Within the thousands of articles written about Russell Westbrook’s fit with the Houston Rockets, there weren’t that many that were positive to start the year. That’s because, up until recently, there wasn’t much positivity going around.
As of December 7th 2019, Russell Westbrook was dead-last in three point percentage amongst shooters who have shot more than four attempts per game. He also had the second lowest true shooting percentage amongst players who attempted at least 15 field goals a game. His first 20 games were not a pretty sight. His shot chart to start the year (below) is not great!
Additionally, he had the worst net rating of the Rockets’ starters. Even now, Russell Westbrook has relatively average advanced metrics. His RAPTOR Wins Above Replacement metric is 0.3, which is not where you want a 30-plus million dollar a year player to be.
However, there have finally been some glimmers of hope.
Over his last seven games, Russell Westbrook has a +/- of 6.6, second highest on the team. This very positive metric is correlated to his improvements in shooting. Before December 8th, Russell was horrendous at every spot on the floor besides the restricted area.
In fact, he was below league average in nearly every shooting zone. While the league averaged 1.05 points per shot, Russell was treading water at 0.87.
Since December 7th, things have been much different.
Westbrook is now thriving in multiple areas on the court by posting above league average points per shot in the mid-range and the paint areas. Most importantly, his total points per shot has been near average.
Just for fun, here is James Harden’s shot chart.
Even better, Russell Westbrook is taking better shots. While throughout the season he has a total three point frequency of 23.1%, over the last ten games he is shooting from deep only 17.1% of the time.
One of the biggest markers of improvement, however, is his pull-up shooting. Before December 9th, Russell Westbrook was shooting an abysmal 32.0% on pull-ups with 8.2 attempts per game. That is 0.64 points per shot attempt from pull-ups.
Since December 9th, he has been shooting 43.5% on pull-ups on 9.2 attempts per game, or about 0.87 points per shot. This is not good, but it’s better.
While by no means conclusive, these are positive metrics that could indicate a solid regular season moving forward for Russell Westbrook. He looks much more active on the court offensively, driving hard to the basket with his patented up-and-under moves instead of settling for long jumpers.
While he will never be the statistical darling some fans crave (see heat map below), he can become an effective player and even a star if he sticks to what works effectively for him.