Prior to his summer move to the Houston Rockets, Russell Westbrook astoundingly averaged a triple-double for three consecutive seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He also bagged the MVP title back in the 2016-17 season in what was truly a historic season for the nine-time All-Star.
This season, Westbrook’s numbers have dipped, and the fact that he’s no longer averaging a triple-double (far from it, actually) makes it easy for most to think that he has regressed. While he struggled with his new team to start the season, he has come on strong over these last few months. As a matter of fact, there’s no denying that Westbrook is playing some of the best basketball of his entire 12-year career right now.
Allow us to explain.
For starters, a deeper look at the raw numbers will point to one glaring fact: Westbrook has become more efficient. Efficiency has never been one of his strong suits; it’s actually quite the contrary. However, the 31-year-old guard is actually averaging a career-best 46.3 percent from the field this season on 22.7 attempts per ballgame, and that’s because he’s shooting 52.3 percent since the calendar flipped to 2020. That’s truly impressive coming from a high-volume guy like Westbrook, and his 57.1 true shooting percentage over this span is well above his career mark of 52.9 percent.
This vast improvement roots primarily from Westbrook playing smarter basketball. Obviously, playing alongside one of the best offensive players in the history of the sport in James Harden helps, but credit also needs to be given where it is due. Case in point is Westbrook’s decision to mostly abandon his 3-point shot of late.
Over his past 11 appearances, Westbrook has taken only 1.5 3-point attempts per game — that’s after averaging 4.9 heaves per contest in the 34 games prior. Simply put, he was terrible from beyond the arc, shooting at a 23.6 percent clip. He was smart enough to recognize this problem, and without being prompted by the coaching staff, he just all of a sudden decided to nip the problem in the bud.
As a result, Russ is now shooting an absurd 53.9 percent overall during this 11-game span, opting to attack the lane instead of settling for long-distance attempts. His scoring average has also climbed significantly from 24.8 points per game to 34.6 over the last 11.
Most importantly, Westbrook’s play has been instrumental to Houston’s success this season. They are currently 34-20 and sitting in fifth in the West, and while there is still a lot of room for improvement for the entire squad in general as they fully adjust to their small-ball ways, it is undeniable that Russell Westbrook’s arrival in Houston is turning into a smashing success. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.