time, as short ago as last season where Westbrook’s shooting performance would dictate how positively he would affect a game.
Westbrook finished the game last night with 12 assists and three of those assists came at crucial moments in the final seven minutes of OKC’s 97-91 victory. He found Kevin Durant in traffic in the paint for a very tough layup and then a few plays later found Thabo Sefolosha trailing on a fast break for an easy layup.
Westbrook is averaging 8.0 assists per game this season, up from just 5.5 a season ago. Westbrook is increasing his assists while averaging a career-low in 2.6 turnovers per game.
What’s been impressive too is Westbrook doing this while still being a volume shooter. He’s averaging 19.4 shots per game which is more than any other season for him and he’s shooting just 37.1 percent from the field.
Westbrook traditionally gets off to slow starts in the regular season. It was the same thing for him last year but the assist-to-turnover number is the one that represents his maturation and improvement this season.
Going forward we can expect to see Westbrook’s shooting percentage to climb. He’s going to have those weeks where he tears through the defense, knocking down his pull-up jumper at will and attacking the rim with more control than usual. Westbrook is one of the players who can get in a zone in terms of scoring and it’s very evident when he does, as well as when he’s not in one.
Westbrook has struggled most with his jump shot this season. He has taken 22 threes already this season and made just five. He’s not much better from midrange shooting 27.3 percent on shots between 15-19 feet. He’s been most effective at the rim shooting 52.8 percent.
It seems like Westbrook is trying to expand his shooting range some this season by attempting so many threes early on. Maybe he will start knocking them down more but the best Westbrook is one concerned only with the midrange jumper and otherwise attacking the rim and looking for his teammates.
We’ve seen all of this from Westbrook so far this year. As always, it’s about Westbrook trying to find a way to harness the good while limiting the bad. He seems well on his way to this though and with his head coach backing him, we can expect another career year from him.