OKC Thunder star Russell Westbrook must move more off the ball to improve shooting percentages

OKC Thunder, Russell Westbrook (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder, Russell Westbrook (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

Russell Westbrook is currently shooting his worst 3-point and effective field-goal percentages in over eight years. In order to improve, Russ must move more off the ball.

Know your limits, Master Westbrook. “Beastbrook has no limits,” is the only fitting response that would come out of OKC Thunder Russell Westbrook‘s lips. But turns out he does have limitations, becoming more apparent with father time creeping into the future hall of famer’s body. His lift is lower, thus he is relying more on his upper body and wrist action, leading to most of his jump shots being way off the mark. Either the ball barely grazes the rim, or they go high across the backboard.

The biggest indicator of shot effectiveness has always been his performance at the line. Westbrook is currently shooting a career-low 64.2 percentage from the stripe at his lowest frequency (5.7 attempts, 28.7 free throw rate) since the 2009-10 season.

He is shooting the worst effective field goal rate (44.9 percent) of all NBA players with 14 or more attempts per game, while still maintaining similar shot tendencies from years past.

What the advanced statistics say

His advanced statistics have shown a steep decline not just on his offensive impact, but on his on-court impact for the OKC Thunder as well. Westbrook has had to make up for his scoring deficiencies with great hustle, ranking first in the NBA in offensive loose balls recovered (1.1 per game) and second in deflections (3.9 per game). This has led to his biggest impact on defense (4.8 defensive BPM), but he is visibly dragging down on offense.

If Westbrook has indeed hit a brick wall with regards to his shot reliability, the best course of action is to attend to his shot chart distribution. Focusing more on his strengths at the rim and close-range jumpers, rather than mid to long-range two-pointers and threes, should bring his efficiency back up.

Most importantly, it will end plenty of empty offensive trips for the OKC Thunder. In order for Russ to improve, he must move more off the ball.

Off-ball movement is the key

It seems like a repetitive complaint, but Westbrook struggles to get involved on offense for the OKC Thunder without controlling the rock. He actually has his second-highest percentage of three-point attempts assisted (66.7%) of his career this season, but less than 20% of his two-pointers (19.2%) come off of a pass.

It is quite difficult for Russ to dart around the court for open looks given the immense gravitational pull he exerts on defense, but he won’t know without trying. Albeit on small sample size, Westbrook is shooting a 50% three-point clip from corner attempts, which constitute a minuscule 4.6 percent of his long-range attempts. Of course, his catch-and-shoot opportunities, primarily just three-pointers (1.9 of his 2.1 attempts), show a grim success rate of just 24.6 percent.

Get the majority of his attempts at the rim

Regardless, shifting that number of attempts up would only reap benefits for Westbrook’s impact. He is already shooting a career-high 63.5 percent within 3 feet of the basket, with 28.3 percent of all his shots coming at that range. Despite showing signs of aging,  Russ is still quick enough to beat players cutting to the bucket thus a renewed focus on moving off the ball would conserve his energy by not having to exert so much force on launching ridiculously tough shots.

As it stands, Russ is in a tough spot and he needs to improve his efficiency. Westbrook has never been an efficient shooter and it’s tough to ask him to be after 11 years in the league. Oklahoma City needs his offense so asking him to stop shooting hurts the team.

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He just needs to understand his limits.