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Grading Rockets star Russell Westbrook through team’s first 25 games

Russell Westbrook

When the Houston Rockets swung a deal to acquire Russell Westbrook in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder over the summer, just about everyone wondered how it was going to work.

Yes, the Rockets were able to unload Chris Paul’s contract, but they also took on Westbrook’s, and the idea of a Westbrook-James Harden pairing seemed like spontaneous combustion.

Two of the NBA’s most ball-dominant players sharing a backcourt? At the very least, it seemed like must-watch basketball.

Houston has gotten off to a rather strong start, going 17-8 over its first 25 games thanks to some more inhuman offense from Harden, but what about Westbrook? How has he adjusted to his new team?

Well, pretty much as you would expect.

Westbrook has good counting numbers, as he is averaging 22.5 points, eight rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.7 steals over 34.5 minutes per game. He won’t be averaging a triple-double this season thanks to the presence of Harden, but he will still fill up the stat sheet night in and night out.

His efficiency, however, has been another story, as he is shooting just 42.5 percent from the floor, 23.3 percent from three-point range and 75.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Westbrook’s poor efficiency should not shock anyone, as he has never been known for being an efficient scorer (lifetime true-shooting percentage of 52.8 percent), but man; this year has really been something else.

The 31-year-old hasn’t cracked 30 percent from distance since the 2016-17 campaign, but this season is by far his worst mark since his second year in the league when he made 22.1 percent of his triples. And the difference is that he only attempted 1.3 treys per game that year. This season, he is hoisting five threes a night.

The Rockets’ offense has suffered when Westbrook is on the floor as a result, as they are a ridiculous 12.7 points better offensively when the eight-time All-Star is on the bench.

Even last year, during Westbrook’s incredibly inefficient final season in Oklahoma City, the Thunder were significantly better offensively (8.8 points better to be exact) when Westbrook was on the court.

Obviously, Westbrook is having some difficulty adjusting to Harden, which is perfectly understandable. Their styles clash in a major way, and I’m not sure they will ever really figure it out.

The problem with Westbrook is that, even if he is still explosive, he has lost some of the athletic ability that made him such a dynamic force a few years ago, which has put a rather alarming cap on his offensive effectiveness.

To be fair, Westbrook has been considerably better of late, as he is shooting 56.2 percent over his last four games, but that is a very small sample size, and it seems hard to imagine him maintaining it because, well, he never really has.

Again, this is not all Westbrook’s fault. He is in an entirely different situation in Houston, and it’s going to take him some time to really get comfortable.

It’s just that his playing style does not seem to fit the Rockets’ offense at all.

I’ll give Westbrook a C-plus grade for his performance thus far. At the very least, he has been solid defensively, and we have to allow him some time to settle in.